ZEITGUIDE TO WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN 2017
Happy new year to you all! We are excited to continue being your ZEITGUIDEs for 2017.
2016 was full of surprises, which we’ll only begin to see the consequences of this year. To help get you ready, here are the seven things you need to know:
1. For the business world, the goal is resilience. Both Brexit and the election of Donald Trump show how so-called black swans—the thing you never imagined, but that afterward seems inevitable—can derail well thought out strategies. (Indeed, as the speed of these events picks up, from global warming disasters to political revolutions, we will be hit by more such surprises.) You must be prepared to recover from what you’re not prepared for.
2. On the digital front, we’re seeing a new battle for relevancy with consumers. Legacy companies—from retailers to media outlets—are becoming more digital and experimenting with direct-to-consumer. (Think CBS skipping Hulu and going direct with CBS All Access.) Digital first companies are becoming more “experiential.” (Think Netflix releasing movies in theaters, Amazon opening stores, etc.) Key for both is figuring how to add the capabilities they don’t have. That’s going to drive more mergers and strategic partnerships, for instance, between media and telecom companies (Time Warner and AT&T), hardware companies and software companies or sellers and producers in the retail space.
3. On both a political and consumer level, we will continue to see a desire for transparency and truth. Fake news, fake apps, fake accounts (Wells Fargo) and fake environmental credentials (Volkswagen) have taken a toll. Validation and certification isn’t just for organic food any more.
4. Gloves are coming off. The volume on the gender-race-ethnicity-faith arguments are going to get turned up to 11, especially on campuses and in boardrooms. Inclusion isn’t just good for culture; it’s great for business. As Beth Comstock, Vice Chair of GE, says, “In a world that needs to serve more niches and psychographics, you need to hire people different from you so that your company represents all the people they are serving.” Many of our women friends and clients will be ready to fight in 2017.
5. We are approaching the Third Wave of the Internet, as author Steve Case calls it. The first wave was getting people onto the internet, the second was building apps and programs that expanded its utility and value. This next stage will see improved AI and internet of things technology connect all our data instantly and seamlessly, transforming industries that have been only marginally changed by the internet so far. Think health care, education and even agriculture. But it will also take years of work and perseverance because of the complexity involved. Now is the time to envision and prepare for an information age that transcends apps and gadgets.
6. We are in the age of the superconsumer—or, if you’re a media company, call it the superfan. These are the 10% of people who drive 30% of sales or 50% of profit growth. Companies that cultivate and use their loyalty intelligently can build out from it; whether that’s spin-offs, sequels, or direct-to-consumer brands. The smartest companies will figure out how to tap into this network to improve their products and services.
7. There are only 1-2 dominant players in many of the verticals, and they are all digital-first, platform-based companies. Netflix in paid streaming media; Airbnb in travel; Uber in transport; Google and Facebook in digital Advertising; Amazon in retail. Will they all stay on top or be uprooted by legacy companies transforming digitally, or a new upstart that will capture consumers?
In our ZEITGUIDE 2017 cultural almanac, we go deeper and more specific on how these trends affect your specific industries and the world around you. If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, you can order it here.