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Where Are We Going Now? Trends for the 2020s

June 03, 2021


Where Are We Going Now? Trends for the 2020s

There’s a lot of hand-wringing about the future right now. When will lockdowns end? Will it ever end? Why can’t kids go back to school? What about vaccines, what about variants? What will our economy look like? How are we going to pay off the incredible debt country-wide? What can we do about police violence or racism?

Lots of questions, but most of us are focused on the here-and-now—at least to some degree. I mean, it’s hard to know what’s going to happen tomorrow or next week, let alone where we’re going to be in six months, a year.

So it might seem a little silly to try and predict what the decade is going to look like. In a lot of ways, it’s actually easier to look at these big, long-term trends and pin them down. The pandemic kickstarted a lot of them. We were already kind of moving in this direction at the tail end of the last decade, but now we’re in high gear. Others are new, stemming direct from the pandemic itself.

Of course, other trends will emerge. Technology will change. Some new challenge appears on the horizon (like aliens live among us or Asian hornets). I like this article written by David Mattin, with its five trends—I think there are a few pretty spot-on predictions about what the next 10 years are going to see.

1.   The New World of Work

Let’s start with this one: the shake-up of the world of work has been underway for a while now. People were already pushing for more telecommuting and work-from-home before 2020. The pandemic forced so many of us to make the switch.

The question on everyone’s mind is when are we going back to “normal.” What will that even look like? Some experts say there won’t be an office anymore. Others say we’re itching to get back to the office, to get out of our houses.

There’s been a big cultural shift. I’m not sure it’s a reckoning, but we’ve been watching parents struggle over the last year. The kids are home 24/7, and parents have to support them with their online schooling. At the same time, they’re trying to hold down jobs. It’s like the work-life balance issue on steroids.

What that means, though, is that this is playing out on center stage. Millennials and Gen Zers are reconsidering having kids. That’s bad news in a world where we’re already sounding the alarm about falling birth rates. Who will change the narrative? What new thinking can create a family-centric model that ensures the support is there in the future? 

Enter the reimagination of work. This isn’t just the idea that “the office” is dead. Sure, some companies are likely going to do away with the office entirely. We’re going to see a rash of virtual workspaces, because it’s cheaper than renting office space. For now, anyway.

Even more traditional companies are going to be under pressure to offer more WFH (work from home) options. And we’re going to see Gen Z in particular use that kind of flexibility to rewrite the work contract. Gen Z is a generation of influencers. Contrary to popular belief, influencers have to grind to get where they are. Many YouTube celebrities had to produce videos every single day for years before they became famous.

That meant no weekends, no vacations, no days off. So Gen Z’s willing to work. But they’re going to negotiate how and when. It’s not the traditional 9-to-5 with this group.

That might give them back some kind of work-life balance. Instead of cramming everything into two days, they have more leisure time during the week. They might work early in the morning or late at night. Then they have the rest of the day free to do anything and everything else.

That also means we’re going to see new workflows and platforms too. So, work is going to look a lot different in the coming years.

2.   The Rise of B2A

I like this prediction because it’s already happening, to some extent. Instead of being “business to business” or “business to customer,” we’re going to start targeting algorithms.

What does B2A mean? Instead of looking to customers, we tweak our content, our marketing, our strategies to please algorithms. And then we let them do the work.

This might sound like the total opposite of what I usually preach, which is knowing and understanding our customers. In some sense, the algorithm is acting as a middleman here. The people who write algorithms are making those algorithms smarter and smarter. That means they behave more and more like our customers.

And we can see this in how businesses are already playing with Google’s algorithm. Search engine optimization is all about “gaming” rankings by playing to the algorithm. Google’s engineers program a sort of points system. You get points for a fast-loading site and using SSL. The more points you have, the better off you are, so to speak.

What Google is doing, though, is making their algorithm mimic the demands of their users. Google’s engineers decided that sites that load in two seconds would rank higher, because people want sites to load that fast.

So we’re working to please the algorithm, which works to please our customers. In some ways, Google’s algorithm has just done the research, taken the guesswork out of knowing our customers. They’re telling us, “We have the data, we crunched the numbers, and this is what people want from you.”

Most of us don’t have access to that kind of data, so this is, in some ways, helpful. There are tons of concerns about it, sure—where’s privacy in all of this? Will this lead to bigger companies that can spend more getting a bigger slice of the pie? And what about the human connection, actually building relationships with our customers?

But, like I said, B2A is already happening in some ways. There’s no reason it’s going to disappear in the next 10 years. Not when smarter algorithms get us better and more entertaining TikTok feeds.

3.   Sustainability and Authenticity

We’re going to see “sustainability as a service” and brands being transparent as trends over the next 10 years.

I think these two trends go hand in hand. People are looking for convenience and they want to “do good,” as the report points out. That’s where sustainability comes in. People want to feel good about their purchases, to buy from brands that are making some kind of difference.

I’ve talked a lot about brands that are doing this kind of thing, and how it resonates with Zoomers. They want brands to stand for something. And people generally are more likely to buy from brands that share their values.

As more people become aware of climate change and the environment, they’re wondering what they can do. Sustainability is the focus there. We’re also looking at sustainable practices in the face of a bunch of other things. What’s sustainable work look like in a world with lockdowns and pandemics? What about a world with fewer kids, fewer new workers? How can we make stuff like healthcare systems or pension plans sustainable?

Resiliency might be another word here. Both of them tie into the authenticity issue. You can tell someone that you make toothbrushes from sustainable bamboo. But more and more, customers are asking us to prove it.

They want proof of our commitments to values, not just lip service. So being authentic, inviting them on that behind-the-scenes journey plays right into this.

4.   The Metaverse

Last—but not least—is the idea that we’re reinventing, well, pretty much everything in the 2020s. The “metaverse” is the reality within other realities. The classic example here is the concert held in popular video game Fortnite last year. Real-world performer Travis Scott put on a virtual concert within the video game world. Real-life players could attend within the virtual realm.

The report also pointed to the idea of meta-selves—which is what those players are in the Fortnite world. We’ve been doing that for a while now—constructing new personas, new selves online. Now we’re getting to a point where those “selves” are increasingly able to interact with elements of the real world within their fictional worlds.

That presents a whole host of opportunities for us as Marketers. If people have meta-selves, how can we connect with those different aspects of them? Can we interact with them, by having a concert or something else?

This comes back to building relationships. As we move more online, including for work, we’ll discover new ways to connect and new ways to build relationships with our customers. Algorithms will help us find those customers, but we still need to tap into our core values—our business’s reason for existing!

So remember: start with the why!


A little more about me. My goal is and always will be to inspire and create conversation!

I am a businessperson who has excelled in driving a competitive edge through marketing, strategy, innovation, building irresistible brands and unlocking the genius that exists. I am writing to inspire or create new consideration. If you have ideas or questions that you would like me to put a pen too, I would be delighted.

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