Contributor: Emma Castle

Remember when no-one knew how to pronounce quinoa or acai? When Uber was just a German word and going to Iceland was about as likely as a visit to North Korea?

Someone predicted those trends and some smartypants’ listened. 

The annual J. Walter Thompson Intelligence report just came out and we have trawled 100 trends to handpick the ones we think will blow up in the next year. 

Read on for our foray into mass market mind reading. 

1. Age of the Single Lady

As women reroute from life’s traditional milestones, the trend towards delayed marriage and parenthood is slowly shaping a new female archetype; one that rejects the concept of having a husband as being central to her womanhood. 

Rising numbers of young females are prioritising careers, putting marriage on the backburner until their 30s or even 40s.

As the cultural stigma attached to divorce becomes increasingly passé, new traditions such as lavish divorce parties rise among women celebrating their newfound ‘freedom’. We’re also seeing singledom extend to senior age groups, as the over 50s refuse to let traditional expectations of marriage consign them to a lifetime of unhappiness.

Why it’s interesting: As consumers, women are too often placed in boxes like ‘mum’ or ‘wife’. Not only do these boxes not speak to women’s experience, they also leave out certain consumer groups entirely. It’s up to the next generation of travel marketers to move past the stereotypes of couples and families and start targeting female solo travellers. 

2. Senior Coolness

The over 50s are not only embracing aging, but are celebrating longevity with ageless style and swagger. From DJs to biker girls – this generation is reframing the conversation about age from one of declining abilities to that of limitless possibilities. 

While media representations of older people still often fall back on stereotypes, we’re seeing seniors becoming increasingly visible in pop culture; on the face of ads, gracing magazine spreads and even starring in leading roles in film. Garnier’s ‘Pure Active 3 in 1’ commercials feature ‘Teita’ – your not-so-average Lebanese grandmother, fiercely challenging her granddaughter to a boxing match and riding a motorbike, leather jacket and all. 

Why it’s interesting: While we’ve previously touched on how the over 50s are reinventing cultural preconceptions about retirement, seniors are projecting new ways of looking at ageing that prove a person’s age is not an automatic indication of their capabilities. Moving forward, it’s time for brands that have typically sidelined or solely catered to Millennial audiences — tech, fashion, and the likes — to acknowledge that ‘cool’ is a mindset — not a life stage, taking into account a non-conventional and more fluid expression of old age. 

3. Multisensorial Theme Parks 

Virtual reality promises to bring unparalleled levels of immersion to the Six Flags Dubai attraction that is in the works. The iconic US-based theme park franchise, that recently struck a deal with Samsung Gear VR, is rumoured to debut the ‘New Revolution Virtual Reality Coaster’, for the ultimate adrenaline-rushing experience. 

Beyond the attraction itself, recreational parks are embracing tech to power seamless guest experiences, capitalising on mobile devices, wearables, smart kiosks and more. 

Why it’s interesting: Millennials’ expectations are constantly growing and what might have wowed in the recent past might now easily be brushed off with a shrug. Experiences today must be cutting edge, beautifully designed, wildly imaginative and perfectly executed, banking on tech-powered, multisensorial experiences to entice audiences. 

4. Hometels 

For those whose tastes have graduated beyond their backpacking years but whose finances have not, a new breed of ‘homes turned hostel’ are sprouting up. These ‘hometels’ offer provincial design, homemade cuisine, some private rooms, and are still nicely priced for the experience-seeking Millennial. 

But unlike home or apartment rentals, the new hometel makes social interaction central to the stay, particularly through food and drink but also, indigenous excursions unique to the location. 

GuitaBed&Bloom, a neo-traditional hometel and organic farm in the majestic town of Akoura in Mount Lebanon, lends itself to cherry and apple picking and also flower arranging for outdoor-loving guests and an experiential farm-to-table dinner while star gazing or over a bonfire during the winter months. Guita is also the home of many yoga retreats and health and wellness events that appeal to young spiritualists everywhere. 

Why it’s interesting: The hostel industry is trying to refashion itself to appeal to a wider range of travellers,” said Douglas Quinby, the vice president of Phocuswright, a travel industry research firm. “It’s almost moving to a boutique and independent lodging space by offering a distinctive experience that is still within reach of price-sensitive travellers.”

5. Elemental Travel 

The latest hospitality experience strips back hospitality frills and opens its doors (and walls) to guests desiring a closer connection with Mother Nature. 

Hidden in the heart of the Saharan oasis in Siwa, the Adrere Amellal, is an isolated, electricity-free eco-lodge built from rock and mud. Recently coined by Vogue as one of six extraordinary hotels with open-air accommodation, the desert rooms ‘are softly lit with a dozen beeswax candles and the starry desert sky.’ In Jordan, the trend of staying in traditional Bedouin camps is also on the rise, with hosts listing their ‘caves’ on Airbnb – from Petra to Wadi Rum. 

The move towards hospitality spaces that facilitate tech-free time and offer space for contemplation, is also part of a broader ‘back-to-basics’ movement, marked with a surge in bookings for digital detox weekends.

Why it’s interesting: The popularity of open-air hotel concepts, unplugged stays and immersive environments shows that consumers are demanding new and novel ways of disconnecting and being fully immersed in nature. 

6. New Noisemakers 

As the landscape shifts from fame and followers to engagement and results, the balance of power is moving to micro-influencers with smaller, more localized fan bases. Welcome, the new noisemakers. 

Driven by far less obvious commercial pursuits than their mainstream counterparts, lifestyle and travel enthusiasts are gaining levels of credibility that are hard to achieve in a world of sponsored posts and overpriced endorsement deals.

Not to ignore an unconventional – yet equally influential – noisemaker: the fictitious social figure, generally born out of their creators’ desire to maintain anonymity.

Why it’s interesting: With 60% of consumers seeking an expert opinion before purchasing a product or service the creative firepower of partnerships between brands and these new noisemakers is not to be ignored. In fact, there is tremendous opportunity for marketers to mobilise and activate this much coveted set, treading carefully to avoid the inevitable fate of traditional influencers.

7. Trading Access for Loyalty 

Brands are opening their doors to exclusive events, granting access for everyone and democratising what was once ‘invite-only’ scenes. 

Lifting the lid on what is usually a private affair for luxury industry professionals and high-value clients, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana of Dolce & Gabbana hosted a meet and greet with their fans at their newly opened boutique at Mall of the Emirates, where they were joined by Vogue Japan’s editor-at-large, Anna Dello Russo.

Access also means granting equal opportunity to a brand’s products, no matter how highly covetable they are. The Good Life Space, a retail haven for sneaker heads in Beirut, releases strict ‘rules of engagement’ when launching much-anticipated shoe collections (i.e. Kanye West’s Yeezy Boost sneakers). Resorting to a first come, first serve strategy, queuing customers are allowed in store on an individual basis, to purchase just one pair, which must be worn as they leave the store. 

Why it’s interesting: A new paradigm of customer loyalty is emerging, built around access to experiences once reserved for elitist crowds. Whether through social media, live-streaming, or physical involvement, fans will increasingly feel a closer affinity with brands, creating more chatter and brand devotion. 

8. The New Protein: Pea, Duckweed and Insects

In last year’s Future 100 report, we looked at the rise of the ‘flexitarian’, who, in a conscious effort to consume less meat, fetishised protein-laden plant alternatives once targeted at vegans or vegetarians. As the market for new protein sources remains strong, these three under-the-radar substitutes could be next to break into the mainstream. 

Duckweed: Move over, seaweed, there’s a new floating superfood in town. Duckweed is frequently cited by scientists as a potentially key food source of the future: it’s protein rich and boasts more amino acids than other plant-based proteins (including soy). Consumer awareness of duckweed is low, but Florida-based Parabel hopes to change this with the launch of ‘Lentein’, a duckweed-based protein powder.

Pea: Pea protein is sustainable and non-allergenic. Completely vegan, it’s made from ground dried yellow peas with no added preservatives – exactly what the name implies. It’s commonly added to shakes, smoothies, and even breakfast bowls consumed by athletes and health enthusiasts – a perfect supplement for post-workout recovery.

Insects: Bugs, crickets and grasshoppers are the unlikely heroes in the rapidly growing market for alternative and sustainable protein sources. While insect-eating, or entomophagy, has always been a staple in some parts of the world, insect recipes and products are yet to build mass appeal.

Creepy factor aside, these high protein, nutrient-rich six-legged creatures, which require far fewer natural resources to raise than poultry and livestock, hold a promising future in being able to feed a hungry world. 

Why it’s interesting: By 2050, the United Nations projects a global population of nearly 10 billion, which would push our current agricultural system to its limits. These companies are on the cutting edge of the battle for the sustainable protein of the future. 

9. New Sobriety 

As health-obsessive Millennials bid their binge-drinking days goodbye, drink purveyors are hustling to entice them with lower-calorie tipples, ‘free-from’ libations, or functional ‘mocktails’ that skip the booze altogether, helping them strike the perfect balance between their wellness goals and indulgent impulses.

‘Teetotalism’ is on the rise and bars and restaurants are taking note, not only ditching the liquor in some of their signature drinks, but also incorporating cold-pressed juices, root vegetables and fermented foods into their mocktail repertoire. 

Why it’s interesting: Tired of abstaining from life’s pleasures, people are finding ways to have their cake and eat it, from social workouts to healthier quaffs. Although arguably the least likely to be thought of as a ‘healthy’ genre, alcohol’s foray into health-conscious branding shows just how thoroughly consumers have adopted the wellness lifestyle. 

10. Refugee Economy 

Entrepreneurs are innovating for a new ‘refugee reality.’ According to the UN, there are 65 million refugees and internally displaced persons globally, more than any time since World War II.

Entrepreneurship is one means of leveraging refugees’ independence and tolerance for risk. Web startup Natakallam, or ‘we speak’ in Arabic is a platform that matches Arabic language learners with displaced Syrians, who are also fluent Arabic speakers, for language practice over Skype. In Egypt, meal catering startup Mumm, allows people to order home-cooked meals made by refugees, providing them with a monthly income of $675. 

Why it’s interesting: A recent Tent Foundation study on the economic dividends of investment in refugees showed that public investment of €1 in a refugee, will yield a return of nearly €2 in GDP growth within 5 years — the business community should vocally support investments with such a strong return. Increasing international and local business involvement is not only the right thing to do, but also makes good business sense. 

Do you agree with these trends? Have you noticed any of these things impacting your business? We’d love to hear your thoughts. 


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