- Nostalgia has never been a more useful branding tool to have in your arsenal: think Spotify wrapped playlists as an example.
- Games form the basis of enormous online social communities and should be ignored at your peril.
Not so long ago, computers were luxury. In 1984, Apple’s first Mac cost the equivalent of more than $6,000. Fast forward to 2019, and a basic Chromebook can be bought for $200. Computers and connectivity are no longer reserved for the affluent and high-powered.
But with greater access, comes concern about its effects on our health. A desire to unplug is fast emerging among consumers. As with many commodities before it, the human touch is becoming a premium.
Across a range of mature markets, we find that higher-earning internet users spend less time on mobile, desktop and TV. In the U.S., those in the highest income bracket are also much more likely to remove social media apps or email from their phones and reduce the amount of TV they watch.
The practical implications of this trend span across consumer and B2B industries. As technology leads to more jobs becoming automated, many experts predict that high-touch, ultra-humanized jobs and services will become extremely valuable. On top of this, the move away from technology among the most affluent internet users will redefine the luxury market, placing human contact at the center of it. Marketers looking to forge a sustainable path for luxury need to keep this in mind, and consider more customized, humanized experiences.
Out with the new, in with the old: Nostalgia’s increasing role in content, personalization, and consumer choice
In a digital world where consumers can have nearly every novelty, we’re seeing something old and familiar, catch their eye. This trend is nostalgia, and it’s hot across the board; think retired logos re-emerging, vinyl sales surging, and Netflix’s top 80s-throwback show Stranger Things.
But there’s more to nostalgia than these big, generational touchstones. Throughout research we’ve conducted this past year, we’ve seen nostalgia emerge in sometimes unexpected places. It may be one of the biggest weapons in next year’s TV streaming wars, but it may also bring a new spin to personalization, and inspire a new, data-driven way of looking back for consumers.
We first observed it in studies on data privacy, as we realized consumers weren’t just uncovering their digital history to find out what data they shared. They were doing it to reflect on the past, like looking back through a diary. In a follow-up custom study among U.S. and UK internet users, we found that feelings of nostalgia are very common across all generations. Memories of childhood or teenage years was the top reason why consumers remember feeling nostalgic about something in the last year. Specific personal memories also score highly – very few said that they have felt nostalgic when being reminded of a specific moment in time shared by many. This is an important point to remember; we often talk about nostalgia in terms of shared memories, but it is a deeply personal phenomenon.
Music was found to be the most nostalgia-inducing form of media, leading across all age groups. Not just that, but music may also be the best place for a new, personalized nostalgia to emerge in 2020. One of our main predictions here has already come to pass. We felt the power of nostalgia could be harnessed by taking the end-of-year wrap up popularized by Spotify’s Wrapped or Monzo’s Year in Review and turning them into multi-year snapshots, covering even more of a user’s life, and deepening the nostalgic experience. Spotify’s latest incarnation of Wrapped and Apple Music’s new Replay feature do exactly this.
Nostalgia is never going to be far from a marketer’s toolbox. But as streaming services use nostalgia to differentiate their content and brand identity as competition ramps up in music and TV next year, nostalgia will be in the spotlight more than ever.
Two can play at that game: Gaming will transform how we connect
The gaming industry is set to be a different beast in 2020. Games are no longer episodic consumptive media but are now the basis of massive new online communities. They’re evolving into “third spaces” – a place that’s not home or work – where players can socialize on their own terms.
A number of commercial and technological developments are fuelling this. New PlayStation and Xbox devices are on the horizon, while mobile gaming will receive a boost from expanding 5G networks – making 2020 a pivotal year for the industry.
What these developments will also provide is something closer to the seamless experience that gamers crave. With this seamless experience comes multiplayer worlds easier to dip in and out of, and these are the foundations for communities to thrive.
The community element is central to how gaming is evolving, as online multiplayer games increasingly resemble a new form of social network. Collaborating, building relationships, and finding your “tribe” of like-minded people are all key social elements that give both depth and weight to the gaming experience, and they underpin the meteoric rise of gaming as a space far beyond pure entertainment.
Research we conducted among internet users in the U.S. and UK contextualizes some of these observations. We found that 1 in 4 online gamers in the UK and U.S. say gaming makes them feel closer to people online than to people in real life, while 39% of gamers report that the shared experience of playing with people is a key driver for why they play games online. Additionally, 43% of gamers say they feel they are part of a distinctive group when gaming because of shared interests.
But the gaming community is bigger than just its players; it now includes streamer-viewer relationships and the increased presence sponsorships. The gaming world is undoubtedly lucrative for brands. However, 6 in 10 gamers feel that seeing ads detract from their gaming experience – indicating that brands must be wary to balance the opportunity with the pushback. Younger games, however, have fewer reservations about brand involvement.
Whoever emerges triumphant in the gaming battle royale, social networks are going to change. As gaming worlds expand and become more complex, there could be a further transformation from the associated ecosystem of gaming activities we see now. The youngest gamers are different in seeing this ecosystem as one they can share with brands. But in joining the fray, brands have to bolster, and not undermine, the social ties that underpin these evolving communities.