Digital tech has ushered in a new movement for the way brands operate and reach stakeholders through communications methods, but particularly in a year as transformative as the one we’re coming out of, new research from tech communications firm SourceCode Communications finds more of a desire to put humanity at the core of everything companies do—which means priorities for business have to change in order to accommodate this shift.
Some have already embraced new initiatives to adapt, such as Mondelez, which recently announced a plan to make their marketing approach more humanly connected. SourceCode has launched the first in a series of TrendSights reports with Douglas Rushkoff, media theorist and author of bestseller Team Human. The quarterly reports will examine the changing nature of culture, work and society, providing guidance for business leaders navigating them.
The trends identified in this first report, Business & Economic and Work, point to a year ahead populated by seismic change in the ways consumers engage with brands—and explore the ways in which marketers and business leaders must shift their thinking to deliver against these changing priorities.
“The advent of digital technology changed what it means to be human,” said Rebecca Honeyman, co-founder and managing partner at SourceCode, in a news release. “Our roles as consumers, workers, voters, parents and sense makers have been fundamentally altered—a process only amplified by this year’s crises, from COVID-19 to racial injustice to election conspiracies.”
The first Trendsights report spotlights a shift to sustainability and competence as the primary characteristics of the year ahead
Most impactful for a tech world which has been seemingly dependent on growth at all costs, Rushkoff forecasts that 2021 will see the illusion of infinite, exponential expansion shattered, as businesses are forced towards more regenerative models or circular economies by their own consumers.
“We’re seeing a shift from the decades-long focus on runaway growth towards greater sustainability and value creation as consumers become attuned to the employment, economic and environmental catastrophes that digital companies leave in their wake,” Honeyman continued. “Some brands such as Grubhub, Seamless and Uber have already had a taste of this but we expect much, much more pressure from consumers [in 2021]. While it might be too soon to declare Unicorns extinct, we think we’ll see a new generation of founders eschewing Unicorns for Zebras with revenues rather than investors funding their operations.”
The report also ushers in a return to competence
The dangerous consequences of 40 years of outsourcing were thrown into sharp relief earlier this year by the scarcity of masks and ventilators to combat COVID-19. Although the pendulum had already begun to swing towards competence, this experience has accelerated a shift to hands on value creation; Rushkoff’s work points to a redefinition of wealth from money in the bank to skills and resources.
“The restoration of competence changes the relationship of workers to the value they create and restores autonomy to those who bring the skills to the table. Already in the tech industry we’re seeing programmers demanding a say in how their skills are being employed,” said Rushkoff, in the release.
“We are at a critical inflection point as a society where we have realized that the way we once did things is no longer the way we should do things moving forward,” Rushkoff added. “These TrendSights reports, and the SourceCode team as a whole are taking these challenging but important concepts and making them clear and actionable for business leaders.”
SourceCode will be releasing additional reports covering Meaning, Culture and Society, and Narrative and Media throughout 2021.