What’s trending this decade?

From titan brands that serve as 'lifestyle partners' to personal data assistants for consumers, Dentsu outlines what could shape the next ten years.

Greater consumer activism around data collection and climate change, as well as the growing influence of select “titan” brands, are among the most significant global trends brands should anticipate this decade, according to a new report by Dentsu International.

The group’s Consumer Vision report, called The Age of Inclusion Intelligence, identifies four overarching themes that are predicted to shape consumer behaviour between now and 2030.

Described as “Universal Activism,” “Synthetic Society,” “Bigger Bolder Brands,” and “The Human Dividend,” these global macro-trends were identified through interviews with experts, academics and futurists, a series of surveys with 30,000 consumers in more than 20 countries (conducted throughout 2020) and secondary research. Below, we take a closer look at two of them.

Universal Activism

The events of last year exemplified the influence consumers have over brands on a growing range of social and political causes, as many feel empowered to call brands out over inaction. Over the next decade, Dentsu expects consumer activism to grow even stronger, as purchase-decisions become linked to a growing list of influences and causes, from climate change to data privacy and shifting definitions of identity.

When it comes to the environment, consumers may begin to perceive inaction from brands as “verging on criminal negligence,” Dentsu says. Come 2030, its survey shows two-thirds of respondents believe brands’ reputation will depend on their actions to fight climate change. Brands may also contend with new regulations aimed at “incentivizing more sustainable lifestyles,” such as a red meat tax. One expert consulted by Dentsu believes a new sustainable stock market will emerge this decade that will further mainstream the “incorporation of sustainability into corporate metrics.”

Consumers will also bring a stronger activist mindset to data and privacy. Already, 80% of people globally say they want more control over the information they share with companies, and by 2030, more people will either create “privacy islands” (cutting off brands from their data entirely, even to the detriment of better service) or use personal data assistants to manage their relationships with brands, often through AI-enabled services, according to Dentsu. “Expect the emergence of a new award at Cannes Lions for the best brand engagement with a personal AI service.”

“In the 2020s, we’ll see a growing requirement for a new form of application programming interface, or API, which essentially acts as a trusted intermediary between brands and consumers and sort of regulates the flow of personal data and marketing content,” said Alicia Friend, senior communications analyst at Dentu International, in a virtual presentation of the findings. “Brands should really prepare for such intermediary services, because… they will become more influential and vital in the dynamics of consumer engagements.”

Bigger Bolder Brands

In the 2020s, Dentsu anticipates greater focus will be put on how brands can serve consumers more effectively across all aspects of their lifestyle. It stipulates that one indication of this shift will be the rise of “titan brands” that act as consumers’ main lifestyle partners, becoming “an integral part of their commercial activity and everyday lifestyle,” at the expense of a broader brand repertoire.

By 2030, for example, Dentsu research finds a third of consumers globally would consider using a single company for all their needs, including shopping, financial services and healthcare. “This shift is going to transform our perceptions of customer loyalty and brand choice, with super-functionality becoming the primary driver of brand loyalty,” Friend noted.

While regulators are likely to try to address the market dominance of these brands through “anticipatory approaches to legislation,” Dentsu believes doing so will be a struggle given the speed at which these dynamic businesses (often in fast-changing sectors like tech) will innovate and grow.

The research also predicts the rise of “5-star citizens,” a system in which certain consumers and citizens are given access to exclusive services, based on how they are rated by brands and governments across a range of factors. In the private sector, hotels could begin only allowing 5-star customers to stay with them, and luxury brands might only sell their products to consumers with a high influencer score.

“An increasing number of companies already review and rate customers based on their behaviour, and we expect this trend to grow in the next decade,” Friend said. “Privileges such as premium customer service or promotions and discounts could likely be extended to good users, whereas those who fail to play by the rules would of course risk restrictions – or worse, complete exclusion from services entirely.”