Episode 341
March 1, 2024

Why Haven’t Macro Trends Changed for the Last Few Years?

Has "doomerism" evolved since last year's report into something much more global? Has the wellness obsession been taken too far? Is the appeal of being a semi-luddite on the rise? Friend of the pod and cultural theorist Matt Klein discusses the findings from his annual META Trends Report.

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Has "doomerism" evolved since last year's report into something much more global? Has the wellness obsession been taken too far? Is the appeal of being a semi-luddite on the rise? Friend of the pod and cultural theorist Matt Klein discusses the findings from his annual META Trends Report. 

“Going Airplane Mode”

Key takeaways:

- A key takeaway from analyzing over one hundred trend reports spanning several years: many of the reported trends remain unchanged year after year after year.

- Language used to describe disruptive changes often relies on established nomenclature instead of introducing new terminology.

- There is an opportunity to hack trend reports by strategically seeding ideas and language that can shape future trends.

- The ranking of meta-trends in reports can differ between what is frequently mentioned and what exists in cultural data, creating a discrepancy and an opportunity for manipulation.

- Understanding the deeper human needs beneath trend manifestations is key for organizations to find success in addressing cultural shifts.

  • {00:04:50} - “It's quite cliche, but it's a call to action for a little bit of bravery of not what's already being reported and said and what's comfortable, but what do we want to see, what does not yet exist, and how do we put our neck out there and really speak about the things that are uncomfortable, fringy, edgy, and strange because after all that is where change emanates from.” - Matt
  • {00:12:57} - “The problem is the scant few people that are actually doing this type of work and research and will put the quantifiable and qualitative mind to analyzing trends is a small group of people that are all highly self-referential because they're all analyzing the same cohort of data because they're all kind of tapped into the same algorithm.” - Phillip
  • {00:19:47} - “The meta trends act as trailheads for understanding all else within culture. When you acknowledge what's trying to be desired here… you understand beneath the surface what people actually need, that's where organizations find success.” - Matt
  • {00:26:59} - “There's certainly importance and maybe I'm saying that because there's a livelihood or a career anchored or tethered to it, but I would say there are some implications and serious business consequences that come from this, but it is also fun. It is entertaining to be talking about these things and to be dissecting and analyzing.” - Matt
  • {00:30:39} - “It's all from fear. No one wants to be disrupted. No one wants to be the disruptor either. That goes back to this idea of bravery, being the first to say something or sticking their neck out or reporting on the thing that no one else has reported. So you operate from a sense of, "Well, we wanna be the first to be second."’ - Matt
  • {00:39:42} - “Every business is unique, everyone has their different challenges, everyone has their different audiences, and those audiences or those products interpret each of the meta trends uniquely. So what this really is is the starting point, not the answer key.” - Matt

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Matt: [00:00:00] Everyone just wants to be safe. And this is not safe from an organization point of view. Let's be real. It's safe from a career and employment stand of view. That's where this stems from. I was just talking to someone and we were talking about brands. I'm like, "Can we just stop talking about brands as brands?" It's not a thing. It's imaginary. It's made up. The brand does not exist. It's a team of people on laptops, on Zoom. That's the brand.

Brian: [00:01:31] Hello, and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast at the intersection of culture and commerce. I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:01:38] I'm Phillip, and, hey, we're standing at the metaphorical intersection of culture and commerce, Brian. And in our alternate universe, down the street, a saunter, is a good friend of ours, a cultural theorist, I would say damn near genius when it comes to sensing what's next in media and how media shapes the world, our world views and the world around us, and the person who I think is, I don't know, our inspiration, a muse of sorts for us is Mr. Matt Klein, the Founder of ZINE. Welcome.

Matt: [00:02:12] Oh, hey, guys. How are we doing?

Brian: [00:02:15] Good.

Phillip: [00:02:16] We're glad to have you back. It's one of those times of the year where you're inundated with a lot of different messages. I think we just kinda came out of trend report season, trend season, and it's kind of your job to take all of that in in the world. But for those who aren't up to date on that, what were this year's trends, meta trends report from ZINE like? What was it like to compile, what all is in it, and what can people expect from it?

Matt: [00:02:41] Maybe we take one step back. I think it was 2017 or 18. That winter, I decided I was going to take on the task of reading every single trend report available and just make sense of all of them. And I was curious, 1) Were there any patterns to these reports? Were they all saying the same things? Were they saying different things? And second, I just had the personal curiosity of what was being reported in these things. And third, I decided, well, if I was to read all these and identify the patterns, why don't I just report on that so you don't have to read everyone else's reports and you could just read my report? This is now, I think, the 7th or 8th year. Lost count for better or worse. Definitely never... I think it's 7 now. And what's really unique about this process is noting what is changing and what's not changing, and more often than not, what's not changing. And I did this exercise where I laid out all of these trending trends, if you will, and identified that more often than not, what is being reported is not changing. They're tethered back to these kind of main pillars, and we could dive into them or we could save for later. But I think what was really surprising to me was this extra exercise I did this year, which was I inputted all this language into a tool with this organization called Scenario DNA, and they are essentially a linguistics company where they were quantifying language. We threw all this language in from all of these reports, not just this year, but the last 7 years to identify how is this language being coded. Is it emergent, disruptive? Is it an established language? What we found was that year after year after year after year after year, what is meant to be disruptive or trending language is in fact established nomenclature. That the language being used to describe the most fascinating, radical changes of our times are in fact just normal words. And, at this point, after 7 years of this, I'm not surprised. I'm not surprised. And if anything, where we net out is that this is a call to action, and [00:04:50] it's quite cliche, but it's a call to action for a little bit of bravery of not what's already being reported and said and what's comfortable, but what do we want to see, what does not yet exist, and how do we put our neck out there and really speak about the things that are uncomfortable, fringy, edgy, and strange because after all that is where change emanates from. [00:05:09]

Brian: [00:05:10] You've caught something super important here, which is it turns out that innovation is just part of our normal activity as a society. We're doing exactly what Marshall McLuhan said, looking in the rearview mirror as we step into the future. And I think the reason for that is this. This is my take, and I'm curious. I actually really wanna talk to you about this, but no one can get taken seriously in a corporate environment without data, in a current moment, without data to point to to say, "This is what's happening." And so when we look out for the strange and the weird and the outliers, businesses tend to say, "Well, that's an outlier. We don't know if that's gonna take hold." Business is about predictability after all. Right? Good business is a predictable business. It's a safe bet, And so when we say trends, what we really mean is things that are safe bets.

Matt: [00:06:19] Bingo. Exactly right. I mean, look at our entertainment industry. Our creative landscape is the case in point here. It's why fund or why make anything that hasn't proven? And what we're left with are the reboots and sequels and catalogs that hog the charts. And I think the phenomenon with the trending trends, and we're only gonna hop on the thing that's been proven. I mean, data is such a lagging indicator at this point, and I think the same could be applied for all these other industries as well. And it goes back to this idea of bravery or creative or cultural savviness to go beyond the thing that is already present and that we're already seeing. And that's not to say it's impossible. I mean, we're using the entertainment example. I mean, they're a little cliche at this point, but I think for the right reasons. I mean, you look at A24. I mean, they have proven a business in bucking the status quo or zagging where things aren't prudent. And you could still survive, if anything thrive, in going against the grain. And how do you then apply that to understanding culture as well? And we see that within our headlines and what are really just memes at this point of the micro trends. It's like 4 people have spoken about it. Oh, that's enough proof to now make this a thing. And I think it goes both ways.

Phillip: [00:07:39] Ask chat GPT, "What are the trends for eCommerce?" "What are the future trends for eCommerce?" "What are the future trends of commerce?" Or even just bluntly, "What is the future of commerce?" And you're likely to get whatever the first page of Google results says from an SEO article. Does that mean that the trend casting industry in the eCommerce industry was correct, or was it a self-fulfilling prophecy because we've sort of all been in this conversation for a decade that we made it so?

Matt: [00:08:07] I think that's spot on as well. It's completely a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's an ouroboros or the snake eating its own tail. The story I love using is that, I mean, I write something in ZINE and I read one of these reports, and then I'm cited as the proof for the existence of this trend in the trend report. It's spooky. So here's the thing though, and I think this is the opportunity. There is an opportunity to what I'd call hacking these trend reports. So we did this exercise, Sarah De Vonzo and I, we partnered up a couple of years ago to quantify some of these meta trends. So bear with me as we kind of geek out on this story. There are two ways in which we can rank these meta trends or the "most reported trends" from all these reports. The first is, what is most frequently mentioned? So we could take new commerce trends, social shopping, live shopping, omnichannel, whatever, whatever. And that could be reported as the 5th most important meta trend for the year. And then you could take something like environmentalism or I'm not even gonna create a trend like name, but, like, "All things eco." And that can be the number one most reported thing from all these reports. And where we're left is, okay, well, the Eco Everything meta trend is everywhere. Therefore, let's invest in this thing. But then there's another way in which you could rank these meta trends, which is quantitatively. So we partner with this organization, NWO.ai, which is essentially cultural listening on steroids. They're ingesting academic papers, memes, film scripts, social data, media analyses, etcetera. They're ingesting all this data, and we could quantify the presence of each of these meta trends around the world. So even though the eCommerce meta trend is ranked number 5, when you look at all the cultural data, it's actually the number one most important meta trend based upon the energy, the sentiment, yada yada. The reason I share this story is that when we look at the discrepancy between these rankings, and this happens time and time again every year, there's a difference between what the humans think is most important and what is being mentioned in these reports versus what does the cultural data, where does it exist online. And that in itself has plenty of flaws. But, regardless, there's a discrepancy, which lands us to this opportunity. There is an opportunity to hack these trend reports. The more you talk about the thing, the more likely it is to be the case. So even though Eco Everything or this environmentalism trend isn't quantified as the most important thing, wouldn't it be rather a world in which all these organizations read these reports, think that eco everything is the most important thing, and then, therefore, act upon that as okay, well, you know, I'm seeing it everywhere. I'm seeing it in Matt's trend report thing, whatever, therefore, this is now the thing. This is the future. We have to act upon x, y, and z. And you could implement or seed various ideas across these reports that inevitably become the truth or become the self-fulfilling prophecy for better or worse. And the last thing I'll say is yeah, it's a trend report. So what? But there is something to be said that the most powerful organizations in the world that are upstream of so much, not just innovation, but campaigning and communications or propaganda are influencing culture at scale.

Phillip: [00:11:54] Scary. Yeah.

Brian: [00:11:54] So in many ways, whoever can publish the most kind of wins.

Matt: [00:12:00] Ideally, the organization's research and culture is looking at that data to say, oh, you know, you're merely exposed to the frequency of x y z keyword or x y z phenomenon. But, yeah, you could totally seed nonsense at scale. I mean, what is the difference between that and what we've seen politically over the years? I mean, it's the same thing. You just seed the thing and, oh, well, that's reality. And that's its own kind of worms of what is reality. Right?

Brian: [00:12:27] That is the show title, Seeding Nonsense at Scale. Seeding nonsense at scale is I feel like this is the future.

Phillip: [00:12:36] What we just described is really just the Larry Page rank of Google from 2008. This is not a new idea. The idea of what becomes authoritative really depends on the number of back references. Right? It's very academic approach to say, "The more authoritative a source is the one that's cited most often." [00:12:57] The problem is the scant few people that are actually doing this type of work and research and will put the quantifiable and qualitative mind to analyzing trends is a small group of people that are all highly self-referential because they're all analyzing the same cohort of data because they're all kind of tapped into the same algorithm. [00:13:18] And this becomes its own challenge. Where do you go looking for signals, Matt, outside of the same feeds that we're all tapped into because we're all having the same simultaneous inspiration?

Matt: [00:13:30] I wish I had an answer or a list of those sources because that's gold. Right? Let's reframe that question though. Instead of looking at... Or this is how I'm thinking of it. Instead of looking at the sources that are so off the beaten path that are gonna give you insight that perhaps lives outside of that bubble, we could also just look at history because instead of looking for the change, can we look for the static or the things that are unchanging? Because so much of this is repetitive. So rather than taking a bet on the thing that's new, how do you also place the bet on the thing that isn't going to change at all? That is, you know, 0% change, and that is just human nature or we've been here before. So I'm increasingly interested as dry as it is to go down the rabbit holes on the History Channel or what I love is like the CNN Decades. That series is like the perfect blend of both history and entertainment. It's like, oh, you watch that and you're like, oh, fuck. We've been here before. This is not new. This idea, this concept, this campaign, this political figure, whatever it may be, it's like, oh, we have been here. We have so been here. Adam Curtis documentary is not withstanding. It's the same thing. We have been here before.

Brian: [00:15:39] When we first started Future Commerce, we were looking at tech a lot. We were like, "How do you look around the corner of what's coming in commerce?" Well, technology is changing, and that's gonna have a huge effect, and it does. No question. But as we got further and further in, we were like, "Wait a minute. It's actually culture and how the world works in general, like philosophy and psychology and the way that people have interacted with new things or with the different cycles that we go through, and so we actually shifted Future Commerce pretty heavily back in yeah, 2017, roughly, 2018, and started rethinking our viewpoint on how to look around the next corner.

Phillip: [00:16:30] Matt, what specifically are you covering in this year's meta trends report? Can you give us some of the top lines on it and some of the interesting things that you found?

Matt: [00:16:40] So the number one thing that had surfaced this year is what I'm calling global burnout. It had come from a meta trend last year called doomerism. It's actually quite surprising in that a trend report would even surface this, but it's this idea of this permacrisis collapse anxiety, this demoralization or kind of this nihilism that is spreading. I think when it appeared last year, it was one, surprising that, you know, organizations would even wanna kind of touch that. And I think that's a good thing, but the fact that it would come up again and second was the number one most reported trend across 70 plus reports is quite fascinating. The caveat here is that when you score it, it's only 8 out of 14. But still, I think it's a really important meta trend in that sets kind of the groundwork, kind of the, dare I say, vibe of the rest of the report. Another one that I find really interesting is this idea of late-stage wellness. Wellness, for better or worse, has been a part of these reports since I've started it. There's always been some iteration or manifestation of obsessive wellness. But I think what's really unique about this year, this is the 3rd out of 14, is the variety or the spectrum of the ways in which wellness is trying to be productized and sold. The keywords here being heal, holistic, longevity. There's obviously Ozempic talk, breath work, saunas, cold plunges, zens, biotech, immortality, you know, no alcohol, soberism, etcetera. What's unique about that one is while I've mentioned it was 3rd out of 14, you quantify it and it's 2 out of 14, which to me when you kind of start stack ranking or sizing a lot of these, you could determine what are the most, I would say, I don't know, spacious or has the most legs, if you will. But then further, again, as you lay these all out, you can start to understand a story. That while you have something like global burnout or doomerism, the answer to that is late-stage wellness or is this obsession with, you know, how far can you go to try to cope in an environment that feels so out of control? So I think as you kind of go through this list of meta trends, they all start playing on one another, and there's a larger story about what's happening within culture. What's exciting to me is it was the 8th most reported one, which I'm calling airplane mode, defining it as straining effects of digital inspire life away from screens. There was a lot of talk about this kind of retreat, the dumb phones, the physical, the touching grass, questioning what is reality, looking for unplugging moments, all things minimal, meeting up in person, outdoors, etcetera, etcetera. And again, I think what I'm trying to tease at with kind of this high level overview is [00:19:47] that the meta trends act as trailheads for understanding all else within culture. [00:19:54] It's kind of like this ecosystem. And then further trying to root it back to human needs. So for something like airplane mode, it's nature, it's slowness. For something like late-stage wellness, it's confidence, it's security, it's prosperity. As an organization, you don't have to address late-stage wellness explicitly. As an organization, you don't have to speak to global burnout in your social media posts. But [00:20:20] when you acknowledge what's trying to be desired here, [00:20:22] the human needs being stability or faith, that is what you can answer to. That is what you can act upon or activate within. These deeper human needs. How it's manifesting is almost moot because the second you try to, you know, hop on some of these things, either one, it moves on, or second, it's not a fit for you. But [00:20:42] if you understand beneath the surface what people actually need, that's where organizations find success. [00:20:48]

Brian: [00:20:48] The idea of global burnout pairs really nicely with airplane mode. They're like different sides of the same coin.

Matt: [00:20:56] Exactly.

Brian: [00:20:57] And if you add it all up, feels like maybe the pace of change is part of the issue. TikTok is not the place to look because things are in and out in a flash. Feels like if you miss them, you actually missed out on language or parts of the world that, you know, where did the word "rizz" come from? All of a sudden, it's in our vocabulary, blink twice, and it's there. The airplane mode is a protection against this.

Matt: [00:21:32] Yeah. It's a push and a pull, a give and a take. Here's the thing where I get hung up with, you know, the pace of change conversation. I would agree that where'd rizz come from and where did it go, or the Stanley Cups, whatever. I think those are products or words, not as much as they are trends or changes in human behavior. But at the same time, where I get so stuck is you go back and read Future Shock from the seventies, and they're talking about the pace of change. We can't keep up. Like, this is crazy. Our minds can't keep up. It was, you know, 50 years ago. So at what point is this a unique experience in which we're having? Because I do feel, and I would agree that something is up. Right? Something's different. But how much of it is just the human condition and feeling as if we can't keep up is the way of life? That's just how it is today. And I battle with that tension of what is new or what feels like it's new, but it's always been a thing.

Brian: [00:22:31] Oh, it's so funny that you say that I was actually gonna bring this up, but I was just re-listening to Okay Computer by Radiohead, and they had a song called Fitter Happier. And if you look at the lyrics of that song, it addresses the exact idea of burnout and what's required to maintain health, and how that's actually contributing to our neurotic behavior and feeling like we're behind. And I feel like you're onto something. Are we just repeating? Is every generation just repeating the same words of the last generation?

Matt: [00:23:12] In all fairness, though, it's not like everyone has experienced prior generations. Everyone's just re-experiencing something that has already taken place. And that's not a knock. I don't think it's a knock or a negative thing, but we are reexperiencing or confronting something or being exposed to something which we haven't before, and now we're just trying to figure it out just like everyone else has before us. And I think when you're in a space in which we obsess and research and discuss culture in the world to the extent in which we do, it feels as if, oh, how could this be the case? How can everyone else see it? But not everyone else is spending their life or getting paid to do something like this.

Phillip: [00:23:51] Yeah.

Brian: [00:23:52] I just feel like this is happening on a global scale now. It probably happened in more specific pockets in the past, but because of the Internet, because of electronic communication, these are now feeling like global cycles, which maybe not fully or maybe not global.

Phillip: [00:24:11] But I would push back on that to say that...

Brian: [00:24:17] More collective. That's probably a better way to say it.

Phillip: [00:24:19] Well, it depends on who you're talking about. The global population center now is in, you know, Southeast Asia and actually India.

Brian: [00:24:29] Right.

Phillip: [00:24:29] And you're looking at, you know, how many of those people are really concerned about the evolution of language and the word rizz?

Brian: [00:24:38] Right.

Phillip: [00:24:38] I think the broad human experience, these are elective properties. We have decided to tap into this ever-changing stream of consciousness, and now we're saying, you know, "I didn't realize that this was the tilt a whirl. I'm really dizzy. I wanna get off this ride," but the ride's not stopping. So the issue I have with sort of the analysis of such a thing is there's so many, this industry tends to be, it's the generation of its own critique in that you you're pointing out the issues inherent in analyzing, in the status and almost the naval gaze culture of analyzing trends and talking about the breakneck pace of change, but we could all just unplug from it, I think.

Matt: [00:25:37] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:25:37] Can't we? I mean, you just the airplane mode, I think, is hard to do, but we just had Kyle Chayka on the show. He wrote Filterworld. I don't know if you've checked it out, Matt.

Matt: [00:25:47] Hmm mmm.

Phillip: [00:25:48] Kyle was talking about his algorithmic fast. Lent is coming up. Maybe it's time to take an algo fast. The fact is that your life collapses down to a few handfuls of things that matter when you're not tapped into what everybody else is worrying about. It's not that those things change. It's that your perspective on it changes.

Brian: [00:26:10] I built a house out in the middle of nowhere, woods. I've sort of mid disconnected. I'm on pseudo airplane mode as much as I possibly can be. I think, Matt, you're on to something here. There's a lot of desire to become like a half-Luddite. Someone that catches up on everything that's going on in spurts and then backs off and disappears into the woods for other parts of it.

Matt: [00:26:37] What I hear is just balance. I mean, maybe that's what we're after, a life of balance, which is perhaps what we're not feeling right now. I mean, here's the other thing, and this is what I was thinking of, Phillip, when you were speaking, which is how much of this is just entertainment as well? This is the entertainment of business. It's fun. We're just doing it because it's fun. It's interesting. I will say [00:26:59] there's certainly importance and maybe I'm saying that because there's a livelihood or a career anchored or tethered to it, but I would say there are some implications and serious business consequences that come from this, but it is also fun. It is entertaining to be talking about these things and to be dissecting and analyzing. [00:27:16] No different than a conspiracy theorist trying to make sense of the season finale.

Brian: [00:28:29] I think to your point, the business outcome is why most people engage with it, they're looking for personal gain. They've gotta make a way in their world. I genuinely believe that a lot of people would fully unplug if they didn't feel like it would just sort of destroy their shot at their next career move.

Phillip: [00:28:52] So the argument stands to reason that we could all probably spend a little less time being extremely online. I think that we justify our addiction to this behavior in own conversation by trying to derive business value out of it. It's not the other way around. The business doesn't dictate the amount of focused conversation obsession that some people are spending in this circle.

Brian: [00:29:17] My cynicism around that is that I think a lot of this is based out of fear of being left behind. I think that people operate mostly out of fear, and so whether or not they could do it in half the time is neither here nor there. They're "addicted" because they're afraid of missing out on something that will leave them without being able to interact or be able to speak the language of their industry or the language that gets inserted into their everyday work conversations that makes them look like an idiot if they don't have it. So, yeah, I was actually saying I think fear is driving a lot of trend chasing more than anything else is.

Matt: [00:30:00] I think where we get stuck is thinking that, again, rizz is a trend. You see rizz, like, you hear it. You see the words of it, and it's easy to latch onto that thing, it's a little bit of a Rorschach test or trying to interpret that there's something more than there is. And sometimes there is and sometimes there's not. I would agree with Brian in that, I mean, having been a part of so many RFPs and trend agencies and trend work streams, you're so much better off selling in this positive anxiety of imagine if you don't do the thing than doing the thing. I mean,  [00:30:39]it's all from fear. No one wants to be disrupted. No one wants to be the disruptor either. No one wants to be the one... That goes back to this idea of bravery, being the first to say something or sticking their neck out or reporting on the thing that no one else has reported. [00:30:52]

Brian: [00:30:52]  [00:30:52]"You look like a weirdo." [00:30:53]

Matt: [00:30:53]  [00:30:53]There's that. So you operate from a sense of, "Well, we wanna be the first to be second." [00:30:59]

Phillip: [00:31:01] That's profound.

Brian: [00:31:02] Yeah.

Matt: [00:31:03] Everyone just wants to be safe, and this is not safe from an organization point of view. Let's be real. It's safe from a career and employment stand of view. That's where this stems from. I was just talking to someone. We're talking about brands. I'm like, "Can we just stop talking about brands as brands?" It's not a thing. It's imaginary. It's made up. The brand does not exist. It's a team of people on laptops, on Zoom. That's the brand. They want their job. They wanna go home. They want a bonus. They wanna retire. They want a vacation. That's what the brand is.

Brian: [00:31:37] Yes.

Matt: [00:31:37] I mean, it's so extreme, but when you break it down to that minutiae, it starts to make a little bit more sense.

Brian: [00:31:44] Except okay. So I wanna come back to something from earlier because I think it fits in here too. I do believe that there are a set of people out there that do drive next steps for real. One of the problems that we have in trend reporting and in deriving trends and the way that it's calculated by these trend reports that come out is that a lot of times, there's no weight associated with where the data is coming from. There are people out there who are pushing boundaries, and they will have people follow them down those roads. I think there are a set of people out there that are a little bit different than the rest of us. I don't think everyone has an equal voice. I don't actually believe that. And so, not everyone just wants to go home and retire. Some people have a different understanding of what drives them in their life and in the world, and those are the people you kinda have to watch out for because they become models for mimetic action. I actually believe this to be true. Some people set the model, and those people often don't have the same drive as the masses do, but the masses follow because of the mimetic model.

Matt: [00:33:18] This is where things get really complicated and the house of cards begins to kinda teeter and fall apart, which is you use the word weight, and I think this is where the word subjectivity then comes in, which is all of this is subjective.

Brian: [00:33:33] Yup. Yup.

Matt: [00:33:33] You can imagine the diffusion curve of the life cycle of a meme or idea or product adoption, that diffusion curve, that bell curve is not the same for everyone. My bell curve is different than your bell curve. You sit at different places. What is mainstream to some is late for others or what is early for some is so dependent upon where you sit within culture. Not just sit within culture, but where you sit within, and I'll use this word sparingly, within that subculture. There are so many sub-communities that have different bell curves, and where you sit within that one gives you a different bell. It's so complex and so subjective. So when you attempt to have a standardization or a weighting for a trend or try to plot it on a bell curve, the thing falls apart because, I mean, what is new for some has been a thing and old for others for so long. And the tension with that is as a marketer or as a business, you want the largest feasible audience possible. You want as many people. You want the total addressable market. So how do you hop on things that there are too many people in that audience for you to try to have a message or have a product that hits all of them in the right spot? And that's just the ultimate tension. That's the ultimate tension with trends work. You try to be hip and cool, but your audience isn't always hip and cool because you want as many people as possible.

Brian: [00:35:01] Right.

Matt: [00:35:01] And you swap hip and cool with any other word, any other product. That's how you get, "How do you do, fellow kids?" That's how you get all the classic mess ups. It's all coming from a good place. And by a good place, I mean, wanting to be culturally relevant and help push messages, but you're using a shotgun approach for I think of a beer example. You try to say the right thing, but that right thing isn't for everyone. And this goes back to multiplayer mode and so many other concepts. So how do you be something for everyone? That is the problem with modern branding.

Brian: [00:35:38] There's so much to take away from this. My brain is flying right now on the idea that you've gotta incorporate these trends in ways that people can absorb them. And maybe that's part of our job as marketers is actually softening up different pockets to some of these ideas when you know that they're gonna have a hard time absorbing them. So who do you hit with really quick and fast and hard with some of these ideas while sort of trickling them into other places, could be part of where we're headed here?

Matt: [00:36:21] The logistics of that is just a nightmare.

Brian: [00:36:25] It doesn't scale. Yeah. It doesn't scale. And this is something I was talking to with another friend of Future Commerce, Nilla Ali. A lot of this stuff requires deep research into specific cultures to find out who is actually making a meaningful impact on that spot. So the contents become a joke because people are just trying to build for what you said, Matt. How do we hit the broadest possible set of people at the right moment? But the only way to do that is just water down everything. So all these trends are becoming a joke because they're just all getting watered down and really poor, approachable, mediocre contents being put out because that's the way to make sure that you can hit the most people, and get the most "eyeballs." But I think the future looks like specific research done into specific communities and going after the people that are actually having a meaningful impact on that community, even if they're not... Even if they don't have the broadest possible audience. And, Phillip, you brought this up recently. You heard on a podcast that a long form piece that gets 3,000 reads is worth more to media organizations right now, or should be worth more, than 300,000 Tiktokits.

Phillip: [00:37:58] It was an equivalence of in the B2B space, somebody's trying to draw an equivalence between what a CPM even means. And so if the target audience is so very, very small, how do you quantify that in terms of TikTok reach? Do I want a TikTok that goes to 300,000 people, or do I want a blog post that goes to a couple thousand people? Which one actually has greater signal for my organization that my goals are being met. Is it memorable? Is it referenceable? Can I surface it again? Is it searchable? These are all factors that aren't necessarily all true for things like TikTok. And I guess where I get lost is okay, let's zoom back in on meta trends, Matt. This is the work you do for companies, the kind of which listen to Future Commerce, and they're thinking about how they plan their future. What is the synthesis of a report like this, and how do you help them make sense of it for their organization so that they can turn it into strategies and tactics rather than meet philosophical musings on a podcast?

Matt: [00:39:18] For the longest time, I always considered the meta trends to be kind of the finish, the finish product, the end. It's like, here are the things. But what I've recognized is that, in fact, what they really are are the beginning that when you take these meta trends, they act as the trail heads for, 1) What is not discussed within them, but second, the implications or provocations for now. How do they map back to a business? Because [00:39:42] every business is unique, everyone has their different challenges, everyone has their different audiences, and those audiences or those products interpret each of the meta trends uniquely. So what this really is is the starting point, not the answer key. [00:39:55] So you would help or what I've done in the past is help organizations take these and map them back of 1) How do we stack rank and prioritize them? And second, how do we exist within the world of each of these concepts? What do we do or perhaps what we don't do in order to remain culturally relevant? It's almost your checklist to make sure that we are prepared for a future of both change and stagnation, and we're thriving within culture rather than being found flat footed.

Phillip: [00:40:23] And, of course, there's a specific size or scale of an organization where you no longer have necessarily a very clear direction or intuition of what you need to be for your future customer because to your point earlier, there's so many of them and that means so many different things to so many people. You have to find a way to create more facets in your business where somebody sees themselves in the mirror.

Matt: [00:40:46] 100%.

Phillip: [00:40:47] Right. So what do people do? Where do they go? How do they get this work started? Or how do they shift that work over to a person like yourself?

Matt: [00:40:56] Reach out and say hi more than anything else. I'm KleinKleinKlein everywhere online. KleinKleinKlein.com, and we'll go from there. And I think it's a really important, you know, point that you just wrote up, Phillip, which is this is more of a compass than anything else. This isn't your blueprint. This isn't your answer key. This is how do you navigate or how do you position yourself within a really weird foreign territory? And how do we make sure that we're going forward in a way that everyone's prepared and everyone's confident in?

Brian: [00:41:28] Love that.

Matt: [00:41:29] It's a great place to leave it. Thank you, Matt. Thank you so much, for joining us. Can't wait to have you back again. I think we have a couple ways that we'll continue to put you in front of the Future Commerce family in, the months and the year to come. Congrats again on your publication. Love to see it.

Matt: [00:41:46] Thanks so much. Really means a lot.

Brian: [00:41:47] Thank you, Matt.

Phillip: [00:41:48] Thank you for listening to Future Commerce. You can find more episodes of this podcast at FutureCommerce.com. You can get ad free episodes of this by joining the membership Future Commerce Plus. That's ad free episodes, bonus content, a monthly exclusive, and also, hey, discount on merchant and print, which you'll need for the Muses Journal, which is our brand new annual journal, just came out just a couple weeks ago. And you can get your copy now, scant few left at musesjournal.com, and you'll save 15%, not on your car insurance, but on the definitive piece of written content that sort of summarizes our thoughts on how Future Commerce is looking at the future of your business. You can find that at musesjournal.com, and, of course, to get 15% off, FutureCommerce.com/Plus. Thank you for listening to this episode of Future Commerce.

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