The most fascinating business article I’ve read this year wasn’t published in the Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal or Forbes. Nope, it was an interview with food futurologist Dr. Morgaine Gaye in The Onion’s AV Club. In the interview, Gaye explains how she forecasts trends in the food industry. She helps the world’s biggest food brands figure out how mega-trends in fashion, design, politics, etc. will trickle all the way down to what we want to put in our bellies. I think these insights and trends can have wide ranging implications for businesses of all types and sizes.
For example, one of the biggest trends Gaye forecasts involves a macro-trend she calls “back to the ranch.”
What we’re looking at in that trend is something around the urban cowboy, or around the idea of wildness. You might start seeing that in fashion, where you see a lot of fringe. That’s kind of an indicator. There are people wearing cowboy-esque clothing, possibly the hats, possibly the checked shirts, maybe the cowboy boots. Those sorts of things are becoming more and more apparent on the catwalks, so it’s becoming not just something one hipster might do, but a bit more of a general thing.
Gaye goes on to say:
There’s something around this idea of urban cowboy. Actually a great indicator was the film with Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club. Lots of things start pointing to cowboy things or to eating outdoors and wild cooking. It’s sort of ranching or that sort of sense of a bit more wildness.
In food, Gaye predicts this trend will lead to the rise of salami (salami is the new bacon). But being aware of trends like these can help any business. Just think about the aspirational images we all use in advertising. Instead of a person relaxing in a hammock, maybe the new imagery that will better resonate with your customers are of cooking over a campfire. Instead of a shiny sports car, use a pickup truck.
But it goes beyond imagery and advertising. Gaye cites the need for authenticity as another major trend. “Authenticity or transparency is one of the other things I talk about, especially around food. It’s a lack of trust in the government, it’s a lack of trust in the food-chain suppliers.” In the food industry this trend plays out with literally transparent packaging, but in other businesses it’s about making things clearer and simpler for your customers. You see it in claims like “No hidden fees!”, but also in something like Staples’ “Easy button” campaign. Sadly, I’m still waiting for this trend to hit assembly instructions. Ah well, a girl can dream.
Combine just these two trends and you come away with a richer understanding of our customers’ desires for more simple and genuine experiences. In the telecommunications world, it means that even with today’s advanced technologies, we can never overlook the human touch necessary to make things easy and make things work.
How will these mega-trends play out for your business?