Futurelab: Fact plus fiction, ‘hoboism’ and brand tie-ups set to change marketing

Blending reality with fantasy, the rise of ‘hoboism’ and collaboration between brands are the three macro trends set to define changes in consumer thinking and business over the next five years, according to The Future Laboratory.

They also “ring the death knell for the era of authenticity”, researchers at the trend watching group say. Marketing sat down with co-founder of the group Martin Raymond to talk the future of service, social media, attitude to brands and attitudes to usage of technology ahead of presentations of their research in Sydney and Melbourne.

“Social and mental and psychological state are one of the big things we’ve seen in America,” Raymond says. Pressures of living are set to spark ‘hoboism’, a phenomenon similar to the often-discussed trend of ‘switching off’ amid the cacophony of technology and messages clamouring for people’s attention. Against the backdrop of busy and stressful lives, expect the rise of hoboism, digital switch-off, mindfulness and secular spiritualism as consumers take to the land, sea, beaches and mountains in search of meaning mindfulness and an emotional reboot, Raymond predicts.

Bird house“For example, people building temporary hotels and temporary areas of escape inside cities,” Raymond explains. “They have talks, ways of running your business, they have innovation, and it’s all in this hub. The reason we call it hoboism is because a lot of the stuff is movable and it’s trying to offer people different perspectives about either their existing businesses or community or cities they live in.

“Increasingly, I think with a lot of businesses, and even consumers, they’re looking for time to think about what to do. If you go to any business in Europe, they’ve got mindfulness training sessions for executives, for people working in high-pressure jobs or innovation, along with peer decision making.”

In a world saturated with authentic brands, a true story is not enough to cut through any more, Raymond said, explaining his ‘death of authenticity’ theory.

“To stand out and connect with tomorrow’s increasingly connected, transmedia-savvy consumers, smart brands will blend fact with fantasy, truth with tall stories, and reality with clever, compelling make-believe”, Raymond says.

“For probably the last five years in terms of our company, and a lot of the businesses we work with globally and here in Australia, the focus has been on authenticity, things being real and being transparent and trustworthy. We tracked this over 10 years, and pretty much for the first five years, it rated low among businesses and high among consumers. Now it rates high among businesses and higher among consumers. So what you’ve got is a situation where consumers expect it as a standard rather than as an added value.”

The group also calls the trend ‘faction marketing’ or harnessing the power of stories made from fact, fiction and fantasy to entice, excite and engage a brand’s friends, fans and audience.

Nike Craft

‘Symbiotic branding’ was the third big trend called out – how and why brands, products and retailers are space-sharing, co-collaborating and identity-squatting in competitor spaces to maximise profits, drive experience, share efficiencies and enter new market sectors.

It’s about one brand using another brand’s space, website, advertising campaign or consumer database to save money, fire innovation or kick-start change.

“I’m thinking of Nokia which has taken quite a battering as a brand in the last five years, teaming up with a competitor like Microsoft and creating a phone,” Raymond says.

“A lot of brands I think are now sharing. For example, in retail, Uniqlo, a middle-range mass-market clothing basics company, setting up shop with Dover Street Market which is as niche and obscure a brand as you would like to get.”


Image source: The Future Laboratory

Top image is the installation ‘Manifest Destiny!’ by Mark Reigelman and Jenny Chapman, a temporary cabin claiming one of the last vacant spaces in downtown San Francisco, 40 feet in the air. More details at thisispaper.com