Faith Popcorn – FutureSight Advertising: 2020

Faith Popcorn, Founder & CEO, Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve

I’ve been saying that advertising is ill, as an industry and form, since 1974. It’s now riddled with cancer in every part of its system and entering the terminal phase. Instead of morning its loss, we welcome what’s emerging to replace it: Consutainment, the full-bore integration of convenience, consumption, and entertainment.

I looked through the lens of our TrendBank to identify the FutureForces that will shape the decades ahead. Four were evident: Consumers want brands to remove barriers to immediate buying, do no harm, recognize their contributions, and adapt to evolving gender roles. I’ll highlight future effects for each of these forces, starting with the Trends that drive them.

PoP Ubiquity

99 Lives: Consumers demand ultra-convenience.

Every media—from billboards and print to TV, radio, and social networking—will incorporate purchase options that enable us to buy on the spot without traveling to a separate retail location. Peapod in the US and Homeplus in Korea  innovated the purchasing of groceries and cleaning products so people can shop in subway stations and bus stops by scanning QR codes from wall-sized posters. Eventually we’ll have chips embedded in our fingers that let us spend simply by touching products or pictures, wherever we find them. Virtually every point in space and time will be a point of purchase.

Big Dissatisfaction

FutureTENSE: Consumers are riddled with anxiety over information overload.

Some companies will suffer consequences tantamount to bankruptcy due to Big Data debacles—in part because customers will flee brands perceived to have insufficient security. The masses will use their market power to demand compensation for sharing personal information, although most won’t earn much from selling “commodity” data (see “Profit Sharing” below for premium strategies). At the same time, the price of privacy will rise to levels only the rich can afford. Most will benefit as customization evolves, but the barrage of increasingly personalized solicitations will remind people of the Faustian bargain they struck with brands. This will create a tinderbox relationship, predisposing some of us to combust with anger at the slightest provocation.

Profit Sharing

Icon Toppling: Consumers question and reject traditional big buying models.

Intent on cashing in, we will publish notices when making a purchase, and many will aggregate their buying data into “purchase logs”—catalogues of their spending habits—that serve as their own declarations of preference, taste, and profits. These will become important vehicles for brands, and we will be compensated handsomely for assembling and curating our buying histories. Many will maintain social-media pages that function like micro-agencies, generating DIY spots about products they love. Brands will offer profit-sharing deals to those who are most successful at driving engagement, but everyone will have opportunities to collect commissions for recommendations that lead directly to a purchase.


Egonomics: Consumers crave recognition of their individualities.

Technology enables us to indulge multiple personalities more easily, and brands will learn to tailor communiqués to suit the different roles we play at different times and places. Accelerating shifts in gender dynamics are altering social relationships at work and home, and basic assumptions about households may not hold up as a result: Men and women are staying single longer or rejecting marriage all together, and single parenthood is on the rise in every segment. In many cases, people are exploring to understand who they are. Brands will have to do more than analyze demographic data to understand us in this era of Trydentity. The most sophisticated strategies will target individuals based on analysis of social cues that reveal which self is at the helm at any given time.

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We expect more from brands every day. It’s not enough to offer the highest quality product or service or the lowest price. They must accommodate consumers’ busy lives and know their personal affections and affinities without violating their privacy. Brands that wean themselves from outdated advertising models and get aligned with the above FutureForces and effects will forge the nouveau relationships that 2020 consumers require. Get started. The future is closer than it appears.