Back to Earth

Seeking simplicity and purity in a digital world   //   signals & themes

“The first rule of sustainability is to align with natural forces, or at least not try to defy them.”
― Paul Hawken

– Quieter, more genuine brands will begin to dominate the market through enduring credibility.

– More people will begin to unplug from social media and smartphones.

– Increased interest in environment- and outdoors-related programs.

– Escape from “the grind” – more alternatives to the 9-5 & new types of organizations.

– Interest in authentic human experiences and products will continue to grow.

Being a 24/7 brand is exhausting:

Whether you’re posting selfies, sharing your recent art project, advocating for a cause or promoting your startup, social media has made everyone into their own brand.

Consider that most organizations have at least one person working full-time in the marketing department: it should be unsurprising that social media has created a lot of invisible work for its users.

The search for authenticity:

In a world where everything is fake, things that are real become highly valued. I believe that a number of recent trends, particularly the issue of cultural appropriation, point towards a desire for things that are authentic, handmade, and/or direct-from-source.

Additionally, millions of people are seeking answers to questions like “Where did I come from?”, which has manifested itself in billion-dollar industries offering genetic tests & ancestry services.

  • Widespread focus on “cultural appropriation”
  • Increase in fair trade products/services
  • The internet’s relevance to artists: link, link
  • “Better Than Free” (Kevin Kelly, article link)
  • Interest in genes & ancestry tests: link, link

Living the jungle life:

The houseplant market is growing quickly, partially because of younger generations who feel trapped in their condos and apartments.

Millennials, many of whom are achieving life milestones at a later age, are becoming “plant parents” and cultivating “indoor jungles”. This suggests a desire to return to nature.

Retreats, rituals, escapes:

Mega-festivals, retreats, escapes, and unique experiences are on the rise. This suggests to me that people – especially young people – are very much looking to get out of the city and throw themselves into transcendent experiences.

Additionally, various trends in business and technology have created a unique class of entrepreneur – the “Digital Nomad”. These are people who work in digital occupations (website building, marketing) that travel the world while working from their laptop. This new form of work/life balance is a negotiated form of escape made popular after Tim Ferriss’ book “The 4-Hour Workweek”.

  • Burning Man (USA), Tomorrowland (Europe)
  • The mindfulness meditation app market was estimated to be $134MM in 2018 (link)
  • “What Mongolian Nomads Teach Us About The Digital Future” (Kevin Kelly, article link)

Rejecting technology:

Ever since the United States’ presidential election in 2016, the negative effects of technology have been front-and-center in the public’s mind. It’s difficult to predict exactly what this will mean in the future, but it’s definitely a trend.

  • Twitter is losing millions of users (link)
  • Gen Z doesn’t pay attention to Facebook (link)
  • Flip-phones and “dumb” phones aren’t as dead as you think (link, link)

Organic ways of organizing:

New ways of working are on the horizon, and they go far beyond simple “work-from-home” arrangements. Innovative companies are beginning to utilize more horizontal and team-based hierarchies. The early data suggests that these types of organizations are more efficient and enjoy higher employee engagement.

Of course, the internet is the most organic form of media we have. Forms of internet media that facilitate communication and organization of niche groups (Reddit, Facebook, forums, 4chan) may begin to have more of a dominant influence in the media ecosystem.

  • e.g the comment section of SlateStarCodex.
  • Many marketers today seek to appeal to niche groups of people commonly referred to as “tribes