Monday 10 December 2018

Fast-moving 2018 is 'never normal'

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Trends expert Meabh Quoirin of the Foresight Factory says change is the new constant
Trends expert Meabh Quoirin of the Foresight Factory says change is the new constant

Michael Cullen

While 2008 was the 'new normal' for Irish marketers, 2018 is the 'never normal', trends expert Meabh Quoirin of the Foresight Factory says. Back in 2008, consumers felt lighter wallets as they were held hostage by the finance titans, especially the banks. "Now, there's serious uncertainty, with disruption here to stay - change is the new constant," she insists.

Speaking at a Trendstream seminar for MCCP clients and suppliers, Quoirin said consumers are doing well, despite worries about Brexit, Donald Trump and the vacuum created by the suspension of the Stormont Assembly. What are the forces driving the 'never normal'? For starters, gone are the days when change was fashionable. Major political events have created a world were little is trusted or taken at face value anymore.

There's nervousness around jobs and global warming. The phenomenon known as the 'filter bubble' was born out of circles of connection through social media, forming a picture of how we think and see the world. People are becoming less aware of the wider world, with many 73pc having 'unfollowed' links to disengage from other interests.

One in five European consumers don't find it easy to get the right information on food and the ratio is one in four consumers in Ireland and Germany. Quoirin says the study showed that today's uncertain consumer believes it's fine to be fallible - in fact, honesty is the new authentic.

The mood is reflected in ads for Reebok #Perfect Never, fronted by US fashion model Gigi Hadid, and Gatorade's #Fuel Your Defeat, where people must dig deep before they do well.

Can brands bridge the gap in today's 'never normal'? Quoirin says the biggest consumer hurdle brands face is about being successful where reality and hopes clash. Impulsive acts and spontaneity have taken a hit as people 'play it safe'. Amid fears of robots taking people's jobs, the UN is investing in artificial intelligence (AI) to combat mass unemployment.

An image from photographer Barry Delaney’s exhibition
An image from photographer Barry Delaney’s exhibition

"A lot of automation is on the way," Quoirin says. "It's coming, whether we like it or not."

It will be more than just bots packing supermarket shelves. Singapore bank OCBC launched Emma, a chatbot that after just three months' training can answer all possible customer questions about home and renovation loans. Emma ended up securing over S$70m in loans over a year. As regards data privacy, Quoirin says only 14pc of consumers are strongly opposed to data sharing.

* By acquiring exclusive rights and commissioning original movies, Sky has launched Sky Cinema Original Films. The first film to be released, animated comedy 'Monster Family', will hit screens in March, with Rob Cohen's action drama 'The Hurricane Heist' set to follow in April and sci-fi crime thriller 'Anon' and British production 'Final Score' coming later this year.

As part of the move, Sky plans to show its original films in cinemas at the same time. Fans of Sky Atlantic's Arctic drama 'Fortitude' will be pleased to learn that the third and final series returns later this year, with Dennis Quaid returning as the lead character. Helen Mirren will play the title role of 'Catherine the Great', which Sky will screen next year.

* Both RTÉ and independent stations around the country have moved into radio voice-activation controls for radio. The Radioplayer now allows listeners direct access to every Irish radio station for users of the Amazon Alexa devices. Voice control means there's no need for touch screens or keyboards.

Customers enable the device using the Alexa app for iOS or Android, or simply by saying "Alexa, enable Irish Radioplayer."

Once enabled, customers start the Radioplayer on demand by just using their voice, by saying "Alexa, ask Irish Radioplayer to play Today FM", or "Alexa, open Irish Radioplayer." Multinational companies leading the voice charge claim it's how consumers will control their phone, car, house and even their fridge in the future.

* Photographer Barry Delaney's 'Americans Anonymous' opens at the Ranelagh Arts Centre on Thursday, February 22 for two weeks.

On show will be 30 images from Delaney's election-year travels from New York to San Francisco, through the Rust Belt and down the Mississippi. He explores the landscape through its people who helped pave the way for Donald Trump's rise to power. His unique alternative take on modern America is formed from a lifelong interest, documenting the hidden and real parts of the US off the normal tourist trail.

* Musgrave has awarded the SuperValu creative account to TBWA\Dublin after a final contest with Chemistry. The business was at DDFH&B. Allianz has signed up as sponsor of INM's GAA 'The Throw-In' podcast series. The deal includes all stings and promotions to a GAA audience of 900,000 unique users on Also on the sponsorship front, Diageo has announced a new festival director for the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival, with Sinead Dunphy joining from the Cork International Choral Festival.

  • Michael Cullen is editor of;

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