It is that time of year again, when trendspotters compile their annual list of what I like to call Future Headlines. Marketer Seth Godin calls them "idea viruses," as trends are little like epidemics – they only happen when large numbers of people are in close contact and things are changing fast.
That is a notably apt and timely description, given that the Ebola epidemic has been dominating our conversations, never mind that the common flu strikes down far more people every year. We’re thinking about what is viral – both physically and virtually, as in YouTube hits or the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
We kicked off our agency's 2015 trends report with two word clouds. One compiles all the ideas, people, places, and phrases that infiltrated our world in 2014. The other assembles the thought epidemics that are about to take root and spread. Each contains about 75 words. Many can be grouped into metatrends that say a lot about our society now – and some became such a big deal that they’re important on their own.
Here are some highlights of the conversation in 2014:
Seat-squeeze rage: Anyone who has been on a plane lately knows that airlines are getting more diabolical. The Wall Street Journal’s aviation columnist recently reported that some airlines are going to create rows with a 28-inch pitch (the distance between seatbacks, which generally used to be 32 or 33 inches) and slimmer seats that "can feel more like a park bench." Passengers are getting peeved – taking it out on one another, sometimes diverting flights in the process.
Mindfulness: Perhaps a reaction to living in an age in which so many things, like flying, have become so uncivilized, and in which things are always happening so very fast, people are working harder to stay present. Monks have been meditating for millennia, but present-moment awareness is now going mainstream in the less-daunting guise of mindfulness. New articles appear weekly about the practice’s benefits and famous adherents, and one of the must-attend conferences on the Silicon Valley circuit is Wisdom 2.0, which merges the tech and contemplative communities.
In consumption, commerce, and marketing: As the recession’s effects linger, we have embraced accessible luxury. Also: sharing economy, Uberize, Amazon, e-commerce goes brick and mortar, cash-only, connected cars, save ourselves, Christmas in November, lackluster movie sales, binge-watching TV, and naked reality TV.
In politics: We are sick of hearing about the ultra-elite, so 1% fatigue has set in, and we have a general distrust of politicians, as demonstrated by the Republican sweep of the midterm elections and President Obama’s low approval ratings.
In feminism: Sheryl Sandberg got everyone talking about leaning in with her call for women to empower themselves at work. Feminism for females remained the standard, with women leading the successful charge (finally) for an equal rights amendment in Oregon and Lena Dunham’s brand of pants-off feminism landing her a big book advance. On a not-entirely unrelated note, posterior-obsessed is in our cloud as well.
In fashion: Or, rather, anti-fashion, with normcore (basically frumpiness) defining countless style blogs, Instagram feeds and designer collections. More terms: leather, Apple Watch, smart fabrics, androgyny, brass, rose gold, and metal.
In places: In the real world, these places and trips have been hot this year: Ibiza, Rio, Portland (Oregon), Mexico, London, Cairo, Amsterdam, Munich, Beijing, Kyoto, Hanoi, Hobart, Jakarta, Macau, hot springs, social tourism, and honeymooning. Then there’s the place where our virtual selves dwell, and so protecting the cloud became a big deal.
In food: Japan’s all-black-food craze looks mighty bizarre, but America is obsessed with food trends of its own: fried chickpeas, avocado toast, pop-up restaurants, McBrunch, jackfruit, collard greens, chicken wings, biscuits, bourbon, eggless mayo, apple cider remedies, paleo, and food porn.
This year’s boldface names: Hillary Clinton, Alex Salmond, Nicki Minaj, Kim Kardashian (see posterior-obsessed, above), Angela Merkel, Tom Hardy, Karl Ove Knausgård, and Tavi Gevinson (stage actor).
And here are the words and phrases we’ll hear a lot more about in 2015:
(More) affordable private jets: See seat-squeeze rage and accessible luxury, above.
Disgust for athletes: Some football players, in particular, engaged in some pretty reprehensible behavior in 2014, while reports of serious brain damage dethroned the king of American sports. Not only do we have new (techie) role models, but the whole thing also turns us off.
In consumption, commerce, and marketing: China’s Alibaba, cash-free, profiting from personal data, cars for women, Christmas in September, save the planet, spiritual values, box office blitz, shows based on comics/cartoons and documentaries.
In feminism: Leaning in didn’t work for everyone, so now empowerment takes the form of stepping out. Also: rise of male feminists and my eyes are up here.
In fashion: Look for empathic accessories, next-level eco-chic, blurred shopping experiences, masstige retail, military-inspired looks, silk, bones, feathers, and wood.
In places: In the physical world: outer space, Tokyo, Portland (Maine), Louisville, Colombia, Bristol (England), Dubai, Copenhagen, Berlin, Chongqing, Flores, Khanom, Naha, Palawan Island, Udaipur, reverse white flights, blurred hospital/spa experiences, unplugged respites, and solomooning. Metaphysical: Ouija, the galaxy, and darkness.
In food: On the trend menu: mealworms, sweetgreen, fast casual, chef swaps, breakfast ramen, cherries, flour, edible clay and coal, cultured meat, rum, and healing teas.
Next year’s household names: Kirsten Gillibrand, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Tiffany Foxx, Kendall Jenner, Hillary Clinton (still), Rosamund Pike, JD Salinger, and Tavi Gevinson (movie star).