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A new year brings exciting opportunities, new challenges, and inevitable change. Looking at culture as a whole in 2018 we anticipate remarkable advancements in experiences, human behaviour and communications. Unique cultural fusions, provocative expressions and radical movements driven by shifting consumer trends, societal values and technological development all play a role in our transitioning culture this upcoming year.


1. Tech - #TechTakeover
Gone are the days when we dreamed of having a house robot like Rosie from the Jetsons or a Star Trek Replicator 3D printer. The future has arrived but are we ready for it to become as evolved and responsive as humans? While this idea of the humanization of technology is not something new, this upcoming year we predict a continued accelerated anthropomorphism of technology. Dare we mention the ever feared “singularity”? From our beloved smartphones to efficacy of online orders, meal-prep delivery and transportation services, technology is making every aspect of our lives easier, but at a price. Trading privacy for convenience has become second nature. This interconnectivity of humanity and technology has led brands to consider how to further integrate technology in a more humanistic way. Voice-activated devices like Amazon Alexa or Google Home have become more than household information gurus. People are starting to deeply engage with these artificially intelligent devices, beyond asking for weather reports, often responding with a “please” and “thank you”. This rapidly increasing change in our culture, the Internet of Things is sure to not only increase work productivity, retail sales and personal convenience, but also help brands understand our own humanity. Welcome to the future.


2. Empathy - #KindnessCounts
2017 was a less than desirable year in the kindness and empathy department, from the deeply unsettling political climate to fake news and mass inequality. The good news is that with all this injustice, people have become empowered to stand up for what is right and voice their opinions. In 2018, we foresee a shift towards these notions of empathy and caring within cultural behaviour, brand communications and experiences. People are craving change and resonating with purposeful brands who advocate social good. Think of how wonderful it feels knowing when you buy a pair of Warby Parker glasses, someone in need gets the gift of sight. Perhaps we should think of where learning about kindness starts. The innovators at WeWork have launched an innovative elementary school, called WeGrow, that fosters “conscious entrepreneurship” among young students. This notion of reimagining the classroom to nurture the growth, spirit and minds of young people has us excited and thinking about potential momentum outside the classroom. The deviation towards graciousness is also taking the publishing industry by storm. People are responding to “UpLit”, uplifting literature, that transports the reader away from the gloom of current affairs to connect with and understand different cultures, societal perspectives and ultimately develop empathy for others. Being kind really never goes out of style.


3. Best of Both Worlds - #DynamicDuos
In a day and age when everything we could ever want is at our fingertips, acquiring instant gratification is expected. In 2018, we predict seeing more hybrid fusions of things that go really well together, from health and wellness categories to food and entertainment. We anticipate 2018 to be the year of a more decadent and culturally rich PB&J amalgamation. Craving Netflix and Chill? Netflix released their own strains of weed, "The Netflix Collection," to promote their new series Disjointed so you can reap the benefits of ultimate relaxation. Talk about living the high life! 2018 is the year for the meeting of minds; a cultural melting pot of innovation. At a time when there is much uncertainty and an accelerated pace of change, we are seeing the value in the integration of ideas. In the health and wellness sector, Ayurvedic medicine and beauty is gaining great popularity because of this synthesis of old world healing amidst new world chaos. In the food industry, health and convenience are joining forces to cater to the shifting needs of consumers who are looking for more authentic variety. Interest in Middle Eastern cuisine has skyrocketed due to the sumptuous fusion of savory and sweet while catering to the growing adoption of the vegetarian lifestyle. This year, the idea of coming together to experience something truly unique and share in something greater than ourselves is not only refreshing but also exciting to see such demand for inclusion in our seemingly homogenous society. After all, variety is the spice of life.


4. Experience - #Living
Contrary to popular belief, brick-and-mortar is alive and thriving! In 2018 there will be an increased demand for unique brand experiences and immersive design, like the blurring of URL (online) with IRL (in real life) retail experiences. Amidst a vastly digital world, consumers are craving memorable brand extensions they can interact with in a more tangible way. Luxury department store giant, Nordstrom recently introduced a refreshing concept store called, Nordstrom Local, offering spa services, a garment tailor, personal stylists and a bar in lieu of clothing. Focusing on the lifestyle aspects of their brand, Nordstrom, enables consumers to experience the changing retail landscape. Sonos’ first flagship store invites consumers participate in a unique listening experience by testing out their products in seven different styled pods and lounge areas. Online stores like Amazon and Glossier have extended their boundaries beyond the online realm to cultivate a more tangible brand experience, drawing fans to immerse themselves within alluring branded environments. This upcoming year we will see the importance of connected environments that adapt fluidly to accommodate individual consumer tastes, forming tribes as a result of these meaningful relationships. Focusing on the customer journey enables greater brand experiences, which lead to building stronger brand communities, resonance and loyalty. At the end of the day we all want to be a part of a memorable experience that leaves us feeling something.


5. Transparency - #TheRealDeal
In the oversaturated world we live in, with the constant inundation of information and rampant fake news, it’s hard to find the truth in it all. Consumers are clamouring to attain authentic information and are basing their purchase decisions on how transparent a company is with respect to ideation, sourcing, production, ethics and communication. In addition to animal welfare standards, trade certification and sustainable production, GMO transparency is top-of-mind for most consumers. Online retailer, Everlane, prides themselves on their “radical transparency” objective. The company’s exceptional quality products are bolstered by their commitment to ethical factory production and reasonable price points. Brands are increasingly encouraging consumers to become involved in vocalizing their brand experiences as well as connecting them to other peers to create a more trustworthy and relatable relationship, like AirBnb’s peer review policy. Open communication leads to stronger trust, brand resonance and overall loyalty longevity. In 2018, we predict the importance of transparency to increase twofold as it not only enables consistent and open communication but also encourages ethical practices, empowering brands to champion social good. In a "post-truth world", it’s time for the real deal.


6. Imperfection - #ItIsWhatItIs
This past year we saw the dynamic shift in culture to unabashedly embrace imperfection. From the ugly food movement, to disdain for the term “anti-aging” in the beauty aisle, society is embracing a more lived-in and relaxed outlook. In 2018, we foresee this inevitable and defiant turn away from perfection and inauthenticity towards a more natural and truthful essence. The comforting Danish sentiment, Hygge, may have dominated 2017, but Wabi-Sabi has made its grand appearance. This Japanese aesthetic and world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection deeply resonates in this time of uncertainty when we must accept what is and move forward because change is inevitable. Wabi-sabi stems from the three marks of existence in Buddhism: impermanence, suffering and emptiness. Perhaps the increased enthusiasm for imperfection is a reaction to the chaos of the times despite our natural human tendencies to crave and create order. Aesthetically, we will start seeing more depictions of distorted reality with overlapping, gritty textures and illusionary digital glitches as if to express the transitional process of letting go. Sonically, dissonant and warped sound bites will permeate our ears as more musicians use these experimental notes as a distress call or a way of breaking away from the pattern of monotony. This call to foster imperfection and the unsurmountable unpredictability of the future proves our humanity. What makes us different makes us human.

7. Indulgence - #TreatYourself
In 2018 we give you permission to go forth and indulge. This year we forecast a major focus on elevating basic comfort as luxury: from sheet sets and mattresses to opulent fashion apparel and meals, get ready for the red carpet to be rolled out for you! Tiffany & Co’s home and accessory line celebrates the quintessential everyday object in luxury form, including a $1500 coffee canister, a $9000 ball of yarn and a $10,000 decorative bird’s nest; all crafted in sterling silver of course. Within the food category, comfort foods will appear in unexpected, more refined establishments. We’re starting to see a resurgence in upscale dining featuring classic dishes like meatloaf, chicken nuggets, tater tots, deviled eggs and the ever popular edible cookie dough. At the bar, high-end cocktails, house-made sodas and specialty health-centered juices will reign. This notion of basic comfort as luxury gives us a pass to take it easy and give into temptation. Go ahead, it’s time to treat yourself. Let’s be honest, you deserve it.


8. Fempowerment - #FutureIsFemale
Grab your soapbox, your handmade protest posters, your sisters and your voice! It’s time women were heard #TimesUp. This year the world saw throngs of outraged women (and men) rallying together to champion equality amidst a turbulent political climate alongside an astonishing amount of sexual harassment scandals. Fiery hashtags dominated our newsfeeds: #FutureIsFemale #PussyGrabsBack #ImWithHer #IAmANastyWoman #HeForShe #YesForAllWomen #PantsuitNation #EverydaySexism and the ever poignant #metoo. Women have been silenced for far too long and this year we anticipate an even stronger force of fempowerment: a sisterhood on steroids. According to Merriam-Webster online, “feminism” was the word of the year, as throughout 2017 it’s popularity rose 70% in searches! While we present this idea of fempowerment as a top trend, we recognize that feminism is a defensive strategy that will continue to build momentum. The proliferation of online support from social media influencers, brand ambassadors and the everyday woman has enabled the feminist movement to gain further traction. What we find most exciting is the capability of something so personal garnering extensive attention that it evolves into a collective movement. Banding together to rally behind each other is one of the most beautiful ways we can celebrate our shared humanity. "Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.” - Anonymous.

invok brands // January 2018

Image Sources: // Google // Sonos

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