JWT, the world's best-known marketing communications brand, has just released its ninth annual forecast of key trends that will drive or significantly impact consumer mindset and behavior in 2014. What’s interesting, though, are the implications for your career. Here are some things to think about as we kick off the New Year.
Trend #1: Raging against the machine
As we move further into the digital age, we’re starting to both fear and resent technology by putting a higher value on all things that feel essentially human and seriously questioning technology’s siren call. For example, in Amsterdam, Kit Kat launched Wi-Fi-free zones for people to take a break, and as a Valentine’s Day promotion, Spanish telecom operator Movistar created an “I Off You” app that lets people give significant others the ability to disconnect their phones.
You should keep this trend in the back of your mind when you consider how you communicate with people at work. In 2014, we may see a re-emphasis on in person interactions and personal relationships, and it may not always be acceptable to text or email a response when you can easily stop by someone’s office. Meeting someone for the first time? Avoid potential problems by asking them directly how they like to stay in touch.
Trend #2: The age of impatience
With the mainstreaming of the on-demand economy and our always-on culture, consumer desire for speed and ease is 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. For instance, thanks to Netflix releasing full television series at a time, consumers can now binge-view their favorite TV shows and learn the fate of characters within hours, rather than weeks or months.
Particularly for those in service industries, this trend means that your managers, colleagues, and clients will have sky high expectations for your performance. You will have to turn around projects more quickly and efficiently than ever before, and tolerance for delays will be limited. And remember that if you set a precedent for extreme behavior like answering every work email within 5 minutes of receiving it, you will be forever held to a standard that’s impossible to sustain.
Trend #3: Mindfulness
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. For example, some companies are tapping into this disruptive technology to create apps that help facilitate a state of mindfulness. Headspace’s app provides daily meditation sessions and random mindfulness buzzers that prompt users to check in with themselves.
An increased emphasis on mindfulness means that the multitasking, running around like a chicken with its head cut off mentality of the last decade is on its way out. Your managers, colleagues, and clients want to see that you’re paying attention and can perceive the subtle. In 2014, be purposeful about your actions and don’t let anything slip through the cracks. The devil is in the details.
Trend #4: 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, consumers will push back, and paranoia around technologies and services that affect privacy will grow. For instance, NEC IT solutions developed a facial recognition system called NeoFace, and new product OFF Pocket prevents outside signals from reaching an individual's mobile phone.
All this means that you have to be extra careful about the data you access when using a company network. Working from home does not stop the IT folks from looking over your shoulder, and you don’t want unorthodox or inappropriate usage of organizational resources to negatively impact your reputation. For those who are managers, recognize that people don’t want to feel like “Big Brother is watching.” If you are going to Google or checking the social media accounts of a prospective hire, for example, do it on the down low.
Trend #5: Speaking visual
We're shifting to a visual vocabulary that relies on photos, emojis, video snippets and other imagery, largely supplanting the need for text. Taco Bell and frozen yogurt chain 16 Handles have been sending disappearing, 10-second coupons and new product teasers to consumers using Snapchat, and Sony's “Pin it To Give It” initiative donated a dollar to charity every time a Pinterest user re-pinned from the board.
In 2014, visual representations are no longer just the domain of the graphic designer. Even those with no artistic talent must be able to communicate in pictures for maximum effect. When you brainstorm, consider using a mind map, and create presentations infused with poignant photographs that tell your story. If you work remotely, talk with your colleagues via videoconference apps so that you can interact with one another more meaningfully, and gain traction for your messages by composing short videos instead of emails.
How else do you think the workplace and our careers will evolve in 2014?