Women's March 2018, New York.

New York City-based branding agency ClarkMcDowall has released its 2018 “culturescape” trend report, which identifies cultural shifts and trends as well as consumer behaviors impacting businesses and brands.

Among the key findings are: The role of hashtag activism and consumer identity; more authentic, personal interactions between people and “future reality,” where the role of time drives human behavior. The firm also cited 2018 as “the year of ‘the great awokening’ with new policies, philosophies and movements taking hold, shaking up what has been, and the ongoing impact these changes will have on the world.”

The agency said the trending report provides insights and foresight “into the driving forces and cultural shifts shaping and sharpening the world’s outlook, society, values and thinking, plus the trends, topics and behaviors that will impact the world, business and brands this year and beyond.”

The identified trends include “FR, or ‘future reality,’ where the notion of time will shift as speed becomes our most valuable asset and we become even more obsessed with the latest and greatest.” Authors of the report explained that the “value of space will morph through the growth of ambient computing and we will work hard to ensure that our children learn from tech, not by it.” Case studies in FR include the phone Jitterbug Smart and digital art practice Universal Everything.

Other notable shifts include “seeking normalcy” where people return to “established knowledge for guidance on what is essential to their 21st-century lives.” The researchers said consumers will find “comfort in active play by working through the madness and most importantly, by indulging in the human connection that comes from looking someone in the eye and sharing a meaningful experience.”

“Owning Your Identities” is a consumer behavior trend that involves ways people explore “different sides of themselves.” This trend also sees women who will “finally break through the glass ceiling, transforming #metoo into #medifferent.” Case studies cited in the report include “trendsetting celebrities, brands and products” such as “Clean & Clear’s Jazz Jennings, fem care brand Lola and Sephora’s Moisture Meter.”

Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson at the women’s march earlier this year in Los Angeles.  Broadimage/REX/Shutterstock

Also evolving is a “deconstruct/reconstruct” trend where “people will stand up and speak out for what they believe in, taking action to create positive change. New technologies and realities will challenge the status quo and Goliath brands will provide platforms for David to succeed.”

Catherine Clark, a founding partner of the firm, said that being tapped into “the big shifts that are happening in culture is fundamental for brands to play a lasting, meaningful role in people’s lives. We see Culturescapes as a way to spark new thinking, unlocking potential in brands and organizations that are looking to be part of the conversation.”

Founding partner Paul McDowall added that trends and insights are “critical for understanding cultural zeitgeists and nuances. However, the key is to define the ‘so what’ and ultimately turn that into tangible actions — brand vision, innovation, design, expression, social media.”

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