Trendwatch 2012: A ‘blink’ edition

With 2011 coming to a close, we begin to see top trends prediction from the point of view of various different sources. Here I would like to draw on my own observations, and mostly derived from instincts (using the power of ‘blink’) to predict on the trends that I see will emerge or continue to thrive in the new year.

The trends that I am listing here do not happen in isolation, and like any cultural movement, they are heavily intertwined and highly dependent on the development of one another.

Information is cheap. Meaning is expansive.

2011 was a year when information flow had become intensified. We heard about Mubarak’s resignation in Egypt almost instantly regardless of which timezone we were in. Web portals such as Huffington Post advocates democratisation of new content, while emerging ones such as Worldcrunch takes it one step further by selecting, translating and editing content from top foreign-language outlets. The flow of information will further enhanced with mobile phone device – by 2016, 80% of the world population will own a mobile device.

When information can be so easily acquired and accessed and beyond geographic boundaries, what’s important is on the depth and quality of the information and how it is being put into context and in relation with each other. I predict in 2012, sharp analysis, unique point of view and foresights are going to make the real difference. We also have to reconnect with human intelligence rather than simply relying solely on technology. After all, media can only take a message so far: success comes when that message is enhanced by humans.

Open innovation

Transparency of information is becoming a reality. People will no longer keep knowledge as secret and will openly embraced exchange of information. Discussion forum will flourish and it will not only be happening just among the amateurs.

The desire and openness to embrace exchange of ideas takes us to the development of ways to discover innovative ideas.

Dell IdeaStorm: Dell adopted the open innovation model by using social media for product development. Dell’s ‘IdeaStorm’ platform, launched in 2007, according to the website ( had accumulated 16,000 active users, and has generated over 500 ideas the company has implemented to date.

Unilever VIP: The app was set up on Facebook in August this year inviting consumers to develop the product they love, changing the traditional model of incentives in consumer promotions. It currently has 30,000 monthly active VIP (users).

OpenInnovation Sara Lee: Sara Lee Innovation portal ( was set up to ‘commercialize innovative ideas, technologies and solutions’ that best support their strategic direction. On the website it says:

Today, innovation is about much more than new products. It is about reinventing business processes and developing new markets and networks that meet untapped customer and consumer needs. We do this by making connections beyond the boundaries of our organization and reaching out to our customers, consumers, partners, knowledge institutions, adjacent industries and global markets.

Our vision is to create open networks that link broad bases of knowledge to better serve consumer and customer needs.

Maildives renewable energy initiatives: Nation brands are also catching up with open innovation. The island nation of Maldives has become the first country in the world to crowdsource its overall countrywide renewable energy strategy, by seeking advice from targeted experts.

Open innovation will become an alternative form of consumer research combined with the drive to cultivate new inventions. All these initiatives, when properly implemented and monitored, will become one of the most valuable sources of consumer insights that any company can tap into.

From personalised message to personalised products

Although mass media like TV and print will never lose its value, there is an increasing urgency for brands to develop communications that not only will talk to people in a more personalised manner, but also even develop products that reflect their ability to connect.

Burger King “Have it Your Way” promotion-stunt: Ogilvy Brazil took the Burger King “Have it Your Way” tagline to new heights and presented diners with a “customized” surprise when they ordered a Whopper. They have installed a secret camera at Burger King restaurants and took customers’ pictures. Their photos were then printed instantly onto the wrappers of their freshly made burgers, giving a super personal meaning to “having it their way”.

Updated WHOPPER FACE stunt by Ogilvy Brazil:

Coca-Cola Freestyle: The specially designed vending machine is popping up everywhere in the US this year, whereby consumers can create their own sodas right at the vending machines equipped with dozens of different syrups – currently offers 100+ drink choices to mix and mash up. It also facilitates consumers to give feedback to the company. The project also has an environmental and financial upside: the concentrated syrups reduce shipping. (

Social media strategy going global

On social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter every local market is currently developing their own space, with little connections between different markets. While this is logical since what makes social networking work is that it has to be customised for each market rather than a uniform ‘standardised’ approach, however, this approach will result in fragmentation of brand message and tone of voice, and also miss the opportunity of leveraging appropriate initiatives to a global scale and create a truly global sensational brand message.

I predict that the personalisation of communication will continue to flourish in social media, however, global brands will develop social media strategy to interacting with consumers in each market – with specific content and in their local language, but riding on the universal global platform. The existing decentralised approach will no longer be considered as effective. Creative agencies will need to develop new thinking in curating social media content globally – combining their global vision and local resources to help global brands communicate in one voice all over the world.

Gamification of brands

‘Gamification’ started off as a term to describe the trend to inject ‘play’ elements – by adding badges, leaderboards, competition device or simple turn-based gaming elements – to websites and social media platforms. But what we see increasingly happening is that the ‘play’ elements have started to infiltrate into the DNA of global brands. It could well be because of the consumers who have been raised in the ‘game culture’ were starting to demand such personalities from brands, and those who spotted the trend quickly had jumped on the bandwagon.

This year, Novotel and Microsoft teamed up to launch the ‘hotel room of the future’. The room, named Room 3120 at Novotel Paris Vaugirard Montparnasse, showcases the latest in cutting-edge technology and innovative design, with Novotel and Microsoft working closely together to create the revolutionary room that allows guests to sample the ultimate in hi-tech hotel rooms. The visionary room takes guests on a technological journey with features including a Kinect interface, Sensorit mirror based on Kinect technology, a fitness interface and a Surface multimedia table. (

‘Gamification’ of brands will further influence the product and service design of brands in enhancing engagement with the consumers – this ‘playful’ element will become more important in the coming year.

Brand for good

Companies need to go beyond just making a profit; they need to find a way to balance profits and principles. In this age of transparency, a brand’s reputation needs to be carefully nurtured and developed, and building ‘trust’ with the consumers is proved to be a powerful emotional connection.

These are some examples of brands, big and small, have put meaning in their brands over just making money:

Coca Cola’s ‘Happiness’: As part of Coca Cola’s 125th global anniversary, Coca-Cola celebrated happiness around the world. In Philippines, the OFW project tells the true stories of ‘happiness’ when families and loved ones reunite, as more than 11 million Filipinos have left their families to find better opportunities abroad. The video went viral quickly, attracting more than 700,000 views within 5 days of launch on YouTube.

The OFW project:

Pepsi ‘Litre of Light’: Pepsi Philippines partnered with My Shelter Foundation to install solar bottle lights this Christmas, via a campaign devised by BBDO Guerrero. Designed to spread support for the grassroots solar lighting campaign in the Philippines and beyond, this seasonal initiative is one of the first under a new global identity for the project – called a ‘Litre of Light.’

‘A Litre of Light’ official version:

The Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen: In October, Jon Bon Jovi has opened a new “pay-what-you-can” restaurant, hoping to give low-income families an alternative to unhealthy fast food. The Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen is located in Red Bank, New Jersey, near the singer’s hometown of Sayreville.  (

The Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen:

Levi’s Water<Less Jeans: Levi’s wanted to reduce the impact they were having on water usage; after all, it takes 45 liters of water to make a single pair of jeans. They are planning to turn their production process upside down, and successfully come up with a process that reduced water usage 28%-98%, ultimately saving 172 liters of water.  Furthermore, they released a small amount (1.6 million units) of these jeans in the spring of 2011, in an effort to balance both profitability and broad appeal.

Levi’s Water<Less Jeans:

In 2012, brands will continue to invest in initiatives that will further enhance their reputation as a good corporate citizen, hopefully not only will it benefit the consumers but to the world as a whole.

To be continued:

These are just some of this year’s observations. I like to hear your thoughts and especially trends that are relevant to your country. Please drop me a line to suggest links and check back for updates.

Further inspirations:

Check my tweets @louiechow under #trend2012 for further inspirations and additional insights.