After a successful career as a brand and marketing strategist at two of the largest agencies in the world, Rohit Bhargava became an entrepreneur. He has delivered sold-out keynote presentations and workshops to business leaders in 32 countries.
He is also a bestselling author of books on a wide range of topics, including the future of business and building a brand with personality. He has shared his insights at dozens of large organisations, including Intel, Under Armour, Disney, JP Morgan Chase, LinkedIn, American Express, BP, the World Bank, NASA, and Coca-Cola.
His lectures at South by Southwest (SXSW) in the United States have been a great success for years. Since 2011, each year during the festival he has released a new edition of the Non-Obvious Trend Report, an annual study that brings together the main projections for the following year.
In 2022, after two years of interruption because of the pandemic, Bhargava returned to the Austin (Texas) Convention Center to deliver his presentation to an attentive audience. He also launched the book Non-Obvious Mega Trends, based on 10 years of research.
It was a long-awaited return. In mid-2021, when we had a quick chat, he told me he was preparing a book called Beyond Diversity, launched last November.
He considers himself a reluctant futurist and thinks the best way to anticipate the future is to understand the present. “My team and I research trends to help brands and leaders understand the accelerating present and act on that knowledge today,” he explained. “That’s why ‘futurist’ always felt like an overstatement to me.”
Bhargava has developed his own method of work called the “haystack method,” which is a process for curating trends that starts with gathering stories and ideas and sorting them into groups that make sense. He then analyses each of the groups to see whether they reveal an underlying trend.
For the author, our focus should be on people, not technology. We should think about how trends will change the way we think, what we believe, what we buy, what we sell, and who we trust. In 2022, Bhargava’s 10 non-obvious trends covered at SXSW were also those highlighted in his book. Though these trends are relevant for businesses in general, they do offer insight and ideas for media businesses specifically.
Here are his 10 non-obvious mega trends:
1. Amplified identity: As individualism rises globally, people are carefully cultivating how they are perceived both online and offline, chasing stardom, and making themselves vulnerable to criticism in the process.
This can be used to overcome the narcissism bias, consider the identity divide, and help others manage their identity.
2. Ungendering: Traditional gender division sans labels are being replaced with a more fluid understanding of gender identity, forcing a reevaluation of how we see employees, customers, brands, and one another.
Media companies can tap into this trend by removing unnecessary gendering, encouraging nontoxic masculinity, and having more gender empathy.
3. Instant knowledge: As we become accustomed to consuming bite-sized knowledge on demand, we benefit from learning everything more quickly. However, we also risk forgetting the value of mastery and wisdom.
This trend requires companies to speed up their content while also offering on-demand learning and becoming deep experts.
4. Revivalism: Overwhelmed by technology and a sense that life is now too complex and shallow, people seek out simpler experiences that offer a sense of nostalgia and remind them of a more trustworthy time.
Media can tap into this by sharing their history, offering a classic mode, and making their experiences collectible.
5. Human mode: Tired of technology that isolates us from one another, people seek out and place greater value on physical, authentic, and “unperfect” experiences designed with empathy and delivered by humans.
This is an invitation to communicate in human ways, innovate for humanity and not speed, and embrace “unperfection.”
6. Attention wealth: In the information economy, our attention is our most valuable resource, leading us to be more skeptical of those who manipulate us to get it and instead seek out and trust those who communicate in more authentic ways.
With this in mind, media companies should beware of spectacle backlash, make the truth more transparent, and share the back story.
7. Purposeful profit: As consumers and employees demand more sustainable and ethical practices from businesses, companies respond by adapting products, taking stands on issues, and putting purpose first.
This means brands are increasingly taking a credible position, focusing on impact, and practicing conscious capitalism.
8. Data abundance: The growing ubiquity of data and the myriad ways it can be collected raise big questions about how to make it truly useful, who owns the data, and who should stand to profit from it.
With this in mind, media companies must be worthy of a customer’s data, ask better questions about data, and clean up data.
9. Protective tech: As we increasingly rely on predictive technology that keeps us and our world safe and makes life more convenient, we must contend with the privacy trade-offs required to make it work.
This means businesses should be role models for technology, recognise and appreciate the protection, and demand more technology transparency.
10. Flux commerce: As the lines between industries erode, how we sell and buy anything changes constantly, leading to a continual disruption of business models, distribution channels, consumer expectations, and even innovation itself.
Companies should find the blur between industries, be strategic and not reactive (invention is not necessarily innovation), and seek out and support the innovators (including employees).