by JWT Intelligence (@JWTIntelligence) Trends don’t happen in isolation. They tend to intersect and work in tandem with each other. And many are extensions or outgrowths of trends, reveals JWT Intelligence in the TRENDAFRiCA 2014 Trends Annual.

In our forecast, we see consumers both welcoming and resisting technology’s growing omnipresence in their lives. For many, technology serves as a gateway to opportunity and an enabler of hyper-efficient lifestyles, but those who are most immersed are starting to question its effect on their lives and on their privacy.

This is a summary of the highlights of JWT’s 10 MegaTrends for 2014. More detail is available in the TRENDAFRiCA digizine, available for download free of charge.

1.       2014_Trends_Annual_Cover_Final-1IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCES

Entertainment, narratives and brand experiences will become more immersive and altogether more enveloping in a bid to capture consumers’ imagination and attention. Greater immersion means more active involvement, and the Millennials and Generation Z have grown up with tools and technologies that enable them to be active participants in entertainment and media. They’re accustomed to being at the centre of experiences rather than passive observers.The impact of this trend is being seen across all avenues of storytelling. From the arts to journalism; the design of brand experiences;and even the retail space are leveraging the opportunities that these experiences bring. For example, the future of cinema could well be the ‘Secret Cinema’ (which screens mystery movies in exotic locations around the UK).


We’re shifting to a visual vocabulary that relies on photos, video snippets and other imagery, largely supplanting the need for text. ‘Visual’ is a new lingo that needs to be mastered.Images are increasingly supplanting words, changing the way we communicate and how we see and understand the world. We are growing accustomed to consuming information that’s dominated by images – coming to favour‘show’ over ‘tell’. Across industries and disciplines, brand communicators will have to master how to express themselves visually and how to read and interpret images—and understand the nuances across cultures, generations, demographics and communications platforms.


With the mainstreaming of the on-demand economy and our always-on culture, consumer expectations for speed and ease are rising exponentially. As businesses respond in kind, making the availability of their products and services more instant, impatience and impulsiveness will only continue to increase.Thanks in part to mobile-enabled lifestyles, faster connectivity, instant downloads, streaming services and our always-on culture, consumers are developing ever-increasing expectations for speed and efficiency. Impatience will come to define the generations growing up in a real-time, visually oriented world.Businesses are catering to the rising demand for instant gratification in various ways, offering same-day or even same-hour delivery services; providing full seasons of TV series for binge viewers; using mobile to make payments and shopping more effortless; creating dating apps that enable yes/no decisions at a glance.


In emerging markets, the mobile device is coming to represent a gateway to opportunity – helping people change their lives by giving them access to financial systems, new business tools, better health care, better healthcare, education and more.In Africa, the fastest-growing smartphone market, smartphone penetration has the potential to jump from around 2-5% currently, to 30% by 2025, and up to 50% in leading countries on the continent, according to McKinsey. As many as 300 million new smartphones could be sold in Africa in the next decade. Mobile represents both a commercial opportunity and an opportunity to help consumers buildup businesses, improve their health, become more informed citizens and connect with people around the globe.


Thanks to the rise of brain-computer interfaces and emotion recognition technology, brands are getting more adept at understanding consumers’ minds and moods, and reacting in a very personalised way.As cutting-edge as they seem, brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) have existed for decades. But until recently, electroencephalography (EEG) readers were cumbersome devices. The past decade has given rise to pared-down, inexpensive versions of EEG headsets and affective computing technologies (computers that read emotions). These developments, along with the trend toward greater personalisation, are pushing Telepathic Technology into the commercial realm. Marketers are complementing traditional research methods with neuromarketing to uncover consumers’ non-conscious responses to packaging, advertising, entertainment content and so on. While still in its early days, the applications are far reaching:from mind-controlled cars to art exhibits that morph based on patrons’ brain-wave activity to headphones that play music suited to the listener’s mood.


Thanks to an array of new technologies and a growing drive to collect personal data, it’s becoming nearly impossible to remain unobserved and untracked by corporations and governments. As anonymity becomes more elusive, expect pushback from consumers and a growing paranoia around technologies and services that affect privacy.Surveillance has become a recurring theme in the news – not only the revelations about government tactics but reports of how businesses are collecting data on consumers. In the near future, these and other up-and-coming technologies, like Google Glass and commercial drones, will further hinder anonymity.The ability to track and leverage data is becoming a key competitive advantage for brands, but navigating this landscape will require extreme sensitivity, a close reading of customer attitudes, adherence to emerging best practices and very finely calibrated use of the new services at companies’ disposal.


As we move further into the digital age, we’re starting to both fear and resent technology, fretting about what’s been lost in our embrace of unprecedented change. We’ll put a higher value on all things that feel essentially human and seriously question (while not entirely resisting) technology’s siren call.With digital devices, ‘in the moment’ frequently becomes ‘recording the moment’ (if not ‘missing the moment entirely’). The higher-quality cameras in today’s mobile devices, coupled with the rise of image-based platforms like Instagram and Vine, seem to spur an urge to record anything remotely interesting. As a result, we’re experiencing life through our screens.Consumers will be searching for the best of both worlds, and brands can help them navigate the line between too immersed and too disconnected.


With social norms quickly changing and a new anything-goes attitude, people are mashing up cherished traditions with decidedly new ideas, creating their own recipes for what feels right.Globalisation and digital technology are expanding people’s worldview, providing a myriad new ideas from which to draw inspiration. Meanwhile, many societies are becoming more progressive and inclusive, and everything from marriage to parenthood is open to reinterpretation as more people take non-traditional life paths.While traditions have always evolved, shifted with and reflected the times, today they’re mutating at an increasingly rapid pace, as with most everything in modern life. But precisely because life is moving so fast, traditions old and new may be more important than ever, something to hold on to as everything else changes. Brands will need to keep up with these shifts. Marketers have numerous opportunities to insert themselves into fluctuating traditions, guide consumers down new paths or help bring the best of the past into the future.


Imperfection and even outright ugliness – the quirky, the messy and the flawed – are taking on a new appeal in a world’s that’s become neatly polished and curated. Imperfection provides an unfiltered, all too human version of reality that reflects all the diversity that’s seen in everyday life.Today imperfection signals that something is handmade or more natural – which is ultimately more appealing for authenticity-seeking consumers, for whom perfection is becoming synonymous with synthetic or machine-made. Consumers increasingly prize authenticity, originality and individuality. Thus they’re embracing things that feel more human: this includes goods (like homemade-looking food), imagery (ugly selfies, unretouched images), models and actresses, even imperfect parenting.


Consumers are developing a quasi-Zen desire to experience everything in a more present, conscious way. Once the domain of the spiritual set, mindful living is filtering into the mainstream, as more people feel drawn to the idea of shutting out distractions and focusing on the moment.Mindfulness means being completely present in the here and now, with no distractions. People are growing weary of the multiplying demands on their attention and overwhelmed by a bombardment of information. At the same time, they’re mixing and matching religious and spiritual practices. Part of this pushback and re-evaluation includes taking a more mindful approach to digital consumption, which is often the reason we’re not in the moment.

TRENDAFRiCA logoFor the full report with even more detail and examples, please go to TRENDAFRiCA (, which provides consumer insight, research and trends in Africa. Louise Marsland is the publishing editor of this industry trendwatching portal.

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