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Six cultural trends that will reshape marketing in 2020

In today’s hyper-connected world, consumers are highly engaged in the pursuit and celebration of all things culture, and the content it influences. Tapping into leading cultural trends and passion points is essential for brands seeking to make an impact in 2020.

At its core, culture has the ability to create strong and provocative relationships with consumers, that culture, in turn, shapes habits around content consumption; content creates communities, those communities engage in conversation, which ultimately influences commerce. Below are the key trends in the realm of culture that will be most impactful for brands in 2020.

K-Pop goes GRAMMY

The mass appeal of K-Culture knows no bounds. Readers of a certain generation will recall Wonder Girls or Super Junior as the peak K-Pop moment in the aughts. Others will say Psy’s “Gangnam Style” was the first truly global song of the YouTube era (sorry, Despacito).

While 2019 saw the presence of BLACKPINK at Coachella, I predict 2020 as the first year a K-Pop band will grace the GRAMMY stage through a performance or a major win. With South Korea’s continuous efforts in strengthening Hallyu’s reach and impact globally, K-Pop – as well as all things Korean (beauty, fashion, drama, film) – should be under consideration by any brand seeking to engage younger female audiences in a culturally relevant way.

‘The Drop’ will be mastered by youth-focused brands

Streetwear and sneaker retailers have demonstrated that their most engaged consumers will do nearly anything to gain access to a highly coveted and/or limited edition product – product releases commonly referred to as ‘drops’. The principles of ‘the drop’ include insightful analytics, limited edition product offerings, and gamified release and launch mechanisms.

In the age of moment marketing and instant gratification, streetwear retailers and brands have created demand and attraction. Their audiences want access, and any brand that can enable greater access will be viewed favourably. While concert ticket pre-sales have been a mainstay within the payment card category, I envision that sneaker pre-sale rights will be the way forward for youth-focused brands.

Gender fluidity won’t go under the radar

Gender consideration has never been more prevalent. Brands that are not recognising people who identify as non-binary will alienate an important and rapidly growing section of society, and will also lose the support of other culturally aware and socially conscious consumers. Brands need to stay ahead of this as we are living in an era of ultra-specialisation and personalisation that applies to gender identification as much as it applies to product design.

Brands can engage through product and message development that speaks directly to the non-binary audience and celebrates their individuality. For brands unsure of how to engage, I suggest considering partnerships with existing cause-based organisations as an initial step. Those ready to make a more meaningful and ‘culture-shaping’ approach could develop limited edition gender-neutral products.

Esports athletes and influencers: the rockstars and sporting heroes for the new decade

Games and esports aren’t an ‘emerging’ passion point, they are a leading form of digital engagement among young men and women globally. As such, in 2020, esports events and athletes will have significant impact in the cultural landscape. Examples can already be seen in Nike’s partnership with Riot Games’ League of Legends, which sees the world’s leading sports apparel company developing specific performance and lifestyle lines as part of a landmark multi-year partnership focused on the China market and Louis Vuitton’s partnership that includes custom-designed character skins appearing within League of Legends.

In a culture landscape oversaturated with music and sports stars, today’s esports athletes are the new rock stars and sporting heroes. In 2020, brands should explore collaboration opportunities with esports properties (ones that own their IP including game developers and teams), or partnerships with leading casters and streamers (esports influencers) as it is not too late to get in on the ground floor.

Plant-based everything…even marketing

Plant-based eating, veganism and opting for meat-substitutes is booming, with experts suggesting that meat-substitutes could own 50% of the meat industry by 2050. This ‘woke-ness’ towards the environment and health is not only impacting what consumers buy, what they put on their skin and what they digest but also affects their perception of a brand. 

n order to succeed in the modern marketing and consumer landscape, brands need to adopt visibly sustainable initiatives and offer sustainable products, and they need to do it fast. Where physical products aren’t relevant, it’s time to consider collaborations with those at the forefront of sustainability. Even limited forays into this space will pay huge dividends among purpose and plant-focused consumers – a group which is growing exponentially worldwide.

Athletes will win hearts and medals

In 1968, US athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in protest. Over 50 years later, Nike worked with Colin Kaepernik in their Emmy award-winning advert. Brands supporting socially conscious stories and statements coming out of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will have much to gain but walk a fine line between admiration and admonishment. The athlete advocate has never been stronger, and with the games in Tokyo approaching, attention will be as much on social purpose as it is sports performance.

Athlete direct relationships that focus on athlete empowered short-form content will place brands at the centre of the social conversations during the 2020 Summer Olympics.


Michael Patent is the founder and president of the Pan-Asian entertainment marketing agency Culture Group. With offices in New York, Manila, Shanghai and Singapore, it aims to transform progressive brands into global influencers