A New Year: PR Resolutions, 2013 Consumer Trends and What Minority Report Tried to Tell Us

January is a time for new beginnings and, for many of us, a laundry list of personal and professional resolutions. It’s about embracing new mantras (“Fitter, happier, more productive; regular exercise at the gym, bonding with associate employee contemporaries…”), and if you’re a marketing, communications or PR executive, it means promising to read more trade magazines, to take more professional development courses and to finally dive deep into that vague new social media platform.

For agencies, CMOs and in-house communication teams, January also means revising timelines and 2013 campaigns, identifying key target audiences, tweaking integrated marketing strategies, pooling human and digital resources for the big launch, and establishing benchmarks for success.

January also kicks off a new year of trend watching as trade show season brings forth thrilling new products launches. Take this week’s CES in Las Vegas as a prime example:

Remember the scene from Minority Report (2002) when a hologram salesperson from the Gap scans Tom Cruise’s stolen eyeballs, then proceeds to ask about his recent purchase?

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“How’d those assorted tank tops work out for you?”

11 years ago this movie was nothing more than science fiction fantasy, but this clip is a creepy reminder that the future is, in fact, now.

Taking cues from immersive consumer research, manufacturers are revealing exciting new interfaces, smart TVs, eye-tracking devices, mobile and wireless automated control,  gaming and social media integration, 3D printing and other home manufacturing products to drive the ‘consumer as producer’ trend even further in 2013.

No matter what category you’re in, keeping an eye on the trends that emerge from cross-disciplinary industries is a trick of the PR trade for calibrating exciting, newsworthy initiatives and understanding the standards that drive buzz and claim rank amongst top-tier media.  And I’m not just talking tech here, this is true across all consumer product goods and services. Whether from CES, SXSW, BIOMED, Fashion Week or The Fancy Food Show; when industries collide and cross-pollinate, innovative concepts are born for breakthrough campaigns.

Here at Fineman PR, we’ve been fine-tuning our pitch-perfect process by keeping our fingers on the pulse of emerging consumer trends in 2013 to help us predict fresh angles and stay ahead of the curve. Trendwatching.com recently revealed its top 10 consumer trends for 2013, and below are  five which held some strong PR implications. You can read the full list on Trendwatching.com:

1.   PRESUMERS and CUSTOWNERS

2013 will see a rise of Presumers and Custowners. Presumers love to get involved with, push, fund, and promote products and services before they are realized. Custowners are consumers who move from passively consuming a product towards funding/investing (if not owning a stake) in the brands they buy.  Blame it on Kickstarter and guilty-pleasure TV shows like Shark Tank – business-savvy consumers are investing financially and emotionally into brands. The new U.S. Jobs Act will also help realize this by now allowing non-accredited U.S. investors to buy micro-equity in start-ups. 

What it means for PR:   The innovation story always garners attention and established brands will be tasked with tracking momentum from competitive projects. Crowdsourcing platforms can be PR opportunities in and of themselves as more reporters and bloggers track submitted concepts and project funding status. The proliferation of start-ups and investors personally attached to pet projects will result in loyalists and self-promoters who will start claiming associations on social media profiles, and this can be an opportunity for identifying influencers early on for activating partnerships. Brands can take bold initiatives and ask more from this participating audience which can result in a better social media voice and engaging content.

2.   MOBILE MOMENTS

The next 12 months will see an explosion in Mobile Moments: products, services and experiences that will enable mobile-loving consumers to embrace (seamless) lifestyle multi-if-not-hyper-tasking. A survey of U.S. adult smartphone owners found that 63 percent of female respondents and 73 percent of male respondents don’t go an hour without checking their phone (Harris Interactive, June 2012).

What it means for PR:   When the QR code first burst on the scene a few years ago, skepticism and questions of ROI and integration for campaigns were abound. Now they are on many new CPGs (consumer packaged goods) and are relatively commonplace in major metropolitan markets. Wireless technologies and location services will be able to pull more customer information and lifestyle data on the go. As marketing seeks to draw information from consumers, it’s the job of PR to provide new brand narratives for customer participation.  Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest are giving consumers more good reasons to like or share stunning displays, visual stories and mood-setting imagery for communicating brand values in a snapshot.  If the question arises for quick and easy mobile access to content, the answer should always be “yes.” If content isn’t yet mobile friendly, 2013 is the year to make it happen.

3.   ECO-CURIOSITIES

Dubbed “New Life Inside” products by Trendwatching, an eco-mini-trend for 2013 is the phenomenon of products and services that quite literally contain new life inside. Rather than being discarded or even recycled, these products can be planted and grown, with all the eco-status and eco-stories that come with that.

What it means for PR:  Consumers are paying attention to socially responsible initiatives and ‘eco’ still excites. Trendwatching makes a good point here – that symbolic, even playful statements of brand values will resonate with consumers, especially if they are seen as expressions of larger intent to take more meaningful action.

4.   APPSCRIPTIONS:

With more than 13,000 health apps in the Apple App store, it’s not a case of finding an app but finding the BEST one and – given that this is a health issue – one that is accurate and safe. In 2013, expect consumers to turn to the medical profession and medical institutions to certify and curate these products, with doctors also ‘prescribing’ them, much as they prescribe medicines, as part of a course of treatment.

What it means for PR:  Information overload and resources for categorizing, curating and sifting content will remain a top trend story not just for healthcare, but across all other industries. Healthcare is most impacted in this arena and opportunities for streamlining electronic medical records and updating the International Classification for Diseases are important issues facing the industry in 2013.  Products or services which offer a solution, including credible third-party certifications and populating peer-reviews will need to take center-stage for SEO initiatives and for keeping reputation in check.

5.   MADE IN THE USA:

In 2013, manufacturing is coming home.  Four out of five U.S. shoppers (76 percent) notice “Made in the USA” claims and labels and are more likely to purchase products labeled as such ( Perception Research, July 2012).

What it means for PR:  Product origin stories remain stronger than ever – especially locally-sourced, hyper-local, niche online/offline communities and self-sustaining/sustainable principals. Sponsorship can go beyond visible brand associations and up to the next level of participation. Breakthrough stories can include corporate operations which are beneficial to “the greater good” but counter to growing profit-margins. Of course transparency, honesty and content remains king.

So what are your resolutions and plans looking down the barrel of 2013? We hope to see you in the future…

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