Key trends to watch in 2015

J. Walter Thompson Sdn Bhd (JWT Kuala Lumpur) managing director Nicole Tan.

IT has never been more important for brands to understand change, with the speed of trends accelerating due to factors such as instantly-accessible information, globalisation and social media.

New York-headquartered marketing communications group J. Walter Thompson (JWT) has released The Future 100, a report featuring original analysis and insights on 100 key trends and cultural shifts to watch in the year ahead.

JWT Malaysia selects five of these key trends that it thinks are relevant in this country.

Connected kids

Kids are more connected digitally than ever, and new toys and services are rising to satisfy their hunger for technology.

Citing a Google study that one in two Malaysians owns a smartphone device, JWT Malaysia managing director Nicole Tan (pic) says there has been a rise in the amount of applications catering towards children.

“A quick check on tells us the number one children app in Malaysia is Upin and Ipin, with its estimated revenue curve still on an upswing, followed by Thomas and Friends, and Disney Junior Play. We can expect this to increase in 2015 with brands exploring into mobile first and helping parents use technology to keep kids entertained and learning,” she says.

Wellness tourism

The Global Wellness Tourism Congress says wellness travel is already a US$439bil market and predicts growth of 55% by 2017.

JWT Malaysia associate planning director Rafiq Ridzwan says with a multicultural influence that welcomes visitors from many destinations, and medical expertise in Malaysia, the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) plans to continue to make Malaysia a medical tourism destination.

Patients Beyond Borders, a global site, lists Malaysia as one of its top 10 medical destinations and estimates the worldwide medical tourism market is growing at a rate of 15%-25% with rates highest in North, South-East and South Asia.

Cycle-first cities

From China to India to Los Angeles, sales of premium bicycles and accessories are growing. In the car-centric United States, there are now bike-sharing programmes in 36 cities.

Tan notes that this year the KL car-free morning happens twice instead of once every month (on the first and third Sundays) and involves cycling, rollerskating and skateboarding activities, with most taking to the two wheeled option. Penang is pushing its efforts to becoming the cycling hub by 2016 by building road facilities that cater to cyclists.

“While Malaysia remains car and motorcycle dominant, we will see an increase in Malaysians picking cycling as both a weekend hobby and a way to get fit,” she says.

Sports brands: new niche

Many global sports groups have in the past decade tried to be the master of all categories. Now niche branded premium brands are creating waves in the sports apparel industry by focusing on one sport only, developing genuine expertise and connecting to enthusiast audiences through cleverly executed social media and community platforms.

Rafiq says that in JWT’s work with 100Plus, it discovered a very large and growing number of sports events, especially running events, in Malaysia. “It is only a matter of time before Malaysians come up with our own brands to suit our body types and styles. Ash be Nimble leads this wave, along with a sportswear brand for Muslim women, Nashata,” he adds.

E-commerce, the assumed but not leveraged frontier

E-commerce has been described as “the next China” for the luxury industry as sales slow down.

Tan says online shopping in Malaysia has increased six times in the last three years (source: Google), driven mostly by the success of Lazada and Zalora.

“There are many new interesting joint ventures in the works and we can be sure to see some new e-commerce sites, most notable that of SK Planet, the leading e-commerce corporation in South Korea, and Celcom. We anticipate growth in this sector both with big boys joining the game, and smaller local business and start-ups finding new ways to change the game,” she says.

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