Future Digest - November 17th
This week's Future Digest explores digital-only makeup, the UK government getting serious about fighting greenwashing, involution culture in China, the pope praying for AI that will benefit all of humankind, the big joint venture between Farfetch, Alibaba, Richemont and Kering to shake up the Chinese luxury market, the world's biggest trade deal and making shoes with bacteria.
This week, L’Oréal rolled out a line of ‘virtual makeup’. While face filters have been around for a while, it is interesting to see a big cosmetics brand get behind this. It will be interesting to see what consumers think, but it could be an appealing value proposition if it is available on all digital meeting platforms and also included other subtle enhancements (e.g. no eye bags for those early morning zoom calls).
Last week Pfizer and BioNtech shared news that the first results of the phase three trial of their Covid-19 vaccine showed a 90% efficacy in preventing the disease. This week on Monday, Moderna announced that their vaccine was nearly 95% effective. While this is great news, don't throw out your Covid-19 scenarios just yet, because there are a few more hurdles, most notably people's reluctance to take a vaccine. The latest World Economic Forum-Ipsos survey showed a decrease from August to now in people's intention to take the vaccine when one becomes available. The variability in vaccination intention between countries might also mean that certain travel restrictions will remain.
Vogue Business reports the UK’s competition watchdog is investigating whether brands marketing their products as “eco-friendly” and other green marketing are misleading consumers and breaking the law. The industry body will focus on on three industries: textiles and fashion, travel and transport and fast-moving consumer goods. They will also collaborate with the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network to develop international standards to tackle greenwashing and sustainability. Brands found to be misleading consumers including using vague terms, complex jargon or green visuals to exaggerate the positive environmental impact of its products, could be in breach of the consumer protection and unfair trading laws.
A few years ago, Sang culture emerged in China, describing an apathy - mainly with work - experienced by middle class young people. Now a more negative mood is spreading across the country. Young Chinese people now talk about neijuan, or involution. It expresses the opposite of evolution and is used to describe an endless cycle of self-flagellation, feeling as if you’re running in place and constantly having to motivate yourself day in, day out.
The pope has encouraged Catholics to pray that future AI development will be made with the good of humanity in mind. While the news might seem odd at first, it could help shape the public discourse around AI.
Farfetch, Alibaba, Richemont and Artemis (the investment house owned by Kering) have joined forces to develop a new digital luxury platform for the Chinese market. The online market place would give luxury brands full control over product merchandising and customer experience online, it would boost profit margins as the brands own the channel and they get access to all the data. LVMH was the notable absentee and it remains to be see how they will respond.
After eight years of negotiations, the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) plus Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement on Sunday. It is hailed as the world’s biggest trade deal, covering around 30% of the world’s population and gross domestic product, and will establish common rules for e-commerce, trade and intellectual property.
Jen Keane, a designer and creative researcher wants to make shoes using bacteria. She uses a process called 'microbial weaving' that creates bacterial cellulose to weave a new category of hybrid materials that are strong and lightweight, and allows the potential for entire patterns and products to be designed and grown to shape with little or no wastage. In her thesis project she managed to create the upper of a shoe. The project project is part of the trend that replaces chemical processes with biological - often bacterial - processes in manufacturing.
Remote meetings, be it for professional, social or even medical reasons are expected to continue to increase even as social distancing relaxes. In this scenario, virtual products that enhance our appearance could find enough consumer demand to become a profitable category. The brands to offer this might not be the ones you expect though.
As pharmaceutical companies are making promising progress in the effort to control the Covid-19 pandemic, organisations should not forget that the vaccine is only part of the solution. Therefore, continue monitoring key signals such as vaccination rate, test and trace efficacy and the evolution in the R rate.
As governments are exploring how to regulate the promotion of sustainable products and services, businesses should ensure they present themselves truthfully and have the science to back up their claims.
The involution culture in China can seem contradictory to what we read and see about China's booming economy. This points to the importance of understanding what is driving consumption, in order to establish a meaningful and positive relationship with consumers.
The new luxury platform, backed by Farfetch, Alibaba, Richemont and Kering seems like the proposition luxury brands have been waiting for. It remains to be seen how successful it will be, how LVMH will respond and whether they will expand beyond China.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement could further cement China's status as a global economic powerhouse and compensate for the trade frictions with America in the long run. It remains to be seen how Western countries will respond and whether the RCEP holds as countries such as Japan and Australia have tense relationships with Beijing.