In an information-saturated world increasingly experienced through digital interfaces, consumers and professionals are pushing back. A growing demand for brands to offer a human touch is one of the leading tech trends for 2019, according to Weber Shandwick's latest report, Connecting the Trends: New Humanity.
The report, released on June 4 and put together by a panel of Weber Shandwick’s global experts, highlights how our ever-shifting world is taking a toll on many people. Between the drift towards video-based content, polemic politicians surging in popularity and seemingly endless revolutions in consumer technology, the world has changed dramatically in the past decade. Now, consumers and business leaders are reflexively craving stability.
But what does this mean for modern brand communicators? Connecting the Trends: New Humanity examines the threads and narratives that define these ongoing transformations. The report’s findings, accrued from 12 months of research and analysis, identify 24 key global trends impacting the global communication sector, and reveal the larger movements underpinning them.
The first of three ‘mega-trends’ identified by the report is a reconsideration of our relationship with technology. A decline in smartphone sales around the world, an increasing belief that companies are sacrificing consumer experience in favour of automation, a growing unease surrounding social media and a resurgent trust in print media are all factors contributing towards the demand for a more human-led reality.
The importance consumers place on a brand’s values and purpose is arguably at an all-time high – this was one of the key trends identified in Weber Shandwick’s 2018 global research survey. In 2019, while the value of purpose over profit remains high, this trend is taken further. Stakeholders increasingly wish to tangibly experience a brand’s sense of purpose, ideally one catered to them and their needs, rather than simply hear about it.
Giving stakeholders a sense of control is an important way to elicit positive engagement, as witnessed by the launch of personalised, ‘smart’ brick-and-mortar concept stores by companies such as Amazon (Amazon Go), Alibaba (FashionAI) and Nike (Nike Live). These manifestations are just some of the most overt examples of an ongoing blurring of the boundaries between the digital and physical realms.
The second of the three ‘mega-trends’ is the widespread necessity of appealing to a diverse audience. Generation Z and Millennials both value and prioritise diverse representation in their lives – including media, workplace and the politicians who represent them. By 2020, millennials will have the largest spending power (approximately US$13 trillion worldwide) of any generation, and will remain the most economically influential generation for at least the next 15 years. Meanwhile, Generation Z now makes up a third of the global population, and is currently experiencing its own commercial advent, with a current spending power of approximately US$44 billion.
Brands are naturally scrambling to understand and appeal to this influential sector. A genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion is among the most important factors in attracting audience growth and remaining attractive as an employer among Millennials and Generation Z.
The third of 2019’s ‘mega-trends’ is the growing impact of health and wellbeing as a consideration in decision-making. With an impact reaching further than the already-booming healthcare sector, our blossoming interest and investment in our own wellbeing now underpins a range of decisions both big and small, in everything from workplace design to dietary choices and technology.
As a brand, investing in healthcare is a logical move. Between 2017 and 2022, global healthcare spending is predicted to grow by around US$3 trillion – this growth in spending is largely driven by changing attitudes towards health and wellbeing. Consumers and professionals are increasingly less willing to compromise on their values, actively seeking out brands that value the wellbeing of people and the world around us.
This trend trickles down into the workplace – in 2018, some 70% of professionals worldwide were working remotely once per week or more, and this non-traditional approach is gaining momentum. Roughly 50% of Millennials would leave their job for a role that permitted working remotely on a regular basis, and many companies are focusing on improving their workplace culture, increasing work-life balance, and giving more time off to new parents.
Taken as a whole, the report makes it clear that, around the world, there’s a demand for retailers, tech companies, healthcare providers and employers to provide a ‘New Humanity’. In this uncertain world fuelled by rapid technological advancement, it’s authenticity and human connection that will perhaps once more provide us with comfort and security.