Trends 2020: Looking Ahead to A Year of Breakthroughs-Part 1

Welcome to the Trend Forecast Report 2020!

This year marks the 25th anniversary of my firm. Since its founding mid-1995, my team and I witnessed plenty of change: brands as a force for good, the dominance of digital culture, and seismic shifts in how we perceive and express identity. Despite all the change, what drove me to start it has proven remarkably resilient, borne out through studies, strategy workshops and countless campaigns for clients: The future favors the curious.
On a personal note, this year felt so different. I poured all of my spare creative juice into a new book I’m writing about digital culture’s impact on the self, the soul and society. Crazy ambitious, I know. That’s why the 2020 Trend Report is a pared-down romp. Pithy, punchy and partly cloudy; it’s a pretty quick read.

The big takeaway from the data tables, content analysis, interviews, input from focus group leaders and yes, a shaman, is this: get ready to leap. And not a little. The consensus is that the planet is overdue for some important breakthroughs. Rightly, the theme this year is about breaking the rules, breaking out, and breaking away from the dead hand of business as usual.
Special thanks to our tipsters, the 40 or so brilliant people who help me tune into the tremors before they become trends.

As always, we appreciate you being here. And thanks for journeying with us all these years!

TREND 1: Breaking Free

Millennial Women Shake off Emotional Golddiggers

The #MeToo reverb is still throbbing. Take, for example, a piece by Melanie Hamlett that appeared in Harper’s Bazaar in 2019, and spread like brushfire among women across social networks. The women sharing the article, entitled “Men Have No Friends and Women Bear the Burden,” piled on with their own comments. “Willing to pay someone to take a physical copy of this story to every man I’ve ever dated and smack them over the head with it,” tweeted one. The article’s hook refers to a tweet by writer Erin Rodgers, who wants the term ‘golddigger’ to include men who look for “a woman who will do tons of emotional labor for them.” Months later, Nike’s running program was laid bare by one of its most promising female runners. Mary Cain’s provocative New York Times video revealed the body shaming and wrong-headed coaching that was breaking her down and killing her speed. The upshot is that the generation rising in the ranks, who will lead companies, make policy, and run organizations, are boldly and publicly defining what they will and won’t do as women in a less-than-equal society. What these two examples have in common, in other words, is a pronounced defiance of gender roles. Next Gen women don’t take no shit! Craft your message accordingly.

Takeaway: The echoes of #MeToo will shatter the stigma around psychological support for men. In particular, look for more group encounter meetings, life coaches and counseling services aimed at men. Also look for women to demand more athletic coaches in high schools and colleges who specialize in female physiology.

Further reading, Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister

TREND 2: Breaking up

Drinking Culture Sobers Up

People are waking up to the social and physical costs of too much booze. We heard it in interviews and focus groups. The industry data doesn’t reflect this attitudinal shift just yet. Rather, it shows that for the past 5 years, alcohol consumption trended upward. Last year, there was a 6% bump for women and 9% for men. This is related to another trend, which we call “toxic stress,” and noted in previous reports. People are needing to numb out to get by. But last year, there was sudden a rise in popular culture, books and articles across social media about getting sober. Millennials are leading the charge, posting 30-day sober hacks, “body better off booze” photos on Instagram and favorite mocktail recipes. Expect to see a decline in alcohol consumption to follow as “curious sober” parties replace martini parties, and mocktails earn their rightful place on the craft cocktail menu.

Further reading: Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol by Ruby Warrington

TREND 3: Breaking Ranks

Zoomers Are the Grownups of the Internet

Riding a tidal wave of information from countless outlets, Zoomers (my favorite handle for GenZ) happily sample the smorgasbord, but trust only one: their peers. Pew Research defines Gen Z as anyone age 4 to 23, making Millennials roughly ages 24 to 38. Despite time spent on TikTok and Instagram, among Zoomers, word-of-mouth has proven stable and sticky. They’re growing up digital and have fewer illusions about the ways social technologies have been co-opted into tools of surveillance, behavioral manipulation and addiction. While Americans in general still believe that technology holds promise for innovations, Zoomers are more willing to eschew technology to find information they can trust — from friends.

When asked “how often do you use the following media sources for news,” the overwhelming majority of Zoomers (83%) said they turn to friends.

Zoomers’ Sources for News

Read More in Part 2

Cultural analyst, Jungian, author of 3 books, researcher, speaker. I study people and things that change the culture.