Five trends that will define society (and business) over the next decade.

Adrián Gastón

6 February 2020

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It seems like only yesterday that we shared a post on our old blog with “The possible or distant trends of 2010“. Back then, there was still talk about the rise of Twitter and Facebook, the importance of videos, content marketing…  To be honest, some of the trends we predicted could still apply today, ten years later. But if we look back over the past decade, many of these articles left out one of the key pillars that has defined the period: social movements.  

For this reason, we don’t want to stop and define next year’s digital trends today (we also already have this post). Nor do we want to talk about utopias based on artificial intelligence or algorithms, but we instead want to focus on what society will bring us in the next decade.

(To the people who want to tell me that the decade actually begins in 2021 … ok boomer).

1- Strong environmental activism

In the past two years, concerns about the environmental future, climate change and sustainability have reached unstoppable momentum.

During the 2010s, social conscience led many companies to define themselves as sustainable, including this value as a fundamental pillar in their communication strategies. However, for many consumers this was greenwashing; the environmental factor was addressed from the marketing departments and not from the business structure. The result? A lack of consumer confidence in those large companies that defined themselves as green.

According to one of the latest studies by CSB (Centre for Sustainable Business), sales of packaged goods that consumers considered ‘sustainable’ grew by 50% in the US between 2013 and 2018. However, the market share still remained below 17%, leaving a large margin for growth.

Predicted growth in sales of sustainable products.

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Source: CSB

Over the next few years, society will require companies to be aware of their responsibility towards the environment. They will demand that resources be invested in restructuring their production processes, seeking to be sustainable with the intention of reducing their impact on the planet, not with the intention of increasing their income by brandishing a green label. As Luke Upchurch says, “companies must be prepared to run sustainable businesses before they can expect consumers to believe they are sustainable.”

2- The employee’s voice will get stronger

Today, there are still many companies that do not conceive flexibility and horizontality as part of their organisational structure. Terms such as telework or organisational culture are perceived as harmful or non-value-added variables for the employee.

As Randstad points out, in the coming years the new generation of employees will be looking for companies whose values are aligned with their own ideals. They will not easily give in to certain traditions of employee treatment and will demand more agile organisational structures.

The companies that are not willing to make changes in their organisations will find it more difficult to attract and retain talent. According to McKinsey, employee empowerment and diversity, ease of adaptation to change, adoption of new technologies, pursuing a common purpose and networking models will be the key elements that will facilitate employee attraction. 

Evolution of the organisational structures of companies.

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Source: McKinsey

This new mentality will probably have a direct impact on society, such as an increase in the population in rural areas due to remote work, or the search for greater inclusion of social minorities.

3- The arrival of generation Z

Let’s stop for a second and think that in the next few months people born in 2000 will be turning 20. Scary, isn’t it?

Over the last few years, the millennials have been the star of every marketing strategy. Now, in the next decade, Generation Z (a.k.a. centennials) will take over as the new social focus, to which every company must pay attention.

It is probably too early to identify the main social factors that will define this new generation (especially in terms of consumption), but we can highlight some features that are already beginning to differentiate them from millennials:

  • While Millennials lived through the beginning of innovation, Generation Z was born when it was already established. They are purely technological, they learn quickly, and their smartphone is the centre of all their activity (not only socially, but also economically).
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Generation Z’s use of the mobile phone

Source: Think With Google

  • Generation Z grew up in the midst of a deep global economic crisis. This has led to a generation with greater awareness about finances and saving money, with greater concerns about investing their resources. They think twice before acquiring a product, so companies must clearly communicate the differential and practical value of their products.
  • The centennials don’t want to be defined. They are looking for authenticity and the value of the individual. They value personality and the power to be as they wish.
  • In contrast to the previous point, studies suggest that Generation Z may be the generation that will have to deal the most with problems such as mental health, image, cyberbullying and loneliness. 

4-     The role of feminism

Along with environmental awareness, feminism has been the trend that has most marked society in the last two years. The empowerment of women, equality, the fight against the pay gap and the glass ceiling, among others, are elements that have been more present than ever in our daily lives. 

And it’s true that if we stop to think, it’s incredible that even brands like Playboy have become fervent standard-bearers of feminism?

Playboy cover for visibility of gender-fluid identities

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Source: Playboy

If these last years have been key for raising awareness for the existing problems in society, the next decade will see the first real changes and plans of action not only for social movements but also governments and legislation.

Companies should be aware of these social movements and the impact they may have on their business structures in terms of retaining and attracting talent, focusing on the search for real equality for their employees.

5-    Years of great socio-political change

We are all aware of the socio-political landscape we are facing. International tensions, the imminent Brexit or the situation in Catalonia are signs that social movements are facing a turning point.

Furthermore, in the coming years, the rise of Asia as a main economic force and the expansion of China will be key elements that will shape the movements of international markets.

These elements are analysed in one of the latest studies launched by ESPAS (European Strategy and Policy Analysis System). They predict that the next few years could be marked by growing feelings of local ownership that could lead to an increase in protectionist tendencies.

These feelings may lead to many groups seeking representation by companies and brands, even in terms of political aspects. In previous years, religion, politics and sex were taboo topics of communication. However, soon companies that stand for socio-cultural aspects associated with political ideologies could have a competitive advantage over the rest.

In short, these will be five trends that are likely to define the movements of society in the future. In a world where groups are putting ever greater pressure on mass-market companies, it is vital that we are aware of the necessity to sometimes step back from the chaos of everyday life and take a look at the path we are following as a society.