Marian Salzman Contributor
Spotting the “next big thing” can seem as tricky as choosing the best wave to surf before it’s begun to build. Even the most seasoned trendspotters — myself included — have uttered (or at least thought) the words: “I didn’t see that coming.”
Some trends explode without anyone spotting them on the horizon. This is the complexity of the waters we as marketeers navigate every day and what makes it such a fascinating business to work in. There’s little time to gather thoughts or take stock before the big wave has passed by those who weren’t alert to its potential.
Marketing has changed more in the past five years than in the five decades before it. This velocity of change shows no sign of slowing; here are five marketing trends that speak volumes about today’s audience — catch them while you can.
1. Diamonds Are Forever
The diamond-jewelry phenomenon sweeping the U.S. and China has caught many off guard—not many foresaw that Millennials and their Gen-Z successors would drive the gemstone’s resurgence. Unexpected, right? But according to De Beers’ Insight Report, Millennials account for 60% of diamond jewelry demand in the U.S. and almost 80% in China.
This is at stark odds with a growing luxury market undergoing a rulebook change. Young consumers have increasingly turned their backs on physical possessions in favor of high-end experiences—opulent hotel breaks, fine dining, exclusive vacations. This signals a fundamental shift in consumer behavior, with people choosing to “live” luxury rather than “own” it.
This exception is sparkling as an anomaly in our evolving landscape. Boutique spas and Michelin-starred eateries may be a girl’s good time, but it seems diamonds remain everyone’s best friend.
2. Video’s the New Viral
Of the marketing trends going strong today, video is arguably the most important—but VHS this is not. Who remembers TV viewers pre-digital bemoaning the constant disruption of commercials? “Gen Swipe-Left” will have none of that; only giving up a few seconds to such exposure, which means marketers have to pull out all the stops to grab their attention.
The good news is that in 2019, 70% of consumers have shared a brand’s video on social media. What once we tried to mute is now amplified by consumers—BMW’s cheeky ad depicting the retiring Mercedes-Benz boss driving off in a Beemer being a prime example from the last few months.
More than 70% of businesses credit video with boosting their conversion rate. And 52% of consumers say watching product promos instills them with confidence when making online purchase decisions.
Yet again, the segment fueling the surge is Millennials—a group more likely to accrue product knowledge from a video than small print.
3. The Rise of the Machines
Analysts predict AI technologies will be pervasive in almost every new software product and service by 2020. In fact, PwC predicted it could increase global GDP by up to 14% between now and 2030. Not surprisingly, marketing has quickly caught on, adopting AI to power its data-driven brand campaigns. With insights that only AI can compute, brands can better identify and target their audiences.
AI and chatbot technology are already commonplace, streamlining tasks once carried out by humans—and some view AI as a threat that undermines their authority, privacy and/or job security.
But Millennials and Gen-Z have a completely different take on AI, welcoming its advances and recognizing its benefits to human business acumen and innovation. The young don’t see AI as the “Terminator,” but as an ally, capable of enhancing all areas of work and play.
This is the future space, and mindset marketers of all generations must step into it.
4. It’s Behind You: Nostalgic Marketing
Brands sharing compelling blasts from the past are capitalizing on the burgeoning appeal of nostalgia marketing. There’s a reason “Stranger Things” has proved such a soaring success for Netflix. The growing popularity of movies, TV shows and music steeped in nostalgia has awakened marketing to the myriad opportunities retro-campaigning offers.
Millennials are hungry for positive, euphoric memories from bygone eras. Nostalgia can help cement a consumer’s trust in a brand. And no segment craves trust and authenticity more than Millennials. They want to know a company’s past—if it can be made compelling. They want to feel connected to brands on an emotional level.
In an age of impersonal digital media, nostalgia is a powerful avenue for companies to build social ties, leveraging the optimism associated with trips down memory lane. It humanizes brands and can forge meaningful connections between past and present.
5. Veganism Plants Roots in the Future
Veganism is an oft-mocked subculture-turned-mainstream behemoth. Its skyrocketing popularity knows no bounds, fueled by anti-meat activism, concerns over the effects of bovine animals on climate change and the rapid, far-reaching cultural influence of social media.
Food free from animal products has emerged from “fad” beginnings. Marketing is quickly recognizing the rise of veganism as a mainstay—not a short stay. Exposed to the vegan breeding ground of Instagram, Millennials and Gen-Zs are being drawn into this non-carnivorous community en masse.
By feeding this demographic’s ethos with sincerity, purpose and respect, companies can open up new pastures—but beware of hopping on the bandwagon if your product isn’t authentic: Millennials and Gen-Zs are a discerning bunch who’ll sniff out disingenuous brands looking to cash in.
These five trends exemplify the perma-transformative. To stay ahead, brands can’t afford to dismiss anything as fad or subculture. Do so and risk dismissing a multiplying army of Millennials and Gen-Zs self-assuredly heading up a forward-focused consumer revolution.
They’re turning veganism into a multimillion-dollar industry, adopting and shaping AI, embracing feel-good retro and generating demand for video endorsements. They’re even causing a spike in diamond sales. These young adults are the common denominator at the core of each trend. They’re driving cultural and consumer change and they hold the key to the future, but they’re stamping their authority all over it today.
Brands must be agile, not resistant to change; know that values and lessons learned today will pay dividends tomorrow. Advances in technology, shifts in culture and the dawning of new consumer movements are happening every minute.
Be the party and send out invites; be late to someone else’s and you’ll be left out in the cold.