I read 2-dozen ‘Year in Review’ docs so you don’t have to.

The Storm Before the Calm

Whether to inform their customers, create click-bate, or as an honest attempt at contributing to the conversation, companies like Forrester, Google, Dentsu, Adobe, Hubspot, Pinterest, and dozens of others produce YIR reports. They range from a single page to hundreds. Many of them are useful and thought-provoking, if not predictable. Some have quotable stats with actionable predictions. Others provide in-depth analysis. They range in topics from consumer trends to retail forecasts, climate, energy, and technology. Many reference apparent changes in the workforce, and while meaningful, you can probably intuit the causes and outcomes. I’ve not linked to any of those. I’ve selected a handful that meet a few basic criteria. They must have been interesting, actionable and provide unique insight.

Consistent Themes

  1. Racial Responsibility / Radical Responsibility / Skinamalism: What was trendy in 2019 became essential in 2020. War on Waste, Energy Efficiency, Climate, Justice, Representation, and Equality. Many noticed a once-in-a-generation inflection, but historians point out exactly how cyclical what we are experiencing truly is.

  2. Essentialism / Consumerism / Activism: Some fled cities for a simpler life, baking bread and buying country homes while carrying with them only what would fit into a suitcase… and some cats. Others self-soothed with online shopping, adding $3.4 trillion to the top lines of the largest internet companies. Of course, that only applies to those making over $90k a year. Those in the working class, including the perennially laid-off, experienced no change in their outlook and experience of consumerism, playing out an acceleration in what was already a consistent decline in value of a dollar earned per working hour. Some turned to activism, either for equitable causes (love, camaraderie, equality, justice, BLM) or inequitable causes (fear, Q-anon, sedition, succession, Proud Boys.)

  3. Disbelief / Disassociation / Declining Trust - Our brains aren’t built for what happened in 2020, and coping mechanisms get you so far (see above). When it comes to declining trust, we’re not just talking about government or business. What we’re actually experiencing is declining trust in the meta-structures: cultural codes, shared imaginaries and epistemologies characterized by the dawn of a new epoch.

Quintessential Read

The Storm Before the Calm by George Friedman.
In America, shit gets crazy in 80-year intervals, with ten years of fracturing leading to 10 years of hyper-acceleration in growth. So… I guess… Don’t worry about civil war? Or do?

Quintessential Quote: 

I like the wine, not the label.” - Dan Levy as David Rose in Schitt’s Creek on gender and identity.

Surprise Winner 

Contactless Payments. Went from gimmick to preferred payment method in 14 days.

My Own Additions

Rethinking Neo-Liberalism: Arguably the most important theme of the last half decade, I’m not going to bore you with this. The concept of rethinking the neo-liberal framework that has been in place since the end of WWII is dwarfed by the new cultural codes, epistemology and collective imaginary induced by Metamodernity.

Meta-Modernism: Beginning after the industrial revolution, in the “modern era” we benefited from a good vs evil (bi-polar / dichotomy) framing of our collective imaginary. In the 90s we evolved into a post-modern spectrum-based framing, as became apparent in the use of the term ‘spectrum’ to appoint a more nuanced epistemology in many situations. Meta-modernism is multi-polar, enabled by the Internet and the nascent forms of artificial intelligence (e.g. search engines) that we now come to find ourselves reliant on. It takes into account all previous cultural codes and layers them on top of one another. That sounds exciting but has resulted in a destruction of our common shared imaginary.

Knowingly or not, Donald Trump has been the most successful exploiter of meta-modernism since we entered into the latest epoch. The ‘network’ has allowed us access to cultural codes from many sub-societies over many epochs and artificial intelligence has allowed us to categorize and make sense of them.

Thus, we have the opportunity to identify with humanity as a whole, though the people we are communicating with may come from cultural backgrounds different than our own… As new ideas enter the ‘blood stream’ of ideas in society, what meets people’s needs and catches their imagination and gives them hope survives and contributes to the epistemology [the lens through which we view the world] and collective imaginary [what we believe in as fundamental ideals]. Alternatively, authoritarian rulers define a collective imaginary that everybody must have and then use violence to enforce it.

-Lene Rachel Anderson, from Metamodernity: Meaning and Hope in a Complex World on Nordic Bildung

Metamodernism is incredibly dangerous because of its authentic power, its disregard for the norms of previous epochs and the velocity with which it accelerates change. It is arguably more dangerous now than at its birth circa 2000 because of the exploitative nature with which most of us have been introduced to it, Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

Takeaway

The framework through which we view capitalism and foreign affairs and their interconnectedness has evolved in ways that undermine its fundamental viability.

At long last, the recommendations.

The Recommends

Pinterest Predicts 2021
Mintel Global Consumer Trends 2030
GWI's Consumer Trends 2021

Exhaustive List

Adobe's Consumer Trends 2021
Brandwatch's Market Researcher of 2021
Carat's 2021 Media Trends
Cb Insight's State of Sustainability Report 2021
Deloitte's 2021 Global Marketing Trends
Facebook Iq's 2021 Topics and Trends Report
Falcon's 2021 Digital Marketing Trends
Fjord Trends 2021
Ford's 2021 Trends
Foresight Factory Consumer Trends 2021
Forrester's Predictions 2021
Frog Design Trends 2021
Future Today Institute's 2020 Tech Trends
Gartner Top Strategic Technology Trends 2021
GWI's Consumer Trends 2021
Google's 2020 Year in Search
Hootsuite's Social Media Trends 2021
Hubspot's 9 Social Media Trends in 2021
Isobar's Creative Trends 2021
Jwt's Future 100
Kantar's Media Trends and Predictions 2021
Kelton's Marketing Growth Hacks for 2021
Later's Influencer Marketing Trends 2021
Mintel Global Consumer Trends 2030
Pinterest Predicts 2021
Psfk's Future of Retail 2021
Scott Belsky's 8 Biggest Tech Trends of 2021
Spacecadet's Tech Trends From 2021
Springwise's Retail Trends 2021
The Future Labratory's Future Forecast 2021
Trendhunter 2021 Trend Report
Trendwatching's 21 Trends for 2021
We Are Social's Think Forward 2021
Wgsn's Key Trends for 2021 and Beyond

Feel free to leave a comment if you have one worth reading.