Trending: 2020

2019 is on the way out. It’s been a year dominated by fake news, the environmental crisis, and the first wave of 5G. So, what will 2020 bring? Clear B2B’s MD, Rachel McHugh, has been out and about investigating – with one of the highlights being a really interesting talk from the guys at Trend Watching. Whilst their top ten trends have a consumer slant, they can’t be ignored as these are setting the vibe for the wider sales environment. Here’s what she found out…

1. Brand coins

A cross between a Tesco Clubcard and Bitcoin, 2020 is thought to be the year where brands become bankers with their own currencies that offer new ways to earn, store and trade value. Facebook’s announcement of the launch of its Libra cryptocurrency has generated a lot of publicity – a lot of it negative. Some governments are already looking to ban it, and partners are pulling out already. But ambitions for launching brand coins needn’t be on the same scale as Libra. For example, Jaguar Land Rover is looking to encourage its vehicle users to report information on road conditions to navigation providers and local authorities in exchange for credits which can be used to pay for tolls, parking and electric charging services.


2. Brand avatars

In 2020, brands will embody themselves via new characters in diverse digital channels. A great example of this comes from the US burger chain, Wendy’s. In a campaign that won the Social & Influencer Grand Prix at Cannes, the company created a Wendy avatar for the videogame Fortnite. Rather than playing the game normally, Wendy took on her true enemy – frozen beef – by destroying the freezers in burger joints across the Fortnite world. Streaming this rampage on Twitch, the Fortnite community soon joined in, demonstrating the value that brands can generate by embracing new ‘social’ channels, and giving a new depth to a brand avatar.

Many B2B brands have characters that help their customers navigate and understand their industry’s latest technology. Some are real people, others may just be images or animations. In 2020 watch out for these characters building their own intelligence through AI and machine learning too.


3. Metamorphic design

The concept of ‘personalisation’ is growing. Now, brands that deliver ‘endless optimisation’ provide consumers with services that constantly adapt around their changing needs. For example, Kia’s READ (Real-time Emotional Adaptive Driving) system adapts the vehicle cabin environment by analysing driver data such as facial expression, heart rate, etc. Kia even says that the vehicles can analyse the driver’s feelings.

Metamorphic design is all about creating a brand experience that is precisely targeted at the customer. Another example of this comes from lifestyle brand Baze. Getting a consumer relying on your brand of daily vitamin can prove a valuable life-long relationship, but Baze has taken it one step further. By providing a quarterly, self-sampled blood test, customers will receive an exact mix of daily vitamins, based on the precise nutritional requirements of each individual.

While this level of targeting is more relevant in a consumer context, it will continue to change people’s expectations and further fuel the demand for ultimate convenience – a trend that is also likely to impact the B2B world.


4. Selective presence

Related to trend three, consumers are starting to demand new privacy controls – or new benefits – in a world that’s always watching. While customers are looking for a more personalised service, the concern about how much brands know about us is growing. With facial recognition systems commonplace everywhere from the phone in your pocket to a bus stop’s billboard, advertising is becoming more and more targeted. In the context of 2018’s GDPR regulations and the California Consumer Privacy Act, consumers know the value of their personal data and will demand more value from brands in exchange for their facial data, or at least a very clear opportunity to opt out.


5. Self creations

As a means for individuals to better express themselves, in 2020, consumers will embrace services, tools and platforms that help them become who they truly are. Today, individuals becoming increasingly able to construct an identity and live a life that they feel truly reflects their real self. This environment takes us into a ‘post-demographic’ world, where consumption patterns are not defined by stereotypes such as age, gender, location, family status and so on. For example, Netflix has identified that age and gender data is ‘almost useless’ to them to predict behaviour. This isn’t the death of the persona, but brands do need to think harder about the stereotypes and assumptions they make in identifying and understanding their customer. Consumer brands that are able to support their customers in being who they truly are (see this example from Mastercard) will see much greater brand interaction, and this is not a trend to be ignored in B2B either.


6. Eco interventionists

Greta Thunberg’s Friday school strikes have become a global phenomenon. Extinction Rebellion shut down London twice in 2019. We’re at a cultural tipping point: the pursuit of ‘eco-status’ is giving way to the desire to avoid ‘eco shame’. In the past, the eco-story has been about status: think of the Tesla Model S. During the 2010s, eco products have been targeted at the eco-status-seeking consumer. They’ve been positioned as elite products – either because the product is expensive or very hard to find. However, now public opinion is shifting, and the pronouncement of the climate emergency has meant that rather than being a status symbol, ‘opting out’ of eco products has become almost shameful.

Far from being just a consumer trend, this will impact business in many ways, from international travel to the work canteen and the clothes we wear to work. Responding to the climate emergency will bring wider advantages too: the environmentally responsible business will attract both employees and customers alike.


7. Single serve

The world is set up for people in twos. But in 2020 this looks set to change, as brands will making it easier to experience life uncoupled. According to Euromonitor, there’s a 128% growth in single-person households globally over 2000-2030, faster than any other household type. It doesn’t just mean smashing taboos such as eating alone at a restaurant or choosing not to have children in order to have more freedom. Brands are setting up their products and services to better cater for those who live alone, as well as considering the single consumer in their own right as a creative opportunity for new products and services. What does this mean for B2B? It’s back to assumptions: get to know your customer as an individual, not a statistic.


8. New hires

Smart brands will take steps to discover and hire those groups who were, until now, excluded. Society is attempting to become more equal, and there is little tolerance for marginalising groups. The 2019 football world cup raised awareness of the gender pay gap in sport, and some of the most talked about brand innovations at Cannes addressed the issue of accessibility. Ensuring your business embraces a diverse workforce will become as important as delivering a high quality product or service in 2020.



9. Air time

Urbanisation and industrialisation have had an enormous impact on the way that billions of people live. Many of the positives, such as education, employment and access to services, are now struggling to compete with the catastrophic levels of air pollution. Rather than move out, ‘citysumers’ demand brands and governments turn clean air into an urban service.

In some areas of London, air pollution is five times over the EU limit. From Ikea’s Gunrid air purifying curtain, to Toyota’s Mirai hydrodgen fuel cell vehicle, reducing emissions through new technology is a priority for many organisations. It also brings opportunities for creative marketing approaches too. In a clever campaign in Bucharest, Romania, Renault linked electric car sales to air pollution rises, with sensors in high traffic areas feeding an algorithm that calculates a discounted vehicle price. Air pollution impacts everyone, and B2B brands that can effectively respond in a positive way to this trend still have time to steal a march over competitors.


10. Burnout

Uber. Deliveroo. Airbnb. Some of the biggest successes in recent times have been able to successfully exploit two major trends common to both society and marcomms: mobile and on-demand, allowing consumers to get what they want, whenever they need it. But it’s come at a price. From Mari Kondo’s space optimised living, to the glorification of the #hustle and 996 working, today we are surrounded by the pressure to optimise everything about our life. Even the supposed antidote to modern life, the wellness economy, an $11bn industry of self-care and self-improvement is exhausting.

In 2020, brands will rush to treat those burnt by the pressures of modern life. This isn’t about a yoga app or a YouTube guided meditation. Brands will seek new ways to help consumers avoid and recover from burnout. This is wider that B2B marketing. In business, it’s finally time to consider the impact of ‘always on’ and truly rebalance work and life.


To discuss these trends in more detail and examine how they could impact your business, get in touch with Rachel McHugh.

Sign up for industry updates straight to your inbox Subscribe

Back to all news & views here

Graphic demonstrating news content
A new lens on B2B marketing

A new lens on B2B marketing

The coronavirus pandemic is proving a powerful lens through which to view your comms – highlighting strengths and weaknesses as never before. We look at the biggest lockdown learnings you need to take away – and how can you act on them?

A guide to getting the best from awards

A guide to getting the best from awards

At Clear B2B we love awards. But not just for the kudos. Entering awards changes how we address projects and puts into place excellent working practices to achieve success for clients.