THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME?
About 15 years back I had a debate with a colleague about patterns in cultural trends. My colleague claimed that the rise in the number of health clubs and increase in the popularity of healthy foods at the time was an indication that society had come to grasp the importance of caring for one’s self and we would not be turning back. I held the position that society doesn’t move in a consistent direction but rather swings like a pendulum and argued that, for better or worse, we would be due for a backlash to the health trend…a backlash of gluttony to the point that it bordered on sloth.
Looking back on that debate, neither of us has totally won yet. Yes, over that time, health clubs have continued to thrive and we’ve seen ostensibly healthier food options like Whole Foods Market rise to fashion amongst an audience of affluent young families.
But in that same period we’ve seen almost the exact same demographic become devotees of caffeine overdoses at Starbucks and the decadent sugar rushes of Marble Slab and Krispy Kreme. And for that matter, if we’re really honest with ourselves, we must admit that we spend a fair portion of our Whole Foods grocery dollar on $18 five-layer chocolate mousse cakes.
So these question remain: How do we measure the progress of society? Is there a way as advertisers and marketers to predict the coming trends in a way that is accurate enough to put to use for our clients in good faith?
I still tend toward the position I held 15 years ago that society tends to swing back and forth on these issues. Right now we see masses of people networking through social media, catching up with old friends and acquaintances…and people who they’ve just about forgotten once threw up on their couch.
I’ll go out on a limb to predict a social networking backlash over the next few years. We’ll get tired of people we barely recall seeing the details of our lives on a wall and remember why it was we accidentally on purpose lost touch. We will return to more intimate conversing not limited by a character count. But we will continue to progress in the way we do this. It’s not like we’re going to become luddites and burn our iPhones in effigy. We like the instant gratification. We’ll just keep it a little more private.
Maybe that’s the way cultures actually evolve. We find a new trend that has appeal. We try it on and wear it around town a bit. And then we gradually come back to those subconscious lessons learned long ago that tell us, “Hey, organic raw vegetables are great and all but I still like donuts”.
We will manage to make our way into tomorrow and shape our world in the process. If anybody has a better way to predict the shape tomorrow’s world will take, feel free to write it on my wall…even if you did once throw up on my couch.
- Glen Day