As a hip, hot and happening guy, I like to check in every three years or so with the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency’s “Things to Watch” in the coming year. I do not do this every year out of fear of becoming just too trendy.
Three years ago, I was pleased that JWT Intelligence’s Ann Mack — its “director of trendspotting” — had identified “bacon everywhere” as a trend to watch in 2010. Sure enough, bacon has been just about everywhere in the past three years. Cookies. Mayonnaise. Ice cream.
These days, bacon is just about over for the trendirati. This year, Ann Mack predicts, the big thing to eat will be grass. And seeds.
Thing to Watch No. 90 is something called “teff,” the seeds of an annual grass (Eragrostis tef) common to the northern highlands of Ethiopia. When you think of nations with nutritious food, Ethiopia does not leap to mind.
“Teff is gluten-free, full of essential amino acids, high in protein, calcium and fiber, and low in fat,” Mack reports. Notice she said nothing about taste.
Also: Chia seeds, Thing to Watch No. 13. High in antioxidants, the seeds come from a plant common to southern Mexico and are believed to have nourished Aztec and Mayan peoples right up until the time European invaders gave them smallpox.
In three years, food trends have gone from delicious, but not particularly good for you, bacon to Ethiopian grass and Mexican seeds. Those not on the cutting edge will not regard this as progress, but remember: You can’t grow a Chia pet from bacon.
In a market economy, nearly everyone’s job involves selling something to someone else, or making something to sell. Spotting trends ahead of time thus is valuable to advertisers, even though everyone knows the best possible way to sell something is to buy a newspaper ad. But I digress.
Think of the value in knowing that along with grass and seeds, people in the coming year will want to eat more humane food (Thing to Watch No. 44) and more “faux meat” (TtW No. 32). Animal rights organizations have been successful in getting large firms like McDonald’s and Tyson Foods to reconsider some of their practices. Even better, some “faux meat” products have become so meat-like that they’ve fooled professional food critics.
You combine this with TtW No. 35, “food sharing,” you can envision a day when people will go to underground restaurants to eat grass, seeds, faux chicken and bacon from a hog that has agreed to voluntary euthanasia.
But they won’t tell you ahead of time what’s on the menu, because TtW No. 56 is “menu-free dining,” where foodies agree to pay steep prices for the chef’s surprise.
Bowl of yogurt
Afterward, everyone can have dessert at TtW No. 100, “yogurt shops.” Not frozen yogurt mind you, but a bowl of yogurt with stuff sprinkled in. Bacon, perhaps.
There are trends other than food, many of them Internet applications that help advertisers intrude on people’s privacy and other applications that help people avoid intrusive advertising.
The “Arabic Web” is TtW No. 8. Why should the Arabic-speaking world be immune from e-commerce? Sure, Islam is not keen on banking, which means no credit cards, but is PayPal really a bank?
People in 2013 will be acquiring TtW No. 66, “Objects with Attitude.” For example, cars linked to social networks. Already in Japan you can “friend” certain Toyotas to see information like fuel levels and more important data, like where you parked it. Also on the way: two-way conversation with your lamps, ovens, TVs, refrigerators. Got milk? Don’t know? Friend the fridge.
“As objects become interactive, marketers will need to provide them with personalities,” Ann Mack warns.
Bugged by all the friend requests and the aggressive attitudes of your appliances and advertisers? Try TtW No. 15, “cloaking.” Yes, you’ll be able to tell your smartphone, tablet or computer to hide you from social media for as long as you want.
You’re thinking, “Why not just turn it off or ignore it?” Clearly you are not trendy.
If turning off your electronic device is too hard, you probably won’t like Thing to Watch No. 61, either. It involves going outside. “Nature as Antidote” will allow you to reduce the stress of all the stuff you’ve bought and friends you’ve made.
Or you can embrace TtW No. 75, “Quiet Products,” those with a seal of approval for not making much noise. Newspapers, for example, are entirely quiet and thus very trendy.
The most heartening trend of the year is TtW No. 47: “imperfection.” Everything from lumpy heirloom tomatoes (ugly but delicious) to using real people in ads instead of models will be regarded as appealing.
What a wonderful excuse: If I have a bad day at the old keyboard, I can tell the boss, “Well, I was striving for imperfection.”
Nailed it, too.
Kevin Horrigan is a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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