Future Digest - December 31st
The Future Digest is back and this time we explore the cultural impact Netflix has, new circular products in skincare and food, government fighting addictive UI, growing resentment in young generations, the precarious future of wholesale and the investment treaty between Europe and China.
Netflix has quickly grown into a cultural powerhouse as much of their original content strongly resonates with younger audiences. The production and message of their shows work together to create content that inspires and moves culture. As a result we now have "the Netflix effect". This season of the Crown brought back Princes Diana inspired fashion while The Queen's Gambit made chess popular again.
Gucci is collaborating with Pokemon Go and Virgil Abloh excitedly talks about the fusion of the world of gaming with the world of Fashion. In their efforts to connect with a younger audience, luxury brands are venturing into new places, showing up where this young demographic spends a lot of its time.
Humanrace is the new skincare brand by Pharrell Williams that focuses on simplicity and sustainability. The products come in reusable packaging made from recycled plastic from landfills and the refills come in paper cartons that are fully recyclable. Humanrace skincare products are also vegan, fragrance-free and designed to be suitable for all skin types.
Robin Hood, the free trading platform, is being sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the state of Massachusetts for neglecting its duty of care to its customers. The most remarkable aspect about the lawsuits is not that they are being sued for taking advantage of the poor or for lying about trades being free, but that the case calls out the addictive design of the platform.
As the food industry accounts for 26% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions it has been searching for solutions to lower its foodprint. One increasingly popular solution is kelp-based foods as the taste and texture is supposedly very nice and the products are actually carbon negative. Akua is a food startup making kelp-based jerky and burgers. They project that in five years time, they will have sequestered one million pounds of carbon.
Nike beat investors' expectations after outperforming their category this year. In the last years , they shifted to a more DTC business model that focuses predominantly on owned retail channels with a central role for digital. As many businesses are moving towards a DTC model, it raises questions about the future of wholesale retailers.
The Financial Times reports that after seven years, The EU and China have finalised a deal on an investment treaty. While the deal opens up lucrative new corporate opportunities it also elicited scepticism and disapproval from the United States and human rights activists.
The Financial Times and Rand institute report this year saw a significant decline in trust in government in developed countries, while the opposite is true in developing countries. The deterioration of trust is especially pronounced in younger generations. Divided, disengaged and distrustful citizens pose serious problems for governments and may hamper the progressive agenda that is needed to succeed in the next decade and beyond.
The Guardian reports that while many countries signalled their Covid-19 economic recovery plan would focus on a green recovery, few actually followed through. As it stands, the current recovery plans would see the world missing the Paris agreement targets.
Vancouver in Canada and Georgia in the US are experimenting with a new format for the suburb called the ‘agrihood’. It combines suburban living and farming in an effort to connect people more to their food.
Upcoming brands like Humanrace and Akua are setting new standards for their category and are leading the transition towards the circular economy. As regulations are changing and new challengers enter the market, incumbent brands urgently need to explore how their products and packaging can be made circular.
Social media and software was made to be "sticky" i.e. addictive. The more addictive technology was, the more industry investors loved it. However, this year's The Social Dilemma brought this to the attention of mainstream consumer who were shocked and horrified. The Robin Hood case is the first legal action that challenges UX design that exploits human weaknesses. Businesses should monitor whether this will be the start of a shift in UX design from dependence to empowerment for the user (as was originally promised by tech startups).
As Netflix continues to grow its cultural clout, brands should explore how they can collaborate with the streaming platform to establish a more authentic connection with their target audience. However, they will need to think beyond simple product placement as many content producers shun paid advertising to protect their image of quality and independence. As such, brands will need to make content a key aspect of their cultural strategy.
A decrease in trust in the government among young people can lead to increased social unrest and a rejection of the establishment. Businesses will need to explore how they can distance themselves from the establishment and build more trust with younger generations.
Emerging residential developments such as the agrihood place more emphasis on connecting the local community with the local economy. Big brands need to monitor the importance of local to consumers and consider how they can become more embedded in local communities and economies.
The deal between China and the EU has the potential to protect the precarious multilateral state of world we live in, which will help drive global efforts to deal with challenges such as climate change. However, it could also cool the relationship between the US and Europe and lead to a more fragmented world. Businesses should consider both scenarios and monitor the response from countries such as the US.