What Will Make Consumers Tick in 2014?

With each passing year, marketers must come up with new ways to engage their customer base.

Advertising and marketing communications firm JWT has recently released its ninth annual forecast of key trends that they believe will drive or significantly impact consumer mindset and behavior in 2014. Among the trends businesses should be aware of include:

Immersive Experiences

Entertainment, narratives and brand experiences will become more immersive and altogether more enveloping in a bid to capture consumers' imagination and attention. Examples are:

  • Zombie Apocalypse: Experience a Zombie Apocalypse in Manila thanks to Outbreak Missions. In the live action survival experience, victims are challenged to problem-solve and find a cure for the outbreak.
  • The Rain Room: In 2013, visitors to the Museum of Modern Art in New York could control the rain in this special exhibit. Falling raindrops would pause within immediate distance of the human body.
  • Oculus Rift: A virtual reality gaming headset allows players to watch and play as if they're inside the game screen. The product is due for release in 2014.
  • Nike's "The Art of Science of Feeling": In New York City, this exhibit used sensory technology to simulate barefoot running on various surfaces. This was to promote the Nike Free Hyperfeel shoe.

Do You Speak Visual?

Expect a shift to a visual vocabulary that relies on photos, emojis (icons used to express emotion), video snippets and other imagery, largely supplanting the need for text. "Visual" is a new lingo that needs to be mastered. Examples include:

  • Taco Bell and frozen yogurt chain, 16 Handles, have been sending disappearing, 10-second coupons and new product teasers to consumers using Snapchat.
  • Sony's "Pin it To Give It" initiative donated a dollar to charity every time a Pinterest user re-pinned from the board. Donations went to the Michael Phelps Foundation.
  • Tinder, the most popular visual-only dating app, paired with the USA Network to offer sneak previews of the show "Suits" when users liked a photo of a "Suits" cast member on the dating app.

Proudly Imperfect

Imperfection and even outright ugliness — the quirky, the messy and the flawed — are taking on new appeal in a world that's become neatly polished and curated. Imperfection provides an unfiltered, all-too-human version of reality that reflects all the diversity that's seen in everyday life. Examples are:

  • Culinary Misfits: Some European businesses are promoting imperfect produce as a way to avoid food waste. Culinary Misfits is a small catering company in Berlin that uses only "ugly" vegetables. In Germany, the Rewe Group launched a private-label line of "nonconformist" produce, and another retailer, Edeka, has tested selling ugly produce at a discount, branded as "nobody is perfect."
  • Ugly Selfies: Ugly Selfies have become a counter to the glamorous self-portraits that proliferate on social media, including #badhairmondays and #nomakeup moments.

The End of Anonymity

Thanks to an array of new technologies and a growing drive to collect personal data, it's becoming nearly impossible to remain unobserved and untracked by corporations and governments. As anonymity becomes more elusive, expect pushback from consumers and a growing paranoia around technologies and services that affect privacy. Examples include:

  • The creation of Mondelēz, a "smart shelf" that analyzes shoppers in the vicinity. Mondelēz collects data to determine which demographics veer toward which products and whether brands are placed well.
  • Facial recognition technology: NEC IT solutions developed a facial recognition system called NeoFace, and the company is selling it to retailers to help salespeople recognize VIP customers.
  • Countersurveillance fashion and accessories are on the rise for those who don’t want their data collected. OFF Pocket, designed by technologist Adam Harvey, blocks GPS, Wi-Fi or cellular signals from reaching mobile phones.

Raging Against the Machine

As digital age takes hold, consumers are starting to both fear and resent technology by putting a higher value on all things that feel essentially human and seriously questioning (while not entirely resisting) technology's siren call. Examples are:

  • In Amsterdam, Kit-Kat launched Wi-Fi-free zones for people to "have a break."
  • As a Valentine’s Day promotion, Spanish telecom operator Movistar created an "I Off You" app that lets people give significant others the ability to disconnect their phones.

Remixing Tradition

With social norms quickly changing and a new anything-goes attitude, people are mashing up cherished traditions with decidedly new ideas, creating their own recipes for what feels right. Examples include:

  • Pope Francis, widely seen as more progressive than his predecessors for shaking up Catholic traditions, is also the first pope with a Twitter account.
  • In an effort to accommodate those who are unable to attend funerals, more of them are being live-streamed.
  • The World Muslimah Pageant serves as a showcase for Muslim women and helps to infuse Islam into the more popularized Western beauty pageant.
  • Traditional holidays such as Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) are being embraced in countries outside of its origin, such as the United States, which has created dolls for the celebration.

Mobile As Gateway To Opportunity

In emerging markets, mobile devices are coming to represent a gateway to opportunity — helping people change their lives by giving them access to financial systems, new business tools, better health care, education and more. Examples are:

  •  iCow, a mobile application that helps cattle farmers in Kenya optimize milk production and provides tips to keep the animals healthy. The app also keeps track of milk production, breeding and gestation.
  • MAMA (Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action) aims to cut mortality rates for expecting mothers in Bangladesh, India and South Africa by sending personalized text messages that detail each stage of pregnancy.

Telepathic Technology

Thanks to the rise of brain-computer interface and emotion recognition technology, brands are getting more adept at understanding consumers' minds and moods, and reacting in a very personalized way. Examples include:

  • In 2012, artist Yahu Duenyas designed an interactive exhibition in a Brooklyn warehouse that enabled visitors to levitate using their brainpower. Participants were strapped into a harness and had EGG sensors on their foreheads.
  • In order to raise awareness about driving safety, JWT Australia designed a car that uses neurotechnology to make it "go" when drivers are paying attention and "slow" when they're not.
  • The power of brain science could help assist armies during a war; U.S. and Japanese armies are looking to develop helmets that could read brain waves and allow soldiers to transmit code words to each other with their minds.

Mindful Living

Consumers are developing a quasi-Zen desire to experience everything in a more present, conscious way. Once the domain of the spiritual set, mindful living is filtering into the mainstream, with more people drawn to the idea of shutting out distractions and focusing on the moment. Examples are:

  • Google holds a bimonthly series of silent “mindful lunches”
  • Marketers are providing a counter to FOMO, the fear of missing out — which drives consumers to multitask and feel stressed about their choices — by highlighting JOMO, the joy of missing out.
  • A few companies are tapping into this disruptive technology to create apps that help facilitate a state of mindfulness. Headspace's meditation app provides daily meditation sessions, and random "mindfulness buzzers" that prompt users to "check in" with themselves.

The Age of Impatience

With the mainstreaming of the on-demand economy and the always-on culture, consumer expectations for speed and ease are rising exponentially. As businesses respond in kind, making the availability of their products and services more "instant," impatience and impulsiveness will only continue to increase. Examples include:

  • Thanks to Netflix releasing full television series all at once, consumers can now binge-view their favorite TV shows and learn the fate of characters within hours, rather than weeks or months.
  • Users can get what they want when they want it with eBay, Google, Amazon and grocery services, including Walmart To Go offering same-day delivery in certain markets.

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.