Faith Popcorn Says Branders Must Serve the 'New Networked Self' in '07

NEW YORK - Retailers and branders in 2007 will have to find ways to serve a public that increasingly links consumption to perceived participation in, and responsibility to, a global network, according to leading futurist Faith Popcorn and her BrainReserve consultancy here.

Popcorn said the technological advances of the information age will assist consumers in the forging of a new type of identity in the coming years, what she called The New Networked Self. "The world has simultaneously become more fluid and more connected, one of both infinite possibility and extreme intimacy," Popcorn said. "As a result, people are turning away from the ego-driven self-aggrandizement that characterized the old era of hyper-consumption. The New Networked Self is far more ecologically aware than her predecessor and sees herself as a tiny, but instrumental part of a much larger picture that is constantly in flux. With this newfound awareness comes a personal sense of responsibility to understand and engage with the whole."

Popcorn said that among several resulting trends, today's consumers will be more "capricious and non-committal," and in response "brands will have to become more liquid to keep up with their constantly moving targets." In the future, she said, we'll see "constantly morphing retailers carry products until they sell out and never restock," as well as "chameleon-like brands focus less on communicating a static message and more on being the right thing for the right persona at the right time."

The futurist also said consumers will rebel against the "mental pollution" caused by marketers' increasingly shrill messages. "With every corner of the world both real and virtual becoming plastered with marketing messages, bombarded consumers are starting to say they've had enough. The current attack against marketing to kids is just the beginning." Savvy companies, she said, will sponsor marketing-free white spaces in lieu of polluting the environment with models and logos.
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