- Sebastien Van Laere
Future Digest - January 14th
Another year, another Future Digest. This week looks at LEGO going horticultural, the growing Techlash, Gen Z as the lost generation, Bottega Veneta going dark on social media, truth decay as a fundamental threat to society and growing inequality.
LEGO has unveiled two new sets for those who want to add nature to their home but don’t necessarily have a green thumb. Called the LEGO botanical collection, the new sets include a LEGO flower bouquet and a LEGO bonsai tree.
After WhatsApp introduced changes to it terms of service, downloads of rival messaging apps Signal and Telegram surged as people decided to switch platforms. The new WhatsApp policy which will go in effect on February 8th will see the app share more data within the Facebook data ecosystem.
Disillusioned with their career, Gen Z in China is tapping out of the 996 work culture and instead is embracing Touching Fish culture. The term is derived from an idiom saying the best time to catch a fish is when the water is muddy. So with managers distracted by the crisis, young people see an opportunity to push back against the harsh work culture and instead only do the bare minimum.
The International Labour Organisation is ringing the alarm bell about the economic impact of the pandemic on young people. They warn that “exclusion of young people from the labour market” is “one of the greatest dangers for society in the current situation” because of “the long-lasting impacts” such as sustained lower income, psychological stress, increased institutional distrust and a higher propensity to criminal behaviour.
Four years after Kellyanne Conway launched the phrase 'alternative facts', the Rand Institute identifies truth decay as a worrying threat to society. They identify four drivers behind truth decay, interestingly two out of four relate directly to social media (polarisation and misinformation).
Facebook has created a new civil rights executive position, filled by a former Obama administration expert, Roy Austin Jr.
Last week, without explanation or announcement, Bottega Veneta closed down all of its social media accounts.
Elon Musk briefly was the richest man in the world last week. HOwever, after Amazon shares surged on Wednesday Jeff Bezos is again the world's richest man. At the same time, the World Bank estimates 25% of the world now lives below the societal poverty line and the FT reports how the pandemic has further increased inequality.
The Business of Fashion's latest podcast features Roger McNamee who was early investor in facebook and mentor to Mark Zuckerberg. In the podcast he discusses the danger big tech poses for the fashion industry and how fashion brands should respond. He argues that big tech have inserted themselves between brands and their customers and now have the power to make or break brands. The solution, he says, lies in Fashion's pivotal role in (shaping) culture.
Always-on culture, overexposure of technology, climate change and polarisation all combined with a pandemic have led to new highs of fatigue, depression and anxiety. In response brands like LEGO are trying to offer consumers mindfulness and calm. Brands should explore how they can help their consumers recuperate.
The Techlash that has been bubbling under the surface for a while is now reaching boiling point as consumers are taking active steps to avoid privacy violations, businesses are starting to push back and regulators are looking to reign in big tech's power. Businesses should explore what plausible scenarios follow from a backlash and what this would mean in turn for their business.
With gloomy economic prospects and a disillusionment with the corporate world, Gen Z is at risk of becoming a lost generation. This could have a dramatic impact on many businesses who are banking on Gen Z as their future consumer and bright employees.
As the evidence grows of big tech's negative impact on society, the likelihood of those companies being broken up increases. As a consequence, the market would get some much needed fresh oxygen and would become more fragmented and competitive, driving innovation and better value for consumers. Businesses should monitor how this unfolds and keep an eye out for new competitors that can be worthy opponents for the tech giants.
Political brand messaging is nothing new and the last years we have seen brands get increasingly involved in civic society. However, Facebook has gone one step further and added a civil rights executive to its ranks. Additionally, with ESG being on every board member's mind, after the Chief Sustainability Officer we might also start to see the Chief human Rights officer.