Recently I was invited back to Macquarie Business School to present a guest lecture, my third, on emerging trends in the Australian marketing landscape. And, even though it is hard to believe we’re at the midpoint of the year already, it seems like an appropriate moment to share those trends on our blog as well.

Predicting trends in an industry that moves as fast as ours is always a bit nerve-wracking, especially in front of a group of supersmart future marketers but here are my ones to watch out for based on what our Sparks are seeing here, in the US and Europe.

How does your brand smell, sound and feel?

Photo of Porsche car.

Credit: Porsche USA

Last year we saw a big emphasis on the phygital with brands bringing together the digital and physical in activations to tempt us all out of our homes post-pandemic. Building on that, brands are going multisensory from sonic logos to signature scents that tempt passers-by in store. Porsche played on all our senses at their Full Service Garage at SXSW. It featured five doors with a different sensation – from that “new car smell” to the roar of a Porsche engine – behind each one.

Also at SXSW, Tide tempted passersby with the scent of fresh laundry. One reviewer said “As I walked into the beautifully designed experience, it was the distinct Tide smell that immediately hit my senses. That intentional use of smell made the rest of the experience that much more enjoyable.”

The new kids in town

Young child wearing VR goggles.

Credit: Photo by Giu Vicente on Unsplash

Move over Gen Z, here comes Generation Alpha, born from 2013 onwards and fully immersed in technology and digital-first culture. Highly tech-savvy and comfortable with advanced technologies from a very young age, their interests often revolve around digital activities.

Social media and messaging apps are their primary peer to peer communication channels. They are used to creating and sharing content, finding online communities that foster a sense of belonging. Gen Alpha members are also environmentally conscious and socially aware, valuing authenticity, transparency, and social responsibility in the brands they support.

Gen Alpha is a highly visual and interactive generation, preferring platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram for consuming content as well as the interactivity of gaming. Platforms like Roblox and Minecraft are very popular due to their creative and collaborative nature. They also have a growing interest in virtual reality and other immersive technologies thanks to early adopter parents.

As their parents also grew up in the shadow of the GFC, Gen Alpha is said to be very fiscally aware but conservative. Acutely aware of brands, this generation is actively influencing many purchase decisions for their parents including requesting food and snacks by name and actively impacting vacation and activity choices.

Gen Alpha in numbers

  • 49% own a tablet and 20% a VR headset.
  • 24% spend seven hours a day on a smartphone.
  • 60% use YouTube for stories and review videos.
  • 10% met most of their friends online.
  • 40% spend at least four hours a day online.
  • Their top 5 influencers are: Mr Beast, Blue Ivy, Jake Paul, North West and Tyler Blevins.

Source: PDF available via Download the full report button.

Extended reality (XR)

Photo of man wearing VR googles.

Credit: SXSW 2024

Extended Reality (XR) is an umbrella term encompassing various immersive technologies, including Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR). These blend the physical and virtual worlds to create interactive and immersive experiences. Together, XR can engage multiple senses, providing a richer storytelling experience. VR and AR can include visual, auditory, and haptic feedback to create a multi-sensory narrative.

XR technologies enable brands to create fully immersive experiences to engage audiences. For example, VR can transport users to entirely virtual environments, offering incredible levels of engagement and emotional connection. Brands can create virtual tours, immersive product demos, or experiential marketing campaigns that allow users to interact with products in a virtual setting.

Additionally, AR and MR allow users to interact with digital content overlaid on the physical world. This interaction can make brand experiences more engaging and memorable. For instance, the Ikea Place app lets customers see how furniture would look in their homes before purchasing.

And, of course, XR provides brands with a new source of user data. This offers insights into consumer behaviour, preferences, and engagement patterns, allowing brands to refine their storytelling strategies and create more effective campaigns.

We recently delivered an MR experience for our client Endeavour Energy with a six-metre long Storywall that used smart ink, UHD projectors and touch sensitive panels to bring to life the firm’s plans for a low-carbon future as a multisensory storytelling experience.

It’s a big format mural with printed illustrations that depict the future vision for energy distribution broken down to a number of “storylines”, with overlaid animated clips onto each storyline via projection mapping, augmenting and expanding on the analog media with digital sequences to create an arresting effect.

It’s also highly interactive, achieved via innovative capacitive ink technology, which turns the fixed printed media on the wall into a “touch screen” and allowing the audience to tap on the stories they want to know more about.

TikTok still on top

Photo of Stanley insulated container.

Credit: Stanley US

Despite facing a ban in the US and restrictions in other countries TikTok shows no sign of slowing down. The app’s recommendation algorithm surfaces trends with incredible speed and savvy brands can, if they are quick, leverage them. Many of us saw the amazing footage of the Stanley Cup that had survived one TikTok user’s car fire with the ice inside it still tinkling away. Stanley, already a pretty savvy social media marketer, jumped on this immediately with its CEO posting his own TikTok video promising the fire victim not just a replacement cup but also a new car.

The same recommendation algorithm is acting as a brand discovery engine for Gen Z for everything from books to cooking ingredients. What this means, for everything from music to cookery, to books is that consumers are no longer moving along the traditional marketing funnel from intent to purchase and advocacy. Instead, TikTok users are held in a loop – Community, Engagement, Discovery, Purchase, Review and repeat.

Creators are fuelling this cycle of new product discovery and are becoming ever more important to the channel and more widely. At SXSW the BBC announced a new partnership with TikTok to find the next generation of TV talent co-creating content on the app and bring them onto our (non-smartphone) screens.

Biotech meditation

Photo of woman wearing VR googles with distorted CGI cityscape in the background.

Credit: Inside Mental Health

With a number of healthcare clients we are always excited to discover new innovations in the space. A breakout theme at the always showstopping Immersive Futures Lab at SXSW this year was how technology could be used to read emotions and boost our mental health.

Extended Reality (XR) and spatial computing are revolutionising how social and mental health issues are addressed, offering immersive and interactive experiences that foster greater understanding, empathy, and engagement.

Various VR applications and games are being developed to provide mental health therapy and support. These include grief processing, mindfulness apps, VR-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) tools, and stress reduction programs.

The technologies create powerful platforms for storytelling and education, allowing users to experience situations and perspectives that were previously inaccessible. By creating immersive, empathetic, and educational experiences, the applications can reduce stigma, provide effective therapy, and build supportive communities.

AI in everything

Abstract CGI image of technology, including a circuit board in the shape of a brain.

Image credit: Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

As Futurist Amy Webb pointed out recently, “AI is going to run out of internet soon” in terms of data to train on. As impossibly huge as the internet seems to us, it is small by the standards of AI training data which comprises trillions of data points.

Content publishers have woken up to the value of their data to AI firms and are either blocking access to it, doing licensing deals or, as in the case of Getty Images, suing for copyright infringement to the tune of over a trillion dollars.

So, the next thing AI companies will seek to gather data from is us – how we go about our day-to-day, how we interact, what our apartments and offices look like and how we get to work in the morning. There will be wearables with us 24/7 from smart glasses to smart rings, gathering as much data about us and our day-to-day as possible from multiple sensors.

This combination of AI, the Internet of Things and biotechnology is being called the next Technology Supercycle which will let AI evolve from Large Language Models to Large Action Models. From being able to predict what we should say next, these will know what we should do next.

Here are three AI-powered wearables already on the market:

  • AI Pin – A small wearable that magnetically clips to your clothing. Incorporates widescreen camera, microphones, smartphone connection and a laser keyboard that can project onto the user’s hand as an interface with the device.
  • Limitless Pendant – Limitless pendant is a coin-sized wearable device that lets you summarise and take notes of all audio accessible through its web app.
  • Rabbit R1 – An AI-powered assistant that connects to apps on your phone and learns how to perform tasks using them.

We’ll be publishing a white paper soon on how brands can stay human, connected and engaging in an increasingly AI-powered world. If you’re interested in receiving a copy get in touch or follow us on our social channels for updates!

   strategy, future trends, brand, marketing, marketing effectiveness, social media
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