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10 trends for 2014

Consumers are both welcoming and resisting technology’s growing omnipresence in their lives.  For many, technology serves as a gateway to opportunity and the solution to a growing impatience, but those who are most immersed are starting to question its effect on their lives and their privacy.

One result is that more people are trying to find a balance and lead more mindful, in-the-moment lives. And in a world that’s become all too polished or mass-produced, they are also embracing imperfection.

JWT’s 10 Trends for 2014 report is the result of quantitative, qualitative and desk research conducted by JWTIntelligence throughout the year and specifically for this report.

Trends don’t happen in isolation. They tend to intersect and work in tandem with each other. And many are extensions or outgrowths of trends formerly spotted; after all, trends with real significance can’t be assigned to just one calendar year.

Here’s what they are, according to JWT:

1. Immersive experiences

Entertainment, narratives and brand experiences will become more immersive and altogether more enveloping in a bid to capture consumers’ imagination and attention.

Example: To bring the tagline “Fill Your Home with Music” to life, Sonos, the maker of Internet-connected wireless music systems, created immersive installations in New York and Los Angeles. Digitised color washes, lighting and animation coordinated the color and mood of a room to the music playing through Sonos speakers.

2. Do you speak visual?

We’re shifting to a visual vocabulary that relies on photos, emojis, video snippets and other imagery, largely supplanting the need for text. “Visual” is a new lingo that needs to be mastered.

Example: Tinder and similar apps simplify the online dating process by eschewing wordy profiles in favor of photos that can be scrolled through quickly. Users of Tinder are tallying up 350 million swipes per day—swiping right indicates interest, swiping left indicates a decline.

3. The age of impatience

With the mainstreaming of the on-demand economy and our always-on culture, consumer expectations for speed and ease are rising exponentially. As businesses respond in kind, making the availability of their products and services more instant, impatience and impulsiveness will only continue to increase.

Example: eBay, Google, Amazon and grocery services including Walmart To Go have introduced same-day delivery options in some markets and are steadily expanding their availability—and some are shrinking the delivery window down to as little as an hour. The eBay Now service provides delivery from local merchants in about an hour for a $5 fee.

4. Mobile as a gateway of opportunity

In emerging markets, the mobile device is coming to represent a gateway to opportunity—helping people change their lives by giving them access to financial systems, new business tools, better health care, education and more.

Example: Developed by Vodafone in collaboration with Turkey’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Farmers’ Club sends SMS messages about government regulations, weather and market prices, tailored to farmers’ locations. A partnership with Şekerbank lets users pay by mobile phone at the end of the year.

5. Telepathic opportunity

Thanks to the rise of brain-computer interfaces and emotion recognition technology, brands are getting more adept at understanding consumers’ minds and moods, and reacting accordingly in a very personalised way.

Example: To showcase the power of a Kit Kat break, JWT Singapore and Nestlé wired up students with headsets that tracked their brainwaves while they ate a Kit Kat bar, then generated a unique piece of art that reflected their state of mind. Students who entered the “brain booth” got to see what happened to their brain after they consumed a Kit Kat.

6. The end of anonymity

Thanks to an array of new technologies and a growing drive to collect personal data, it’s becoming nearly impossible to remain unobserved and untracked by corporations and governments. As anonymity becomes more elusive, expect pushback from consumers and a growing paranoia around technologies and services that affect privacy.

Example: Tesco’s 450 gas stations in the UK will start using screens made by Amscreen, a digital advertising firm, that analyse the faces of people approaching the register and target ads based on gender and rough age; they also track how long people look at the ads.

7. Raging against the machine

As we move further into the digital age, we’re starting to both fear and resent technology, fretting about what’s been lost in our embrace of unprecedented change. We’ll put a higher value on all things that feel essentially human and seriously question (while not entirely resisting) technology’s siren call.

Example: A growing number of bands and music festivals are asking crowd members to put their phones away and experience the concert “in 3D,” as She & Him have requested. Others who have objected to the usual sea of phones held aloft include Jack White, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Prince and Björk.

8. Remixing tradition

With social norms quickly changing and a new anything-goes attitude, people are mashing up cherished traditions with decidedly new ideas, creating their own recipes for what feels right.

Example: While religious affiliation is declining in the U.S. and U.K., congregations such as the Calgary Secular Church and Sunday Assembly are aiming to bring people together regardless of a central belief in a deity. Many atheists and agnostics are recognizing the benefits that come with the ritual and community traditionally offered by organised religion.

9. Proudly imperfect

Imperfection and even outright ugliness—the quirky, the messy and the clearly flawed—are taking on new appeal in a world that’s become all too polished or mass-produced. The imperfect is coming to feel more authentic, and also more comforting and meaningful.

Example: In October 2013, the Austrian grocery chain Billa, part of Germany’s Rewe Group, launched a private-label line of “nonconformist” produce dubbed Wunderlinge, a made-up word that combines the terms for “anomaly” and “miracle.” Another German retailer, Edeka, has tested selling ugly produce at a discount, branded as “Nobody is perfect.”

10. Mindful living

Consumers are developing a quasi-Zen desire to experience everything in a more present, conscious way. Once the domain of the spiritual set, mindful living is filtering into the mainstream, with more people drawn to the idea of shutting out distractions and focusing on the moment.

Example: Virgin Atlantic commissioned content from the meditation gurus at Headspace for the in-flight entertainment system. Designed to help passengers meditate and deal with the stressors of traveling, the videos address topics such as how to get sleep and deal with boredom.

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