This time of year compels us to seek out trends reports and market forecasts to aid our planning, and better anticipate future consumer behaviours. Technically, this is completely irrational and, as a population, we have done nothing but scratch our heads at some of the events of the last decade. The sheer number of UK elections, the downfall of powerful media figures, and the escalating climate change debate have all been unpredictable.
Many have dubbed the 2010s a decade of crisis. After emerging from the financial crash of 2007 with the power of technology at our fingertips, we’ve had more hindsight and opportunity for change than ever. However, even with closer ties to our peers and communities through the rise of social apps like Instagram (2010) and WhatsApp (2009), our world still seems to be plagued. Climate catastrophes, political stagnation and inequalities continue to be part of our daily media diet. Just look at the Atlantic’s most powerful images of the last ten years.
What used to be the main headlines on breakfast TV and Trevor McDonald in the evening has now shifted to a never ending conveyor belt of bad news, reactions and ‘alternative facts’. It’s exhausting. And what’s more, it has embedded itself within our national psyche. Realistically, many who are reading this will have the privilege of coming away from the most catastrophic of crises unaffected, but a change in morale can certainly be felt. Despite hindsight and opportunity, a better world seems further away than ever before. Although the good news stories still exist, they do little to break our tireless news feeds.
We are now in a situation where we’ve learnt to cope with the chaos. Dubbed ‘the generation with the most anxiety and hang ups’ compared to their predecessors, millennials have accepted that they won’t be able to afford the same properties as their parents, are unlikely to live in a truly egalitarian society and are flummoxed by how close we are to completely destroying our planet.
When the brain is tired it wants to escape, and the best way to do so is to bury yourself in different realities. The rise of entertainment shows how people are finding respite in different worlds, times, countries, and through the eyes of different characters. HBO, Netflix and Amazon Prime are feeding this need by producing hundreds of award-worthy TV shows, with Netflix being known for automatically playing the next episodes and only stopping after intermittently to see if you’d like to check back into the real world again.
The rapid rise of gaming audiences is also a useful correlation to the rise of escapist behaviours. The game itself lets you exist in a different world, but the rise in eSports has created a different genre of entertainment entirely. With platforms like Twitch pioneering a new gaming-streaming format, the worlds you can escape to can be even further away, letting you build new communities entirely online.
Although the rise of the news distribution across the digital landscape has seemed to dominate, there have been gaps where good news has prevailed, and existing value systems have been challenged. #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter are just two examples of movements that have broken the doomsday feeling and provided us with a path to something more hopeful. This has contributed to a growing trend which sees politics (with a lower case ‘p’) becoming synonymous with culture. The awards industry has been a prime example of this where leading authors, artists and actors have taken their global moment of celebration to turn the world’s attention to something they truly stand for. In 2018 Meryl Streep and Frances McDormand, and in 2015 Patricia Arquette are just a few examples of this. It is impossible to ignore politics if we want to integrate with culture.
When we consider where we are now, we should look at what it then means to stand for something. As a brand, company or as an individual – values translate from people and work their way into the work we do. Despite what has come before, there are those in the next generations like Emma Gonzalez and Greta Thunberg who feel like they have nothing more to lose, and are speaking out. To ignore their impact would be folly. They of course hold will hold the power to buy and vote in such a way it could change shape the landscape for businesses and brands.