Newton’s Third Law of Physics states “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” – and Y&R’s Global Planning Director Sandy Thompson has found this to be true for consumer trends, as well. She and her global planners put together "Trends with Tension," a new report that examines how emerging trends tend to have two, oppositional sides.
Y&R PLANNING TRENDS WITH TENSION
1. DNA WILL SAVE US/ DNA WILL DESTROY US
2. THE NEUTRALIZATION OF GENDER/ THE RETURN OF GENDER
3. BRANDS WILL SERVE US/ BRANDS WILL CONTROL US
4. TECH WILL DISAPPEAR (FROM SIGHT)/ TECH WILL DISAPPEAR
5. TECH WILL ENABLE CONNECTIONS/ TECH WILL DISCONNECT US
6. TWEETS WILL IMPRISON YOU/ TWEETS WILL FREE YOU
7. EDUCATION FOR ALL/ EDUCATION FOR ONE
8. RISE OF ROBOT/ RISE OF CRAFTSMAN
Every year, the planners at Y&R
share insights about how the
world around us is changing.
But the reality is that it’s never
black and white. At a macro level,
every behavior, observation and
perspective has an inherent tension.
Every trend has a countertrend.
Mary Anthony I Vanessa Cameron I Juliette Cilia
Jeremy Daly I Tara Fray I Mary Mazza I Rebecca Menges
Susanne Raymond I John Swan
IN THE WRONG HANDS, GENETIC KNOWLEDGE
WILL DESTROY LIVES, JOBS AND MORALITY
AS WE KNOW IT.
DNA carries a person’s identity. It also carries a vast
amount of other information about that person’s biology,
health and, increasingly, psychological predispositions
—a situation ripe for abuse by insurers, employers,
politicians and civil servants. The line between
proactively managing your health and playing God
—or a world of data transparency and a world ruled
by Big Brother—will be only too easy to cross.
UNDERSTANDING OUR GENETIC MAKEUP WILL
ERADICATE DISEASE, REUNITE FAMILIES AND
BRING JUSTICE TO THE INNOCENT.
Armed with unparalleled genetic testing capabilities,
individuals and medical professionals alike will predict,
diagnose and prevent more conditions and diseases than
ever before. In just a few generations, diabetes and cancer
will be history. And by connecting long-separated family
members and exonerating the unjustly imprisoned, genetic
data will not only enrich but save lives.
The Equal Opportunity Commission reports that
genetic-discrimination complaints were up 20%
just over the last 12 months.
”In the last ten years alone we have gone from
collecting DNA only from convicted sex offenders
to now including people who have been arrested
but never convicted of a crime. There have even
been proposals to store newborns’ DNA for future
use by law enforcement. Although we have already
entered the realm of the ‘Brave New World,’ it is
not too late to turn back.”
—Barry Steinhardt, Associate Director of the ACLU
Toothpicks, gum, tampons…they’re all discreet DNA
samples that can be used by the genetic-testing
company easy DNA. Imagine the opportunity for
genetic discrimination— what if a discarded tissue
from a prospective employee could be tested to
determine their likely medical expenses?
Since the 1990s, the prospect of futuristic
technologies like human cloning or selecting for
superhuman traits have stoked public fears about
“designer babies”— while tests like Sequenom’s
MaterniT21 PLUS provoke cries of “ethnic
cleansing in the womb” and “geneticide.”
According to the Innocence Project, there have
been 316 post-conviction DNA exonerations in
the United States; 18 of those exonerated served
time on death row.
“Just had annual physical. Doc said I was his 1st
patient to bring in my genetic results. We altered
test as a result of knowledge!”
Genetic counselors joke that in their world, time is
now divided into “Before Angelina Jolie” and “After
Angelina Jolie”— but the reality is that the celebrity’s
actions merely thrust the spotlight on a growing trend.
The human genome has been mapped for over a
decade, and the success of companies like 23andMe
shows that our appetite for personal genetic data
has merely been whetted.
By 2020, Americans will have spent $25 billion a year
on genetic tests for everything from diagnosing types
of kidney diseases to determining breast cancer risk
to screening prenatal health. Genetic modification of
eggs will eliminate hereditary diseases— before they
can be inherited.
THE GOOGLE OF SPIT
THE DAYS OF GENDER NEUTRALITY ARE OVER.
In a world where men and women can be whomever—and
whatever— they want, we see a future where each gender
returns to the security and predictability of traditional norms
—purely because they can. Whether it’s men proving their
manliness through Tough Mudder, or women electing to
return to the days of bodice-slimming corsets,
the future of gender lies in the past.
GENDER WILL SOON BECOME A DEFUNCT TERM.
We’re eschewing the typical “male” and “female” categories for a
gender-agnostic approach that allows for self-expression outside
of traditional lines. There’s no doubt that men’s and women’s roles
have become less strictly defined; many families have made the
male and female roles more egalitarian when it comes to jobs,
housework and childcare. From unisex baby names and toys to
fragrances and clothing, we’re clearly moving toward a world
where gender will be an archaic distinction.
Today, about 25% of people still believe that a woman’s
primary duty revolves around taking care of her home
As Emily Matchar, author of Homeward Bound observes,
younger generations are returning to traditional gender
norms and roles:
“A generation of smart, highly educated young people
are spending their time knitting, canning jam, baking
cupcakes, gardening and more (and blogging
about it, of course), embracing the labor-intensive
domestic tasks their mothers and grandmothers
eagerly shrugged off. Some are even turning away
from traditional careers and corporate culture for
slower, more home-centric lifestyles.”
The perceived feminization of society and devaluing
of masculinity has spurred evangelists such as the
ReturnOfKings.com, a website that bills itself as
“a blog for heterosexual, masculine men” and laments
that “yesterday’s masculinity is today’s misogyny.”
“When I see a man drinking bourbon, I expect him to
be the kind who could build me a bookshelf. But not
in the way that one builds a ready-made bookshelf. He
will already know where the lumber yard is. He’ll get the
right amount of wood without having to do math. He’ll
let me use the saw, and not find it cute that I don’t
know how to use the saw…”
—A recent ad for Woodford Reserve Bourbon
77% of Gen X women say they identified as “tomboys”
as children, compared to 69% of Boomer women and
46% of Senior women.
THUS SPOKE THE LORDE
“Prescribed ideals how girls should look are over… I am
feminine, but I really love dressing in boys’ clothes too.”
Germany’s federal government is taking gender politics
into bold new territory. Since November 2013, parents
of newborn children have no longer been forced to
identify the sex of their baby as either male or female:
now they have a third gender, called simply “X.”
An English couple raised their child as gender neutral
for five years so the infant’s “real personality” could shine
“We wanted to challenge gender stereotypes and so if
Sasha wants to dress up in girls’ clothes, then so be it.
But we are not forcing it.”
BRANDS WILL BECOME THE NEXT
GENERATION OF LOBBYISTS.
As public trust in government hits new lows, brands are
encroaching on the roles and responsibilities of our
governments. But instead of advocating on behalf of the
consumer constituency, brands will become synonymous
with the interests of corporations and shareholders.
ACTIVIST BRANDS WILL
BECOME THE PRIMARY
AGENTS OF CHANGE.
Where governments have
failed, brands will lead. From
acting on climate change to
fighting for civil rights, brands
will become increasingly
empowered— if not expected
— to advocate for causes on
behalf of consumer interests.
213th: Google’s ranking in federal lobbying spending,
now on par with the largest US corporations, according
to the Washington Post.
Lobbying Spend By Company (2012)
Forget NASA, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is taking over space
flight missions to the International Space Station:
“You’ll be able to land anywhere on Earth with the
accuracy of a helicopter, which is, I think, something
a modern spaceship should be able to do.”
Facebook and Google have more data than any
government agency— prompting additional scrutiny
on the amount of consumer data the social network
can— and should— store.
Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC are just a few of the
brands associated with lobbying against raising
the minimum wage, despite consumer backlash.
BRANDS + LOBBYING
80% of consumers want companies and brands
to actively drive social change…and corporate
brands spend an astounding total of $18B annually
on charitable efforts that, if utilized effectively,
could transform not only their business but
society as a whole.
“Global brands are the only ones who will ever
have any incentive to improve environmental
sustainability and labor practices, precisely
because they are the only ones who will be
held to account for their actions.”
—Matt Browne, Senior Fellow,
Center for American Progress
Brands are flexing their voices in protest: 13 brands—
including Kia and Corona— pulled millions of dollars
in sponsorship money from the Clippers NBA team
in protest of racist conversation from Donald Sterling,
the team’s owner, effectively dictating how the
league would respond.
Brands are taking a stand against social injustice:
Thirty global brands demanded the Cambodian
government investigate the killing and detention
of garment workers in the capital city of Phnom
Penh earlier this year, or risk losing business.
WE WILL BECOME NEO-LUDDITES.
Instead of technology becoming a seamless
part of our lives, we see a return to a simpler
time where connections are made face to
face, privacy is authentic and consumers
regain control. Say hello to a generation
WE WILL BECOME ONE WITH TECHNOLOGY.
The era of separate devices is over; as technology
is embedded in everything we wear— and potentially
even ourselves— technological and human intelligence
will become indistinguishable. Mainstream adoption
of wearables is merely the beginning of a sweeping
transition to technology that is no longer distractingly
visible, but seamlessly invisible.
Give it a break: Over two-thirds of Facebook users
have taken a “hiatus” from the social network at
some point; and the National Day of Unplugging
is a thing.
“I felt like I needed something like this, I felt pulled
in a lot of directions. My phone was always going
off. I wanted an excuse to put it away and not
respond to anybody.”
—Digital Detox camp participant
Sacred “no tech allowed” spaces are increasingly
popular. Technologically dependent professionals
are willing to shell out $550+ a ticket to attend
tech-free retreats like the aptly named “Camp
Grounded” in Navarro, CA.
Technology-free Zen is now a service: Chicago’s
Hotel Monaco now offers digital detox or “black-out”
services, while “The Check-in to Check-out” package
at Lake Placid Lodge invites guests to leave their
electronic devices at the front desk to immerse
themselves in “the serenity of the Adirondacks”
—not the frenzy of their Twitter feed.
Smartband sales alone are expected to nearly
quadruple by the end of 2014; by the end of
2016, at least 1 out of every 10 Americans
will own a wearable device.
“I think the best technologies…[even Twitter]
fade into the background…they’re relevant when
you want to use them, and they get out of the
way when you don’t. [In the future] technology
disappears from our sight completely.“
—Twitter founder Jack Dorsey
Beyond Google Glass and Android Wear:
Wearables are transforming our daily interactions
and disrupting industries from security to health.
Forget the car keys: Google has obtained FDA
approval for an edible “authentication microchip”
that would essentially turn our bodies into biological
authentication systems for cellphones, cars, doors
and other devices.
Next Generation health: Simband, an upcoming
health-tracking wristband from Samsung, promises
to monitor health measures ranging from your heart
rate to your hydration level.
IN A HYPER-CONNECTED WORLD,
WE WILL BECOME INCREASINGLY
As our virtual networks explode, our comfort
with interpersonal intimacy plummets. Spontaneity
and vulnerability are replaced by premeditated
responses and painstakingly curated public
personae. As technology becomes increasingly
sophisticated, we will only become more and
more isolated— leading to the demise of empathy
and collective society.
TECH WILL ENABLE
TECHNOLOGY CREATES AND DEEPENS
MEANINGFUL CONNECTIONS THAT
WOULD OTHERWISE BE IMPOSSIBLE.
Grandma can be present at your Thanksgiving
table, even when she’s three thousand miles
away. From shirts that help convey our emotions
to operating systems that advise on relationships,
technology continues to evolve in ways that
fuel human relationships.
39% of surveyed Americans spend more time socializing
on social media than they do face to face. Interestingly,
the rate of “chronic loneliness” among those 45+ in the
US has almost doubled over the last decade— and it’s the
source of unhappiness for 1 out of every 5 Americans.
“I fear that technology will surpass our human interaction.
The world will have a generation of idiots.”
– Albert Einstein
Never underestimate the value of human contact.
Albertsons LLC, a grocery chain operating 217 stores
in seven Western and Southern states, replaced all
self-checkout lanes with standard or express lanes.
As a corporate spokeswoman explained, “ We just
want the opportunity to talk to customers more.”
The Pew Research Center found that half of American
teenagers send 50 or more text messages a day and
that one-third send more than 100 a day. Two-thirds
of the texters surveyed by the center’s Internet and
American Life Project said they were more likely to
use their cell phones to text friends than to call them.
Fifty-four percent said they text their friends once a
day, but only 33 percent said they talk to their friends
face to face on a daily basis.
LOUIS CK HATES CELL PHONES
More than a third of marriages between 2005 and
2012 began online.
11% of American adults have used an online dating
site or a mobile dating app.
“Social media has completely altered the landscape
of communication for today’s military families...we
often hear about ‘the green dot’ – which on the surface
signals that someone is available for Chat. Military
families who have deployed service members tell us
that for them, this is a sign that their loved one is OK.”
—Stephanie Himel-Nelson, Blue Star Families
Outsourcing your emotional intelligence: Facial expression
recognition experts at Emotient are exploring partnerships
with devices like Google Glass to equip wearers with built-in
intelligence to automatically assess a subject’s emotional
Bring your dating guru with you: The Romantimatic app
purports to help even the most clueless among us to
maintain a strong romantic partnership; users benefit
from daily or weekly reminders to text their partners,
with a variety of pre-written messages at their disposal.
“REMEMBER ME” HOLOCAUST PROJECT
THE CHARGE TO RECLAIM ONLINE PRIVACY
WILL BE LED BY THE SAVVIEST OF THE
DIGITAL GENERATION: TEENAGERS.
Having grown up online, these digital natives have seen
firsthand the very real dangers of connectivity – from
government surveillance to cyberbullying. Unwilling to
sacrifice self-expression for safety, they are at the forefront
of a global transition from identity to anonymity.
WE LIVE IN AN ERA WHERE “YOU ARE WHAT
YOU POST”, AND THE DANGERS OF T.M.I.
HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE REAL.
The proliferation of social media in our culture has
resulted in an epidemic of rampant “over sharing.”
Whether it’s a lewd picture, an inappropriate tweet
or a less-than-flattering video, the ramifications of
indiscriminate sharing online will only become more
serious. Social media will become the number one
source of self-incrimination.
15 million Facebook users in the US have deleted their
Facebook accounts due to privacy concerns.
“American teenagers are far more concerned about
online privacy and data collection than twenty-somethings
in a ‘post-Snowden era,’ spurring a rise in apps and websites
that prevent tracking or guarantee anonymity, like Snapchat,
Whisper, Secret, Kik, and Vox.”
—Jamie Gutfreund, Chief Strategy Officer,
The Intelligence Group
In some ways, anonymity fulfills a deep-seated need–
and has been a staple in traditional print for years.
(Think back to “Dear Abby” or the now-ubiquitous
“embarrassing moments” column, pioneered by
YM magazine back in 1932.)
What does that mean for modern day? In case you
didn’t get the memo, ephemerality is hot. Today, a
new generation of apps now cater to a desire for
anonymous secret sharing (Whisper, Secret), off-the
-record messaging (Confide, Blink, Ansa, Telegram)
and impermanent media sharing (Snapchat, Wickr).
There was a 540% increase in crimes linked
to Facebook from 2007-2011, according to
Hidden in the Twittersphere are nuggets of
info that can predict a crime before it happens.
Researchers at UVA’s Predictive Technology Lab
found geo-tagged tweets to be useful in predicting
19 out of 25 crimes before they happen!
“Criminals are sometimes quite brazen with what they
post online, creating evidence of their crime in a way that
would never occur with a traditional verbal threat. We
have had trials against gang members where we have
presented defendants’ own Facebook posts in which
they are wearing gang colors and posing with guns.”
—US Attorney Barbara McQuade
In our online-obsessed culture, we crave validation
and self-expression. Yet one wrong move can have
tremendous repercussions for students, job seekers
and politicians alike. Take the career-ending Twitter
and sexting gaffs by pols like Anthony Weiner, or the
suspension of students in Mahopac, NY, for posting
racist tweets after the school lost a basketball game.
And that sketchy photo of you shotgunning a beer
on Facebook? Trust me, recruiters have seen it.
SO-CALLED “ADVANCES” IN
EDUCATION WILL ONLY WIDEN
THE GAP BETWEEN THE HAVES
AND THE HAVE NOTS.
Not long ago, digital education was
introduced as the great equalizer,
but today quality education as an
“inalienable right” ceases to exist.
The magic formula— adaptive online
learning programs plus high-touch
instruction— will continue to be a
luxury reserved for the wealthy,
ensuring that elite education
remains for the elite.
FOR THE FIRST TIME, QUALITY
EDUCATION WILL BECOME
AVAILABLE TO ALL 8 BILLION OF US.
We see a more flexible approach to education,
powered by technology, that will satisfy the
needs of all types of learners— regardless
of socioeconomic background, geographic
location or learning style. What was once
a utopian dream will become a reality: P.S.
world will have a 100% enrollment (and
Don’t underestimate hightouch: The Education Industry
Association reports that private tutoring is a $5B+ industry,
growing at a steady clip of 5% a year— with tutors charging
up to $400 an hour.
“The most unfortunate likely result of ‘distance’ and interactive
learning will be the acceleration of the stratification of education
by class and income. Those with more income will have access
to a richer, less ‘virtual’ educational experience.”
—Pew Research,“The Future of Higher Education”
The individuals the MOOC revolution is supposed to help the
most—those without access to higher education in developing
countries—are underrepresented among the early adopters.
80% of MOOC students come from the wealthiest and most
well educated 6% of the population.
In the provocative video “Online Ed: Teaching Millions or
Making Millions?”, the Campaign for the Future of Higher
Education argues that the motivations behind MOOCs are
far from altruistic. The piece goes so far as to compare the
rise of online education to the subprime mortgage crisis,
accusing startups like Coursera, edX and Udacity of profiting
from false advertising. “Bottom line: That promise of free high-quality
education for those who need it most? It just doesn’t
add up…. [but] despite the failure to deliver, online boosters
still promote themselves as new-age saviors.”
PRIVATE SCHOOL TUTORING
According to Enterasys Networks, in a few short
years 43% of universities will offer massive open
online course (MOOCS), up 30% from today.
“Nothing has more potential to lift more people out of
poverty— by providing them an affordable education
to get a job or improve in the job they have. Nothing
has more potential to unlock a billion more brains to
solve the world’s biggest problems. And nothing has
more potential to enable us to reimagine higher
education than the massive open online course.”
—Thomas Friedman, The New York Times, January 2013
Smart, the Philippines largest telecom company,
partnered with textbook authors and publishers to
transform old analog phones into Smart TXTBKS.
By storing lessons on unused SIM cards, this simple
technological innovation makes lessons easier, cheaper
and lighter for public school students who don’t have
tablets and can’t afford— or carry— heavy textbooks.
The results? Backpacks were 50% lighter, attendance
shot up to 95% and test performance reached 90%.
Online education created around you: Education
technology company Knewton offers interactive
digital courses that teachers can personalize to fit
the needs of each student. Lessons are adjusted
based on real-time analysis of student performance,
turning data into actionable insights like: “Hi Brian.
You solve math problems in the morning between
8:32 a.m. and 9:14 a.m.”
THE POWER OF ROBOTICS IS REACHING AN
INFLECTION POINT ACROSS MANY INDUSTRIES—
IN TURN MAKING POSSIBLE A NEW LEVEL OF
HUMAN INNOVATION, ENTERPRISE AND CREATIVITY.
With its increased capabilities and adaptability, robotic
technology will free humans from the most “dull, dangerous
or dirty” jobs. Its power will disrupt established, atrophied
business models and enable more people to develop and
launch new ideas and and prompt a return to hands-on creativity.
RISE OF THE
ROBOTIC TECHNOLOGY IS BECOMING
INCREASINGLY SOPHISTICATED AND
INCREASINGLY A REPLACEMENT FOR
Robots are more powerful because they are
being combined with the processing power
of the Cloud and connected to the growing
digital instrumentation of the physical world.
Starting in factories and distribution centers,
this rise is largely unseen. But soon more
consumer-facing experiences will be served
through robots— in turn unemploying many
of America’s least empowered workers.
Over the last year, vintage and handmade e-commerce
company Etsy grew over 70%, adding nearly 700k new
members a month and becoming the largest single site
“What we have here is a post-industrial nostalgia for
Justin McGuirk, The Guardian
Major brands are actively capitalizing on the Maker
movement; Levi’s recently launched made-to-order
jeans at its London flagship store, in tandem with a
marketing blitz covering and sponsoring local artists
Companies like Custom Made and Hatch directly target
the DIY market, enabling consumers to request one-of-a-
kind products that are made-to-order by designers.
Global shipments of industrial robots nearly tripled
from just 2009—2012.
“We’re at a real inflection point in terms of artificial
intelligence and machine learning. Things are
—Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee
Race Against the Machine
Amazon has turned to robotics to turbocharge its
growth: With the acquisition of warehouse robotics
manufacturer Kiva Systems, the e-commerce behemoth
will cut costs, increase profitability and dramatically
expand its reach.
Advances in robotic technology have fueled the growth
of intralogistic automation companies like Aetheon,
whose TUG Robots have traveled over 1,000,000 miles
and made over 50,000 deliveries a week— replacing
countless porters and delivery people.