We're still single digits into this new year, so I hope it's okay to make a few trend predictions. I'm counting on the curmudgeons in the audience to remind me to check back later and see how we did.
Second Life and Avatars:
As noted in an earlier post, Second Life is not the end point, but the beginning. Yes, we will see lots of marketers climb aboard the virtual world. They'll be doing it to keep in touch with the evolution of the virtual world, and to learn, because there isn't going to be a lot of ROI there for a while. But it's well worth doing anyway. The ROI will all go to the designers, script-writers and consultants.
Innovation Gets Real:
Innovation is not going away in any meaningful sense -- the pressure is on everyone to be more innovative to compete, and if you happen to live in the developed world, even more so. For many, the real thrust of innovation will be on the next trend, the environment, and that's what we can expect to see on the covers of magazines. Meanwhile, in my little corner of the universe, the Innovation project at Schulich will be launching the final phase of research, as well as a conference. [Reports on the research are available here]
The Greenifying of Everything:
The environment will be the real star of everything this year, and you can expect all the innovation stories in the business press to relate to the environment. The cool kids will all be looking to show how their organization, product or service is environmentally friendly. A lot of this will not be true green, it will be "greenification".
Consumer culture abhors inconvenience, and truly being green sounds highly inconvenient. [Which of course is why we must push for government action, because as individuals, we'll never take big enough steps.] We don't want inconvenience, but we want to feel good about ourselves, and smart marketers will be coloring everything green, or at least making it out of bamboo.
Personalization and Customization Continues:
This major trend will continue, and probably pick up speed. Consumers want the ability to get exactly what they want, not what you want to sell them. They'll continue modifying and tweaking, and if you help them tweak, they'll love you for it.
We want anything that makes us feel like individuals, without necessarily wanting to be too different than everyone else. To understand this phenomenon, watch the high school kids on the bus. They're all different, while being all the same.
Boomer Life Changes Aging:
There's little doubt that the boomers will exert tremendous impact on everything they need as they age. In fact, their parents already started the movement. Most recently, I've noticed a lot of really cool reading glasses around. Sample packets of anti-wrinkle formulations are stuffed into all manner of magazines. I see more men at the hair salon getting a color than ever before. I bet you could add about a dozen items to this list with almost no effort.
Organization Life Keeps Changing:
Just as Boomers are changing aging, everyone under 35 is changing the definition of a career and an organization. There are a whole lot of forces at work here, from globalization and the loss of long term job security, to the culture of young people who want to be hired where their friends are hired.
For geezers like me, work-life balance meant having enough space in each box. There was even a book, called "The Three Boxes of Life", that told you how to get there. For the twenty-somethings I meet now, they want it all mashed up together, not neatly divided into boxes. There still needs to be a balance, and the fun can't all be after hours.
Not only that, but these folks aren't prepared to wait ten years to get roles with impact and interest.
At the same time, there are a lot of people in their early fifties that are tired of working so hard, and want much more flexibility and much more variety in their lives. They'll want to contribute their wisdom and managerial talent, but they don't want a conventional role definition either.
Any organization that can figure this stuff out and do it well is in great shape. Everyone else will continue to whine about the lack of managerial talent and other such blah, blah. But don't expect to see the organization man anytime soon, I think he's dead, and resting in peace.
Customer Experience Gets Funded:
When I started writing about customer experience here two years ago, a lot of people didn't know what I was talking about. There were only a few of us consulting and researching in this area. Now everyone is in on it.
And for good reason: to compete as a service business, you have to put real resources behind customer experience. That's finally starting to happen, and we will see a lot more thoughtful effort in this area in the coming year.
And it will take the form of cross-functional work that brings marketing and design thinking into contact with operations and front line delivery. [Could be exciting!]
One last prediction: Apple loses its cool
I have the sense that Apple is now so pervasive in the iPod and music space that they may not be the coolest kid on the block soon. We'll still love them, but we won't think they can save the world anymore.
So happy new year, dear reader, I think we are in for an interesting ride in 2007. How lucky we are to be born in this age, when there is still time to save the planet, and we can do it carrying a pink Razr and wearing a bamboo t-shirt.