Six Movements Shaping the Future of Brand Innovation
Emma Chiu, Global Director of Wunderman Thompson Intelligence, talks about trends that should be top of mind for brands as they redesign their futures
Much is being speculated about the decade ahead as the world collectively prepares for a reset – a transformation that may, in fact, already be underway. Irrevocably transformed by the pandemic, industries are learning how to stay relevant, reinvent their business models, and accelerate technology adoption, all at once.
Providing counsel to clients such as Microsoft and Shiseido to develop long-term strategies in response to cultural and behavioural change, sector innovation, and zeitgeist shifts, Emma Chiu is Global Director of Wunderman Thompson Intelligence, the agency’s in-house innovation and futures think tank. Her thought leadership has been picked up by The Telegraph, New York Magazine and Vogue.
Every year, her team publishes the Wunderman Thompson Future 100 report, in which they propose 100 trend predictions to guide brand innovation. Here are her picks for the most game-changing ones for 2022 and onwards.
According to Chiu, “tech-celeration” – the acceleration and advances in the world of technology – is redefining the way we live and work. One trend in particular picked up by the Wunderman Thompson team is the new frontiers in gaming, in which is becoming the next dominant tech platform and creating digital worlds for consumers to spend time on, engage, meet, create, and live. “Gaming capabilities will increasingly be integrated into e-commerce, social networks, video calls and conferences to create a more immersive experience that will offer social presence – the feeling they are there in real life,” Chiu explains.
The Covid-19 pandemic and its implications on the world at large have given people, especially residents of urban locations, a greater appreciation of nature and the outdoors. Numerous lockdowns in the space of 1.5 years has made the divide between the indoors and outdoors abundantly clear. “Urban designers are pointing the way forward to more permanent solutions, creating new outdoor cultural spaces backed by hefty investments,” says Chiu. With restrictions on social gatherings, events, and the like still in place in some parts of the globe, as well as the emphasis on tackling climate change gaining ground, cities are integrating and prioritizing the permanence of green spaces in public areas.
The hybridisation of living
Where technology was once a tool, today, it is much more embedded in everyday lives. “From work and building relationships to shopping and wellness—we will see an advance in how technology further integrates into our everyday physical lives,” Chiu says.
“Eventually this will extend into what we’re now understanding as the metaverse—the convergence of digital and physical. Picture gamified Zoom calls where you can be changing your outfit virtually depending on your mood, or (as we’re already seeing) augmented reality taking off on a vaster scale.”
Regeneration won’t just be a buzzword
Chiu says, “Being sustainable or doing less bad is no longer enough. Pressure on companies, countries, and individuals to start living a life that not only neutralises their carbon footprint, but also gives back positively to the planet is in demand.”
This is a huge area for designers, technologies and scientists to step up the game in terms of creating new regenerative materials or design solutions that offer a positive impact.
Metaverse: The new world of digital
Technology, amongst other factors, have created fragmented connections that offer little or no meaning. “But now there are new metaverse-esque social networks being created that helps people truly engage digital,” Chiu says. “Together Lab’s IMVU platform is an avatar world where people are encouraged to build new friendships. In a recent survey our team ran in July 2021, 83% of global consumers agree that technology brings people together. Offline, the increased investment in public spaces where people gather and meet is also an integral human-centred design aimed at fostering in-person connections.”
The future of human-centric design? Collaboration.
“We’re already seeing many companies making ‘coopetition’ the new standard—this is where brands are setting aside their competitive differences and instead banding together on large-scale, planet-saving missions,” Chiu points out.
These different companies’ missions include addressing issues such as the climate crisis, being ethically responsible, as well as putting diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives at the forefront of their respective work. A survey conducted by Wunderman Thompson Intelligence in February 2021 found that 86 percent of global consumers believe collaboration is needed to solve world problems, while 89 percent believe companies, countries, and individuals should work together to tackle sustainability issues.
“The cultural shift from ‘me’ to ‘we’ is showing that great things can happen when we combine forces and work together,” Chiu concludes.