“Gentlemen, it’s time to think outside the closet and take him up the aisle in style,” advises a recently posted video from House of Fraser that’s aimed at gay grooms, part of the series “Style My Dilemma.” Gay marriage became legal in England and Wales earlier this year, and the U.K. department store is among the brands now seeking to leverage this landmark. It’s only logical, given that recent research forecasts that close to half of 20-year-olds in the U.K. will never legally tie the knot; meanwhile, more than 1,400 same-sex couples there got married in the three months after legalization, according to new stats.

Virgin Holidays jumped on the opportunity as soon as the bill passed in the British parliament last year, with a print ad promoting same-sex honeymoons, and more recently, Virgin awarded a dream honeymoon to a gay couple as the prize in a magazine contest. Travel is an obvious category to benefit from the bump in weddings, and various hospitality brands are vying for marriage-minded LGBT consumers. In the U.S., these include Marriott and Hilton, which recently sponsored a wedding at its Beverly Hills hotel for a couple who were plaintiffs in the drive to overturn California’s ban against same-sex marriage.

While some marketers may hesitate to explicitly target same-sex brides or grooms, today’s consumers expect brands to help drive social change and are increasingly open-minded about the changing face of families. Noted Virgin Holidays’ head of communications in The Telegraph: “People do mainly think of us as a family travel brand, so it’s quite a big step for us to say we are family, and we are for all.”

With expectations of fresh and better-for-you ingredients, sophistication, customization and innovation, Millennials are shaking up the restaurant industry. Thatrestaurant inMcDonaldaurant industry.n, constant entertahave depended on twenty- and thirtysomethings are facing as young customers switch to fast-casual chains like Chipotle, as The Wall Street Journal reported this week. According to Technomic data compiled for the Journal, the percentage of 19- to 21-year-old Americans visiting McDonald monthly has fallen by almost 13 points since 2011; visits by customers ages 22 to 37 have been flat.

Raised in a foodie-focused culture, Millennials care where their food comes from and what it’s made out of. Fast casuals like Chipotle and Panera are investing more in ingredients than in marketing to build credibility, RBC analyst David Palmer told Forbes. A key reason Panera recently decided to cut artificial additives in its offerings was to appeal to this demographic, reports USA Today. The chain is also seeking to cut high-fructose corn syrup from its beverages. Chipotle specifies which ingredients are local and/or organic (and “responsibly raised,” when it comes to meat), and is working to eliminate GMOs and hydrogenated oils.

Chipotle is also a hit with Millennials because it offers many combinations, even with a limited number of ingredients. Rapidly expanding U.S. chain Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza, which lets diners choose ingredients and watch their pizzas being assembled, is pinning its success to Millennial tastes. Food-obsessed Millennials are also interested in unique flavors and a little gourmet flair. Pizza Hut is evolving its offerings along these lines, as Ad Age reports. Wendy’s is putting some sandwiches on ciabatta bread or pretzel rolls to attract Millennials.

Restaurant chains are also focusing on technology to lure Millennials. Wyman Roberts, CEO of Chiliinsparent Brinker International, cited an emphasis on tech to engage Millennials in a recent analyst call, including tabletop tablets for ordering food. Starbucks, Wendy’s and others use mobile payment and loyalty initiatives. Branded apps that enable smartphone ordering and payment have piqued the interest of quick service restaurants trying to build better customer relationships, reports Nation’s Restaurant News.

McDonald’s, meanwhile, is focusing on rebranding and rethinking everything from its menu to its marketing. Watch for other established brands to work much harder to capture the Millennial diner.

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Over the past year, Americans on average started spending more time with mobile devices than desktop computers—significantly more time, as this chart from comScore shows. But according to comScore’s latest study, it’s not that Americans are using their desktops any less (usage actually grew by 1 percent), it’s that time spent with digital media overall has increased—by as much as 24 percent in the past year. (Indeed, as eMarketer notes in reporting on a different study, “People are pretty much glued to technology 24/7.”)

The jump in engagement with mobile has been driven by rising use of apps, which now account for a majority of time spent with digital media, comScore finds. The study details Americans’ app-usage habits, finding that most people don’t acquire new apps regularly—two-thirds of smartphone users didn’t download any apps in a month. The winners so far are few: Google and Facebook own all but one (Pandora) of the top eight most-used apps.

comScore notes that despite the engagement seen on apps, they haven’t attracted the ad dollars that the audience would seem to warrant. It doesn’t help that apps have not always been brand-friendly, although that’s changing with new ideas like “chatvertising.” Meanwhile, given that mobile commerce mostly takes place outside of apps, as a Recode columnist points out, retailers and other brands must focus on all aspects of the mobile experience.

Read our roundups in magazine form on Flipboard, via the iOS and Android app or online; click here to find our magazine collection.

-The Pew Research Center spotlights the 20th edition of the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies.

-The New York Times takes a look at how brands are retooling for Millennial consumers.

-Mashable features an infographic on Gen Z’s distinguishing characteristics and what they mean for marketers.

-The New York Times profiles Millennials, dubbing them “Generation Nice,” thanks to their interest in social good and their empathy.

-MIT Technology Review releases its annual list of “35 innovators under 35.”

-From digital wallets to biometric scanners, CNN reports on how we’ll pay for things in the future.

-The New York Times analyzes how web search trends differ in America’s toughest and easiest places to live—and what that says about rising inequality.

-The proving ground for businesses in Africa is Nigeria, The Economist reports.

-A Mashable Spotlight explores the future of “quantified self” through the lens of one man’s experience.

-The Economist takes a look at how the rise in big festivals is affecting the music industry.

Continue reading “Weekly Roundup: ‘Generation Nice,’ the future of payments and ‘athleisure’” »

While children of past generations were an economic boon—contributing labor and household income—they now have the opposite effect. A new U.S. Department of Agriculture report finds that an average middle-class American couple will spend more than $245,000 to raise a child born in 2013 to age 18; adjusted for inflation, the sum represents a 24 percent rise since 1960. The hefty expense is one reason more couples are considering the child-free life.

The U.S. birthrate is half what it was in 1960, and birthrates in most of Europe have experienced a similar downward trajectory. Other regions are following suit. Euromonitor has forecast that by 2020, the average number of children per household in Asia and Latin America will fall to the global average of 1.0, down from 2.2 and 2.3, respectively, in 1980. As many as one in five women in the U.S., the U.K., Ireland, Canada and Australia end their childbearing years without having children, twice as many as a generation ago, according to Maclean’s.

Other factors driving the decline in birthrates include women’s rise in the workforce around the world, the trend toward delaying marriage and children, and changing cultural norms—foregoing kids is becoming more socially acceptable and less likely to be regarded as selfish. Meanwhile, some Millennials may be reluctant to expend the same time and attention as their helicopter parents, and in this high-stress era, apt to see kids as just another stress factor. (A telling book title from 2013: I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids.)

The growth of DINKs (dual income, no kids) around the world is giving a boost to high-end brands—in Mexico, for instance, this growing cohort is ”a gold mine for leading brands, and their spending habits are shoring up consumer demand,” per Reuters. Travel brands are increasingly catering to child-free customers, while some marketers are targeting PANKs or PUNKs—the “professional aunts/uncles, no kids” who spend a healthy chunk of discretionary income on the young kids in their lives.

Image credit: Amazon


While wearable devices still lack a killer app that will drive mainstream adoption, smart wristbands may have a long-term role to play as a site-specific device: a way to gain quicker entry to or make faster purchases at events like music festivals or destinations like theme parks, at least for those consumers willing to link up credit card information beforehand.

Last year Disney started rolling out its NFC-enabled MagicBand, a wristband that lets Disney World attendees make contactless payments and acts as a park pass, among other things. Disney reports that for the first full quarter in which the band was available to all guests, roughly half chose to use it, although it’s unclear how many of those enabled the payments feature.

Lately, smart wristbands have been popping up at music festivals. Lollapalooza in Chicago offered Lolla Cashless, RFID-enabled bracelets that let attendees seamlessly buy refreshments and merchandise by scanning their wrists and entering a PIN. PayPal introduced similar bracelets to VIP-section guests at this summer’s Low Festival in Spain. And Barclays helped publicize its new bPay bands by inviting attendees of May’s Pride in London to request one online, then use it to make faster purchases at the LGBT event, which the bank sponsored. bPay bands were also available for British Summer Time concerts in Hyde Park.

Meanwhile, Cantora is an entertainment tech firm working on Nada, a project to create wristbands for concertgoers that combine payment and ticket functions. “It’s so f—ing hard to get someone to download something on their phone or connect with you on Facebook,” co-founder Nick Panama explained to CNBC. “There’s an opportunity to make live events a connected experience: To make who you see and what you buy as the new ‘like’ or ‘follow’ button.”

Image credit: Lollapalooza

Canadians are increasingly eager to pay by mobile but are frustrated by the roadblocks: sites that are not mobile friendly, submitting payment details, keeping track of several passwords, etc. According to a recent global study from PayPal, more than half of all Canadians have used their mobile devices for online purchases, surpassing their American neighbors. In fact, Canadians would use their smartphones to pay more often if it were possible, creating a void for retailers to fill. Canadians are frustrated that companies are not keeping up with their rapid adoption of mobile payment: One in four wants to pay more easily with their phones, and almost half (48 percent) say they would use their devices more often if everyone accepted online or mobile payments. Points of frustration for one in three Canadians include submitting payment details or keeping track of passwords or PINs. More than half of consumers are aggravated by hidden charges and taxes revealed at checkout, and registration requirements deter many shoppers too.

Brands are recognizing and responding to these consumer sentiments. In July, Visa introduced Visa Checkout in the U.S., Canada and Australia, intended as an easy and secure payment service that works on any device and in a few clicks. Enrolling is intuitive and simple, and once shoppers provide their information, they simply input a username and password to complete payment on the merchant’s website. Meanwhile PayPal is touting its own payment services in response to consumer behavior shifts, encouraging trial on mobile by offering Torontonians a cup of free coffee last month. Retailers must prioritize their responsive m-commerce platforms alongside their e-commerce ones in order to ensure seamless mobile experiences as more and more Canadians reach for their phones over their wallets.

Read our roundups in magazine form on Flipboard, via the iOS and Android app or online; click here to find our magazine collection.

-The Wall Street Journal reports that except for a few bright spots like the U.S. and the U.K., the global economy is struggling.

-The New York Times reports on the state-to-state migration of Americans since 1990, exploring the influence on economy, politics and culture.

-NPR chronicles Africa’s population growth, summarizing a UNICEF report forecasting that the continent’s population will hit 4 billion by 2100.

-“Here is everything you need to know about the Millennial consumer,” via Adweek.

-Maclean’s examines “The End of Neighbors” and why “increasingly closed-off lives” are bad for both politics and health.

-A report on the state of social relationships in the U.K. finds that “social isolation is rife,” as The Independent reports.

-Entrepreneur Tom Blomfield writes about the “World of Everything-As-A-Service,” via TechCrunch.

-The New York Times examines the evolution of the social media obituary in light of reactions to Robin Williams’ death.

-“People Are Pretty Much Glued to Technology 24/7,” per a new U.S. study spotlighted by eMarketer.

-Business Insider looks at how Millennials’ growing penchant to rent instead of buy is challenging the retail industry.

Continue reading “Weekly Roundup: Everything-as-a-service, potatoes and cereal in decline, and gender-neutral fashion” »


Behavior modification is the promise behind wearables like Fitbit and Internet of Things-powered devices like smart toothbrushes. Now, we’re seeing a crop of products in this category that get assertive in the bid to push users toward self-improvement. “Coercive tech” takes the role of drill sergeant in getting people to change behaviors. Notes Fortune, “The next wave of connected devices shame, shock and guilt you into good behavior.”

Most notably, Pavlok is an activity- and sleep-tracking wristband that delivers a small electric shock, among other punishments, when wearers don’t make progress toward goals like waking up earlier or even learning a new language. The founders of Pavlok, which ships next year, claim they have “discovered the science behind willpower and habits.” To improve posture, LumoBack is a smart belt that produces a “gentle buzz” when the wearer slouches, while digital health startup Darma is touting a sensor-embedded seat cushion that vibrates to remind users to stand up from time to time and to use better posture. More whimsically, a bookmark developed by Penguin in Brazil sends a tweet if it’s been too long since the reader has cracked a particular tome.

All this is in line with Outsourcing Self-Control, one of our 10 Trends for 2011—the idea that people will increasingly look to third parties to help them exercise self-discipline; more brands will thus assume the role of regulator, creating products, tools or other services that prevent consumers from acting on impulse, using anything from a nudge to a more assertive shove.

Image credit: Pavlok

CheeriosPeople are increasingly questioning long-held assumptions about who does what in the household and makes the most sacrifices. For instance, a recent survey from the moving company Mayflower found that more than 7 in 10 Millennials would support a move for the wife’s job vs. under 6 in 10 Boomers. Last week, Max Schireson, head of Silicon Valley firm MongoDB, made headlines with a blog post in which he explained his decision to downgrade to a vice chairman role so he can better focus on his three children. “Friends and colleagues often ask my wife how she balances her job and motherhood,” he wrote. “Somehow, the same people don’t ask me.”

Marketing is starting to better reflect changing gender roles in the family, as we’ve noted in the past. Brands have mostly dropped the “doofus dad” and have started creating work that celebrates rather than mocks what fathers do. For Father’s Day this year, a Dove Men + Care press release bore the headline “It’s Time to Acknowledge the Ways Dads Care” and cited a Dove finding that while three-quarters of fathers feel responsible for their child’s emotional well-being, only 20 percent see this role reflected in media; a short film shows dads wholeheartedly participating in the upbringing of their kids. Meanwhile, a Canadian campaign for Peanut Butter Cheerios (dubbed “the official cereal of dadhood”) is an ode to the modern dad. The father in a two-minute spot deftly manages the family’s four kids, proclaiming, “This, my friends—this is ‘how to dad.’” Find an unabridged version of our State of Men report here for more on what brands are and should be doing to reflect the new modern family.

Image credit: General Mills

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SXSW: How Brands Can Get ‘Circular’ and Why They Must

New Trend Report: The Circular Economy

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Things to Watch

  • Nestlé’s animal-welfare standards
    August 28, 2014 | 10:00 am


    We wrote about rising concerns over treatment of the animals that people eat back in 2012 as brands including Burger King, McDonald’s and Hellmann’s pledged to institute more humane practices. We also included Humane Food among our Things to Watch for 2013. The trend recently picked up more steam with Nestlé’s announcement of animal welfare standards for its suppliers worldwide, following an investigation by the group Mercy for Animals.

    “The move is one of the broadest-reaching commitments to improving the quality of life for animals in the food system,” notes The New York Times, “and it is likely to have an impact on other companies that either share the same suppliers or compete with Nestlé.” Observed the influential blogger Food Babe: “People want to know where their food comes from, and in order to survive the next decade, the food industry will have to change.” —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Nestlé

  • Alternative waters
    August 19, 2014 | 1:59 pm

    Vertical Water

    With the coconut water craze going strong, watch for more variations on H2O thanks to consumer interest in more natural alternatives to soda and openness to novel products. Antioxidant-rich maple water (made from maple sap) is gaining attention, while almond water from the startup Victoria’s Kitchen has secured space at Whole Foods and Target. As the AP reports, there’s also cactus, birch and artichoke water—made from either water extracted from the plant or boiled with the ingredient in question—whose makers tout their vitamin and mineral content, as well as their infection-fighting properties. —Allison Kruk

    Image credit: Vertical Water

  • Smart mannequins
    August 13, 2014 | 5:01 pm


    One of our Things to Watch in 2014, beacons have been popping up everywhere from airports to restaurants to museums. But the biggest pickup for these devices—low-cost transmitters that use Bluetooth to precisely track consumers’ mobile phones and send targeted content—has been among retailers. Now, British retailers including House of Fraser, Hawes & Curtis and Bentalls are testing mannequins outfitted with VMbeacon technology from the startup Iconeme.

    A “smart mannequin” enables nearby shoppers with a related mobile app to get details about what it’s wearing and how to find the products in the store or buy them online. The big question is whether customers will be motivated to opt in; skeptics say the technology doesn’t yet provide enough real benefit. —Allison Kruk

    Image credit: Iconeme

  • De-teching apps
    August 7, 2014 | 10:55 am

    De-teching—the idea that more people will choose to temporarily log off—was one of our 10 Trends for 2011, and in our 2014 trend Mindful Living, we discussed the idea that digitally immersed consumers will try to use technology more mindfully. Perhaps ironically, several new apps aim to help people do so.

    Moment tracks phone use and alerts users when they reach their self-imposed daily limit. Pause is “designed to help us reconnect with real life”; it encourages people to use Airplane Mode and engage in real-world activities, and attempts to turn this behavior into a game among friends. Finally, Menthal is part of a research project out of Germany that helps users find out, “Are you in control of your smartphone? Or is your smartphone controlling you?” —Marian Berelowitz

  • Intuitive eating
    July 29, 2014 | 5:00 pm


    As spotlighted in our 10 Trends for 2014 report, people are becoming more interested in Mindful Living, including the notion of eating more mindfully. And with consumers showing declining interest in dieting, the idea of “intuitive eating”—paying closer attention to the body’s hunger signals rather than following a strict regimen—has been steadily gaining traction. Recent media mentions include articles in Fitness and New Zealand’s Stuff, and a Refinery 29 writer is blogging about adopting the practice. With a recent analysis of studies finding that intuitive eating can be a successful strategy for people who are overweight or obese, watch for more consumers to embrace this anti-diet philosophy. —Allison Kruk

    Image credit: Theresa Kinsella

  • Chinese mega-cities
    July 24, 2014 | 1:15 pm


    China, home to the world’s second largest rural population, is expected to add close to 300 million more urbanites by 2030, when Shanghai and Beijing will likely account for two of the world’s Top 5 mega-cities, according to new UN research. “We are observing one of the most significant economic transformations the world has seen: 21st-century China is urbanizing on a scale 100 times that seen in 19th-century Britain and at 10 times the speed,” notes a new McKinsey paper on cities and luxury markets. China’s wealth will be concentrated in these urban areas: Over the next decade, McKinsey expects Beijing, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Chongqing and Shenzhen, in addition to Hong Kong, to join the list of “top luxury cities.” —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Jakob Montrasio

  • Brands + Google Glass
    July 15, 2014 | 6:09 pm


    As Google Glass makes its way into the hands of more people (last month it became available in the U.K.), brands are experimenting with the new possibilities that the platform affords. In March, Kenneth Cole became the first to launch a marketing campaign—the “Man Up for Mankind Challenge”—through a Glass app. Users were challenged to perform and document good deeds for the chance to win a prize.

    Starwood’s new Glass app, billed as the first such app from the hospitality sector, lets people voice-search its properties, view photos and amenities, get directions and book rooms. An array of other marketers have turned out apps for early adopters, from Sherman Williams’ ColorSnap Glass (easily create a paint chip that mirrors anything in view) to Fidelity (delivers daily market quotes for Glass wearers). —Tony Oblen

    Image credit: SPG

  • Ugly produce
    July 10, 2014 | 2:45 pm


    Ugly Produce, on our list of 100 Things to Watch in 2014, is proliferating in Europe, thanks in part to government efforts to reduce the 89 million tons of food wasted in Europe each year. In France, Intermarché has been getting buzz for creating a produce section dedicated to “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables”; a whimsical ad campaign reportedly drove a 24 percent rise in store traffic.

    U.K. supermarket Waitrose recently began selling packs of tomatoes that are misshapen or have fallen off the vine naturally. And in Portugal, Fruta Feia (“Ugly Fruit”) is a cooperative launched in late 2013 that sells unsightly produce that would have gone to waste. Per The New York Times, the group already has a waiting list of 1,000 customers. In line with one of our 10 Trends for 2014, Proudly Imperfect, watch for ugly produce to catch on with both retailers and shoppers. —Jessica Vaughn

    Image credit: Intermarché

  • The $1.25 Cube
    July 3, 2014 | 12:30 pm

    As we outline in Immersive Experiences, one of our 10 Trends for 2014 and Beyond, entertainment and narratives are becoming more enveloping in a bid to capture consumers’ imagination and attention. An immersive project from JWT Israel, a winner of the Cannes Chimera challenge, aims to help people experience what it’s like to live in extreme poverty. Once it’s created, the cube will create a multisensory experience that uses tools like augmented reality to simulate sights, sounds and smells and elicit certain feelings. Participants can exit only when the person in line behind them inserts $1.25, a metaphor for the collaborative efforts needed to fight poverty. The aim is for the cube to travel to international events like the Davos conference in order to influence global leaders. —Hallie Steiner

    Image credit: JWT Israel

  • Google’s Android Auto
    June 26, 2014 | 3:00 pm



    The connected car is rapidly becoming a reality. Fast 4G LTE connections are turning vehicles into hot spots that come with a data plan, while Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android are making their way onto dashboards. This week Google introduced Android Auto, with the first compatible cars expected by year-end. Apple’s similar CarPlay, which turns the car into a platform for an iPhone’s content, was announced in March and is included in new Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo models.

    Car-based app ecosystems will provide relevant info (traffic, maps, vehicle diagnostics, restaurant suggestions) and entertainment, combined with safety precautions like voice control. As we outline in our mobile trends report, connected cars—complete with Internet hot spots, a suite of apps and sensors that communicate—will eventually link up with drivers’ homes, mobile devices and other gadgets to form a seamless system. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Android

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