Rob Dalton / February 9, 2017

2020 foresight

Expect deeper engagement in the next
three years

Everyone’s been making predictions lately. There’s a lot of talk about “customer-centric marketing” and “customer experience”—as if that weren’t the sole focus of commerce from the beginning of time. What’s different these days is the sheer volume of lightweight digital interactions, which results in a general attention fatigue (and often straight-up malaise). And while the bard reminds us that “brevity is the soul of wit,” Shakespeare wasn’t down with Twitter.

When I work with clients to create a new campaign or brand identity, I exhort them to invest the time it takes to hone a message down to its core essentials. “I’d have written a shorter letter but didn’t have time” and all that. In fact, I often employ the simple haiku to build consensus, stripping away all extraneous verbiage to get to the heart of the matter. I start these sessions by writing this poem on a whiteboard:

If you can’t say it
in the length of a haiku
it’s not worth saying.

But in light of all the prognostications being flung about, I am compelled to expand upon a few core beliefs in a somewhat longer form. Here are the fundamental shifts in human behavior that I see emerging as we race toward the improbable-sounding year 2020…

  1. The surgeon general cites not cancer or heart disease but “isolation” as the greatest public health crisis. People will grow impatient with Facebook’s thin connections and Twitter’s ceaseless vitriol and seek more meaningful interactions that provide emotional sustenance, not just ephemeral serotonin hits.
  2. The continuing rise of self-publishing outlets like YouTube and Twitch will further erode the foundations of “traditional media,” resulting in a bewildering, miraculous Mandelbrot set of quality original content that finds fanatically loyal niche audiences.
  3. Political turmoil will continue to deteriorate quality of life for the poor and “middle” class, resulting in a shift back toward a more liberal ethos; the rage and folly of the last election will turn out to be a temporary return to anachronistic norms—the last gasp of white-male hegemony before we resume moving toward a more unified, “one species” philosophy.
  4. The effects of global warming will become so blatant that the last remaining skeptics will be shamed back under their rocks, and people will gravitate toward products and services that honor a triple-bottom-line approach to conscious consumerism.
  5. Humanity will begin to struggle with increasingly smart AIs that constantly monitor our behavior, leading to a new movement that honors our need to be present for the physical world, free of machines (at least now and then).

These trends will influence the work we do in a fundamental way: More than ever, people want to engage with real, emotionally relevant, deeply human stories. We all want to feel like we belong. We want our opinions to matter. And the organizations that develop better ways to nurture genuine connections—through dynamic engagement and the ancient art of storytelling, brought to life in myriad new modes—will rise and build powerful tribes of loyalists.

And if these thoughts on our near future seem overly optimistic, I would remind you that the love you take is equal to the love you make. As old Albert Einstein put it, “Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.”

Put another way…

Turn off the machines
and turn on your empathy—
we’re a single tribe.

Rob Dalton is executive creative director at Wire Stone, where he elevates the collective culture and scribbles poetry on whiteboards.