Four Things We Learned at Decoded Future New York

Date:Thursday, October 31, 2019
Author:Charlie Gilbert

Our eagle-eyed team – made up of Emilia Morano-Williams, Marian Berelowitz and Emily Seger – reveal the four trends that emerged from the US edition of our flagship innovation summit on October 18.

4. Brands becoming authentic activists

Speakers from influencer brands highlighted the opportunity of connecting with consumers via activism – provided that purpose is woven into a company’s DNA.

Nancy King, Airbnb’s director of global insights and strategy, said that activist marketing must originate from a brand’s core values in order to appear credible. “Purpose-driven communications are not short-term plays,” she said.

Jay Curley, Ben & Jerry’s global head of marketing, said the opportunity lay with taking the “creativity and intelligence we apply to creating products and services to creating change”. He cited the example of Dove, which successfully transitioned from promoting women’s self-esteem to actively lobbying for protection against discrimination.

3. Connecting via sustainable ideologies

From improving packaging habits to addressing the issues of finite resources, Decoded Future revealed how interactions with consumers are being recalibrated thanks to new eco-conscious initiatives.

Ernel Simpson, TerraCycle’s head of research and development, spoke of the plan to transition Loop – the company’s reusable packaging service – into supermarkets. “You’ll walk into your local supermarket and see a Pepsi in a reusable container, put a deposit down, and bring it back when you’re done,” he said.

Emily Scarlett, H&M’s USA’s head of communications, said the fashion industry has a responsibility to “come together” and address the issue of sustainability. The brand is making its sustainable techniques and technology open source, in the hope of educating other manufacturers.

2. Balancing technologies

Decoded Future’s panel discussions delved into the tools helping people to mitigate technology’s potentially corrosive impact on their wellbeing. In Selective Use of Tech, Jennifer Birch, Fitbit’s senior manager of CMF design, emphasised the importance of creating tech tools that “add to the value, but don’t add to the noise in [users’ lives]”.

Mutale Nkonde, a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, spoke about the implementation of AI into our everyday lives. “We need to get rid of the blind faith that math is always impartial, which is statistically not true,” she said. “[Implementing AI is] going to take human interpretation.”

1. Serving the not-so niches

Tessa Mansfield, our chief creative officer, predicted that, in 2020, brands will start realising the lucrative potential of ‘not-so-niche’ groups, with femtech (innovation in women’s wellness) and cannabis already catering to an array of unmet needs.

The femtech sector, in fact, has the potential to become a $50bn market by 2025 – though this, said SteelSky Ventures founding partner Maria Velissaris, is a fraction of the size of the opportunity, with menopause and menstrual health being particularly underfunded areas.

Cannabis, meanwhile, is appealing to the ‘sober curious’ – those who are reducing their alcohol consumption. With new beverages incorporating THC and CBD, cannabis has the potential to become integrated into conventional social experiences.

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