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Trends and Insight

Pity the Experts Trying to Predict 2021

In a year that’s been beyond even the wildest of predictions, those forecasting trends for 2021 tell LBB’s Natasha Patel how they’re looking at the next 12 months

Pity the Experts Trying to Predict 2021

If there’s any one thing to take away from 2021 – and there’s a lot – it is that despite planning for the future in any such way, things can be disrupted beyond even the wildest of imaginations. Social media is awash with memes mocking horoscope readers and futurists for not picking up on the Covid-19 pandemic when they were “looking into their crystal balls”. 

But when something as unprecedented as a global pandemic hits us all, how do the trends that experts once foresaw as big fare? Wunderman Thompson’s APAC director Chen May Yee believes that the pandemic wasn’t actually that large a surprise – “if you were paying attention to the news”. And while so many had predictions for the way we would interact with technology in 2020, no one could ever imagine our dependency on devices for work, keeping up with family and escapism to such an extent.

As a new year looms and with it a new chance to start all over again, LBB’s Natasha Patel spoke to those who spend many a day researching trends to explain what they’ll be doing to keep ahead for 2021. 



Abbie Walsh

Chief design officer for UK & Ireland at Accenture Interactive
 
Each year, our Fjord Trends report delves into seven trends that we believe will be most important for organisations, employees, and customers over the next 12 months and beyond. The trends are a culmination of the thinking of our global design network of 2,000+ creatives in more than 40 locations worldwide and is based on first-hand observations, evidenced-based research and client work.
 
When we predicted a major realignment of the fundamentals around new definitions of value as our meta-trend for 2020, the world already felt like it was at a tipping point. That was before we had any notion of the virus that has since upended our experiences and how we go about life. However, the pandemic only accelerated the realignment we envisaged.
 
One universal truth is that throughout history, after a global crisis, a new era of thinking begins. 2020 brought clarity and surprises alongside its chaos and tragedies, highlighting what is important to people and inspiring community spirit and at-home innovators – key trends we will see live on well into the next 12 months. 2021 will be the year that redefines the 21st century and businesses have the ultimate permission and space to think and do differently.



Elav Horwitz

SVP global innovation director at McCann Worldgroup

After a DAMN year we all need to find our DNA.

It has been a challenging year, a DAMN year to be honest: Dispersion and loss of human touch, Accelerated digital transformation, Measures for health and safety, Need for diversity and inclusion.

It’s unmistakable that 2020 changed us as people, and that’s why we need to find our DNA: Delightful, Nurturing  Alchemy. It’s not going to be black or white, right or left, digital or physical… the key to success is in the mix, in the alchemy of things. This year, we will have to think about the alchemy of people (do we have the right people in the room to solve the problem?), of partnerships (which unexpected startups, brands or competitors we can bring that can help us fulfill our offering?), of technologies (how do we use AI, AR and mobile to bring this idea to life) and of experiences (what can we do digitally and physically to connect with people?). 

And all of those alchemies should be:

  • More delightful. There is a reason why we all fell for ‘Emily in Paris’ or ‘The Queen’s Gambit’, we all looked for some escapism or reasons to smile. In 2021, we need to look for reasons or experiences to smile and experience joy. Brands will need to give those aspiring opportunities for people—from an exciting ad, to a unique pop-up experience or a surprising delivery-at-home.
  • More nurturing – for the planet and for each other. We probably understand now, more than ever, why we should take care of our planet. Sustainability must be central in everything we develop, both in terms of the process (virtual meeting vs a physical one) and in terms of the solution itself (can we find a better way for the packaging or saving energy?). 
  • More protective – of ourselves and each other. We saw that by wearing a mask, we protect ourselves and everyone around us, the lesson being that we need to create even  ways to help and support others, from essential workers to small businesses. 

2021 will be the year we need to think how we can take what we learned from this DAMN year, join forces, and find our DNA to revive our society and businesses.  



Chen May Yee 

APAC director at Wunderman Thompson Intelligence

Futurist is a nebulous description. Lots of people try to predict the future – from science fiction writers to fund managers to, funnily enough, historians.

I think of myself more as a newshound.

The global pandemic that hit in 2020 was not a surprise. Not if you were paying attention to the news.

The US has had a pandemic response plan for years, the robustness of which waxed and waned under different administrations before the Obama-era iteration was shut down by the Trump team in 2018. Each time a viral outbreak happened anywhere in the world – Ebola, SARS, H1N1 – public health authorities everywhere braced. 

When Covid-19 ripped across the world, its scale was unprecedented, the shock monumental. Overnight, our worlds shrank. Countries with decisive governments and well-funded health systems saved many more lives than those without. Essential workers became heroes. 

But the way we hunkered down and adapted – working remotely, keeping in touch through video calls, buying groceries and barbells on mobile apps, retreating to our gardens and our kitchens, consulting doctors online, paying mind to our mental health, streaming entertainment, going on virtual dates, sanitising everything – these all amounted to a sharp escalation of existing trends rather than the introduction of entirely new ones.

Okay, elbow bumps – that one was new. 

Each year, at Wunderman Thompson Intelligence, we put out a list of Future 100 trends. Last year’s list has held up surprisingly well, except for, well, the travel section.

We still forecast trends the same way we always did. We watch, listen and read voraciously. We survey people. We talk to sector experts. That hasn’t changed. Watch out for the next Future 100 out in January.

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