Charlie Butterfield, January 14, 2020

Welcome to our industry predictions for 2020! What a rollercoaster year of change it has been.
As we enter a new year and a new year decade we wanted to share our predictions on consumer behaviour and emerging trends. We hope you find it insightful

Protecting Digital Identities

Data privacy has become a global issue. Consumers are increasingly conscious and protective of their digital fingerprints due to the volume of information transferred in the digital landscape.

As we move into 2020 brands will need to reposition themselves as the cure instead of the poison. New tech companies such as Snips have been set up solely to protect user data. Snips utilises AI voice assistant that runs locally and on-device to safeguard digital data. Unlike Amazon Alexa and Google Home, Snips AI ensures that end-user data is not transferred or analysed in the cloud.

Other products such as Helm, the Personal Server, allows you to take control of your online fingerprint and communicate with confidence, knowing your information is free from surveillance, corporate oversight or being caught up in the next online data breach. It positions data privacy and online security as the latest modern luxury.

Safeguarding digital data is not new, apps like Vero which launched in 2015 promised no adverts, enhanced privacy, free of timeline interference and no subscription fees for the first million users. The Vero manifesto: “A false sense of connection left us lonelier than ever,” and challenged the very core of social platforms in the wake of data privacy and positioned “algorithm” as a dirty word – very noble claims but it had a mountain to climb and giants in its way. The difference in 2020 is that the giants are on board.

Earlier this year, Facebook announced plans to open pop-up Privacy Cafes across the UK where visitors can get a privacy check-up along with their morning cup of coffee. The check-ups include advice on how to personalise and improve online privacy settings to help users better protect and control information shared online.

I predict the big players will also try to launch initiatives in the coming year to better protect end-user data and position themselves as the solution to the problem. 


Sonic Branding

Sound identity, audio branding, sonic logos and even the mogo – whatever you want to call it, brands are increasingly spotlighting unique and bespoke sounds in their campaigns and activations.

Increasingly, we are seeing more brands embark on the quest for yet another medium through which to define a product. Distinctive sound is becoming an important part of brands’ repertoires more than ever. 

In September 2019, Coach published a series of Instagram posts to mark the opening of its Coach Originals pop-up shop in New York. The videos—all tagged #ASMR—highlighted the noises associated with Coach, from the “always satisfying sound” of its turnlock bag fastenings to the clink of its metal buttons and the whirr of a sewing machine stitching one of the brand’s pieces.

Sound identity is big business and will continue to gain momentum in 2020. Bao Bao Voice by Bao Bao Issey Miyake transformed designs into musical instruments creating an interactive and multisensory event that demonstrates the playful nature of the brand.

The likes of BMW collaborated with composer Hans Zimmer to create the sound for one of its electric cars in an attempt to address the “gap in the emotionality of the driving experience” when driving a silent electric car.

Other brands using audio branding include HBSC which earlier in 2019 HSBC worked with composer Jean-Michel Jarre to create a new sound identity. Mastercard also unveiled a new sonic brand identity, describing it as a “comprehensive sound architecture” and explained that it was produced to bridge experiences, as brand touchpoints diversify across physical, digital and voice environments. The Mastercard sonic brand identity is an example of brands utilising sound by working with a composer or sound designer to get under the skin of the brand, learn its history and identity to compose a piece of music that will reflect the personality of the business and serve its purpose as a commercial asset.

When you consider that human language started to develop around 100,000 years ago, but the first Gutenberg printing press only arrived a few hundred years ago, you have a fine argument for the power of audio versus visual. As we enter a new decade I foresee even more brands realising the potential of sound and embracing their audio identities. 


Humanising Tech

With technology and Big Tech being an intrinsic part of the everyday lives of consumers all over the world, the biggest challenge facing tech brands is how to humanise technology. The new year will see many brands trying to find a solution.

Big Tech is changing its design language to resonate with consumers and leaning on design to blend in and disappear in our home and surroundings. Start-ups are leading with design to empathise with consumers. 

Whilst we have already seen the advent of technology that looks and sounds more human, now, researchers are looking to the epidermis to make technology actually feel more human. I predict the next year will see companies moving towards creating technologies that feel more human-like.


Preparing For The Future Customer

Today, many organisations are struggling to initiate strategies that make them relevant for Gen Alphas (aged 6-16-years-old) – the future generation of customers. All the while, retail innovators like Amazon are setting the benchmark for the Gen Alphas’ expectations. From 2020, I predict brands will shift their focus from Millennials to this new generation of consumers.

The rising generation of digital natives, born between 2010 and 2025, are primed to overhaul the consumer landscape. Raised on technology and eagerly principled, this generation’s expectations already present a powerful force and also a challenge for brands.

This age group has definite views on how things should work – 51% want a job where they can use technology to make a difference and 67% of 6-9-year-olds say that saving the planet will be the focus of their career.

Brands like Mattel are already espousing these tenets to appeal to Generation Alpha. The Barbie manufacturer announced in September 2019 that it will be releasing the first gender-neutral doll to accommodate shifting gender norms.

To prepare for future consumers it is imperative that brands and marketers know what is happening with this new generation and what makes them tick.

Generation Alpha will be the most formally educated, technology-supplied and globally the wealthiest generation ever. Whatever brands start doing now needs to be built around what Gen Alpha customers expect. 


Office Decentralisation

The traditional idea of an office HQ is redundant. Employees’ lifestyles are increasingly transient so the need for working environments that fit into this is essential. 

The demand for co-working spaces also spawns interesting opportunities such as The Wing, founded in 2016. The Wing not only provides a workspace but a community for women across the country and globe to gather to work, connect, and thrive. 

A report from the United Nations projects that two out of three people will be living in urban hubs by 2050, bringing about 2.5 billion more people into already crowded cities. This means regional businesses will be forced to have an urban presence if not only to attract but to retain talent. 

Places like 3den offer a third space and claim to be “an aggregate of the best parts of the coffee shop, the hotel lobby, elements of a gym and various other resources.” UNStudio also challenges what we expect from a workspace. It positions itself as an “area between home and work.”

I predict more and more businesses will embrace shared office spaces or satellites and I suspect some businesses will do away with an office altogether.


Sexual Wellness

With the rise of inclusive wellness, new brands and platforms are positioning self-sex as the latest form of self care. I predict we will see many more brands embracing sexual wellness as we enter 2020.

The global sexual wellness market is expected to reach $39 billion by 2024, growing at a CAGR of more than 7% over the next five years. Women especially are taking a heightened interest in sexual wellbeing, with the feminine hygiene market set to reach $42.7 billion by 2022.

So how has design been used to de-stigmatize sex, especially for the female-born consumer who has been brought up not to talk openly about it?

Brands like Dame and Maude offer a very design-led approach to sex essentials. In an attempt to break down the stigma the products look far removed from the predefined stereotypes. Products are displayed on white shelving and tables like precious art objects on pedestals. Swedish sex company LELO and others have dominated the mainstream sex toy market with minimal, gender-neutral packaging that would not feel out of place in an Apple store.

De-stigmatisation is perhaps the most important effect the branding of a sex product can have. That is why there is something intriguing about the black-and-white Sans-serif designer sex toy boxes that—for a certain class of consumer—look as everyday as any other home electronic item. But what if a sex product did not look like an expensive electronic, but as normal as something you might find in your local pharmacy?

Unbound, which earned $4 million in revenue in 2018, is trailblazing the future of self-sex with Saucy, a spaceship-shaped device. The brand claims it wanted to create something that you can leave out on your bedside table and not feel ashamed of.