Youthful aspirations: The future is now


Fancy a flash tour of the shiny new future? Buckle up, because you’re in for a treat.

US-based marketing communications brand J. Walter Thompson has released a report titled the Future 100 2018, which provides a snapshot of the year ahead and the most compelling trends, themes and phenomena to keep on your radar.

And young people feature quite a bit, in fields ranging from travel and hospitality to health and lifestyle.

According to JWTIntelligence’s Innovation Group worldwide director Lucie Greene, 2018 looks set to be the year in which 5G (fifth generation wireless technology) and augmented reality “drive massive change” in how we interact with the Internet.

When it comes to culture, intersectionality will continue to resonate, as dialogue around the importance of diversity reaches a fever pitch.

According to Merriam-Webster, “intersectionality” refers to the complex and cumulative way that the effects of different forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, and intersect.

New trends in 2018
The demand for ‘modest fashion’ that has made fashion moguls out of Malaysian personalities such as Noor Neelofa Mohd Noor, founder of Naelofar Hijab, will continue in 2018. Photo: Filepic

“From tech companies to traditional corporations, organisations are under pressure to improve diversity and inclusion in their hiring, but the layered challenges associated with achieving this are coming to the fore,” said the Future 100 2018 report.

What does this have to do with today’s youth? According to the report, those hoping to appeal to a younger audience have to embed values such as diversity, intersectionality, and inclusion in their philosophy from the get-go.

Over in technology, you’ve heard of the Internet of Things, but what about the Internet of Eyes (and Ears)?

In today’s image-driven culture, more and more everyday objects are being outfitted with smart cameras and the latest in visual recognition technology, such as the iPhone X, which put facial recognition in the hands of many consumers for the first time.

The variety and availability of smart voice-enabled products are also on the rise, and we can see both further paving the path for “assistive” tech, which helps people with disabilities navigate the world independently.

As for travel and hospitality, we can look forward to more experiential treatments as film companies take their products out of the silver screen and into the real world.

New trends in 2018
Concept art for Disney's Star Wars Hotel. Photo: Disney

Expect more immersive theme parks and hotels based on blockbuster franchises, such as Disney’s Star Wars Hotel in 2019 as part of its Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge theme park at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida.

If you’ve always wanted to learn to pilot a spacecraft during a two-day narrative experience before basking in the luxury of room service, this is for you.

Funnily enough, “brandlessness” could be the next big thing in brands and marketing.

According to the report, a wave of disruptive new companies is offering premium beauty, personal care, and groceries at a fraction of the cost of branded equivalents.

One such example is Brandless, a cross between an online dollar store and an upscale private label brand.

“The direct-to-consumer company aims to disrupt the consumer packaged goods industry. Each product costs just US$3 (RM12), with more than 200 options across food, beauty, personal care and home goods,” the report said.

Keep your fingers crossed that we get to see a local high-quality equivalent here in Malaysia.

As for food and drink, consumers are turning their backs on alcohol while looking for a premium non-alcoholic experience, so the future can herald elevated experiences geared specifically towards teetotallers.

On a local note, this wellness-focused trend is something the booming halal industry can innovate upon.

New trends in 2018
Pandan, a favourite South-East Asian herb, is one of three 'hot ingredients' in next year’s food trend watch (the other being purple sweet potato and sherry.) Photo: Visualhunt.com / Tisay

Pandan is listed as one of the three “hot ingredients” in next year’s food trend watch, with British food celebrity Nigella Lawson no less touting it as “the new matcha” – we’re excited to see this South-East Asian favourite take the culinary world by storm. (The other two ingredients are purple sweet potato and sherry.)

As for beauty, burgeoning interest in new wave men’s grooming will see more sophisticated offerings for the increasingly discerning male market, while artificial intelligence and machine learning will produce new ways to monitor skin regimes and offer speedy, low-cost personalised services.

In the retail sphere, the young, tech-savvy Muslimah in South-East Asia are an influential group.

“This new generation of millennial Muslimah combines a hunger for lifestyle brands, global cuisines and digital channels with religious observance,” said the report.

“These two trends – more Islamic and more global – are playing out across sectors such as food, beauty and fashion, technology and travel, presenting new opportunities and challenges to brands.”

It added that the demand for “modest fashion” has made fashion moguls out of Malaysian personalities such as Noor Neelofa Mohd Noor, founder of Naelofar Hijab, and Vivy Yusof, cofounder of e-commerce site FashionValet and founder of Duck Group.

Luxury materials are also heralded as the “new frontier”, with disruptive companies seeking to create alternatives to traditional commodities, or innovating to create sustainable luxurious fabrics.

Insights from the report show that sustainability is becoming viewed as “intelligent and aspirational”; precisely the values that luxury brands desire to convey in their messaging.

When it comes to wellness in 2018, food is becoming the new preventative health treatment, as nutrition is increasingly linked to managing health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

As such, “food prescription” is slated to create new opportunities for health-driven food platforms.

Lifestyle-wise, speculation is rife over whether 2018 will be the year that cryptocurrencies enter the mainstream, though there are growing calls for a legal framework that will protect investors.

Small and “big kids” alike can also look forward to more virtual reality theme parks popping up around the world, breathing new life into entertainment venues.

See you in 2018!

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