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Trend forecasting for 2010

With the arrival of the New Year, trend forecasting firms have compiled lists of trends to watch during 2010. JWT Intelligence (the research arm of the American marketing communications giant JWT) has compiled a list of 100 things to watch in 2010. A similar compilation is available from Trendwatching.com.

I think they both covered it well. There is a mixture of tech trends, cultural value shifts in society, consumer trends, food trends, gadgets, rising celebrities, and some macro trends. What is interesting to note is that several trends are overlapping and sometimes contradict each other. But I assume that is a consequence of our multi-faceted society, rife with contradictions.

The ongoing backlash against the bubble of greed and the adjustment to a more frugal, energy efficient lifestyle will dominate even in 2010. Traditional luxury is out. It might be replaced by products in limited editions sold in a few temporary pop-up stores in one city (products you can’t buy on the web).

Greenery and health conscious food choices have been on the rise for over a decade. Demand for accountability of corporations will be stronger and even more pronounced in the mainstream culture of 2010. Will we see a wider ban on plastic shopping bags? More cities that ban bottled drinking water? Strict quotas on blue fin tuna?

Some trends are related to China and India. Conspicuous luxury consumption might be on its way out in the West but is a rising force in China. For example, as China replaces Japan as the world’s second Economy it is a growth market for global auction houses. The Chinese athlete cum entrepreneur Li Ning has his own brand of athletic shoes with the potential to challenge Nike. In 2010, international buyers will discover contemporary art from India, etc.

A strong trend is the real-time web, the tracking and alerting of everything, instant gratification, and immediate product feedback. At the same time, the trend watchers also talk about opposite trends such as a renaissance for handwriting, slow communication, and calming soft drinks (the opposite to Red Bull). Another contradiction is that both the anti-copyright Pirate Party and Paid Content are listed as two trends for 2010.

Social media will continue to be a tidal wave in 2010. It will not isolate us by keeping us glued to our computers but will rather open up new opportunities for meeting others in real life. This trend has been labeled “mass mingling”. Some tech trends are: electric cars, 3D in the home, web/TV integration, LED light bulbs, and rivals to Kindle. A couple of products to watch are dry shampoo and waterless washing machines.


If your job is in futurism or market horizon scanning, trend agencies such as JWT and Trendwatching.com are useful tools. They use a very wide net to compile their information and some findings might be highly relevant to your own business. I also believe that these trend maps can pick up part of the zeitgeist and cultural shift of our time.

However, it is important to be aware of their limitations. My impression is that their focus is too much on mainstream consumer culture in the US/EU with a rather short time perspective. Most of these trends have been out there for years before they were strong enough to be identified as a new trend by the trend agencies. It is possible to identify these trends even earlier.

If you want to identify weak signals for emerging fundamental change early; listen to and embrace fringe phenomena, contrarians, and counter cultures. It is the neglected, ridiculed and suppressed viewpoints that might have important insights and perspectives that you are oblivious to if you only read mainstream media and focus on the mainstream market. This is the somewhat forgotten lesson from Peter Swartz in his classic book on futurism and forecasting from 1990 (The Art of the Long View).

Here is an example: during the height of the bubble in 2006-2007, one would have been better prepared for the storm by immersing oneself in anti-capitalist counter cultures. The dissenting voices that criticized US style financial capitalism and compiled facts for the case that the economy was heading for a crash were right on. They should have charged a consulting fee.


Another information agency worth mentioning is Springwise that tracks new business models and business ideas. They have a network of 8,000 paid trendspotters who scan the globe for smart new business models. (Trendwatching.com uses a similar model with a large network of trend-savvy individuals in 170 countries who report what they find. Accepted tips are rewarded with gifts.)

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