Back in the 90’s Faith Popcorn wrote The Popcorn Report, a best-selling business book on popular trends, where she made a strong distinction between mere passing fads and longer-lasting societal trends. Her analysis was so effective that even today you can see that trends she was talking about in the 90’s are continuing to build, such as:
- Cocooning — eg. the “Netflix & Chill” era of “why go out when we can stay at home?”
- The Vigilante Consumer — Today’s consumer monitoring of corporate environmental and humans rights track records is much higher than it was in previous decades.
- Fantasy Adventure — Eg. the rise of IMAX movies and Silvercity cinemas. We don’t go to a theatre to see a movie, really. We go for a vicarious experience, where we can enjoy the paradoxical thrill of danger with the safety of sitting in a seat with popcorn. In an era of cocooning, if we’re going to go out, it has to be a lot more exciting than Netflix.
Those were just some of her predictions back in the 90’s, and today as I was updating my best business book list on this site I asked myself what Ms. Popcorn  has been up to lately. She wrote a few other books but I found that they fell a bit short, not because the sequels to The Popcorn Report weren’t good, but because she’d done almost all the work in the first book. She was so good at spotting trends and predicting future products and societal directions, that her first book still has a lot to offer.
So I looked at what’s on Popcorn’s web site today in 2020  she’s still CEO of her marketing consultancy BrainReserve. Here’s her list of trends today:
- FutureTense — The keywords here are both future and tense. It highlights the stress people feel as they try to keep up with changes in technology and society and handle the uncertainty of a future that could look very different from anything we can predict. An example is the confusion of “do I email this person, or text them, or message them on Facebook — what’s the etiquette?”
- Clanning — The feeling of alienation that’s common today leads to people finding new ways of connecting with similar people, united in sometimes bizarre ways, such as a web forum for Firefly fans, or an OpenBSD user group, or a Meetup for Pokemon players who speak Japanese as a second language.
- Vigilante Consumer — Today’s consumers push for social change through purchasing power, which is why we have fair trade coffee, more vigilance for factory conditions in other countries, and so many new green technologies.
- Anchoring — A desire both to connect to our roots, and to dig into the past. Examples include anything from using reclaimed materials, to writing in paper journals instead of on laptops, to ancient herbal remedies and spiritual practices such as yoga.
- FantasyAdventure — We’re so well protected from real danger that we crave excitement — but generally without losing our actual safety nets. Watching a 3D IMAX science fiction movie or snorkelling in the Caribbean would fit.
- DownAging — Do we really have to grow up? You see this trend of reaching back into childhood with the popularity of 80’s and 90’s nostalgia in books, movies and fashion.
- AtmosFear — Somehow despite increasing life expectancies, we’ve never been more afraid. Global warming, terrorism, GMO’s, chemicals such as BPA’s in plastic bottles… we’re sure everything is killing us, and some of it might be.
- EVEolution — There are a range of “feminizing” influences in business and life, from greater awareness of gender inequalities to an influx of traditionally feminine values and methods. Flatter organizational hierarchies and greater sensitivity to life/work balance are some examples.
- Being Alive — Staying healthy, staying alive, living longer. Health food isn’t just for hippies anymore, and exercise isn’t just for high school jocks and professional athletes, and that lifestyle changes can mean longer, happier lives.
- 99Lives — We have split personalities at work and at home, dealing with multiple roles, and switching between them can be stressful.
- SmallIndulgences — Sometimes a small feeling of indulgence can go a long way. Instead of pigging out on a couple of chocolate bars, one small, expensive chocolate can give that sense of reward: “I worked hard today and I deserved that.” It’s when you don’t live a luxurious life but occasional indulge in some places, such as one really nice suit or piece of jewelry.
- SaveOurSociety — We’re vocal about doing the right thing and being societally sensitive to the needs of others, eg. the rise of social justice as a theme across social media.
- Cocooning — When sometimes you just want to curl up in a ball on your couch and watch cat videos. More than ever, you can choose to lock out the rest of the world, watching movies on Netflix, getting deliveries via Amazon, banking online, and even working remotely or taking classes online.
- Egonomics — The world has gotten too generic. We’ve reacted to a world of McDonalds, Starbucks and Walmart by looking to carve bits of individuality out of the world. Etsy is a good example of being on-trend with this, and even some of the big companies get it, such as Starbucks letting you order ridiculously specific drinks, or Apple letting you order a pre-monogrammed iPod.
- Cashing Out — Quitting the rat race. It’s the movement of people who decide to be less ambitious, to work less, to earn less, and to focus more on living.
- Pleasure Revenge — When you’ve been too good all week. You’re tired of non-fat lattés and low-carb, no-sugar vegan diets, the yoga and the heartbreaking foreign films, and you just want to eat the biggest, fattest, juiciest burger and then watch the cheesiest damned movie in your pyjamas, eating popcorn with chocolate syrup.
- IconToppling — We’re questioning all our old beliefs as a society. Old heroes such as Columbus in the US have been revised as complex anti-heroes or even villains. Religious beliefs are being confronted, reviewed and deconstructed. Old ways of working are thrown out as we try new paradigms. Nothing is sacred for very long.
These trends are still remarkably similar to what she wrote in her first book, and it’s not laziness but simply how well she got things right the first time. That’s why I think the book is still worth reading, because it’s not just about the trends but the art of spotting. And definitely check out her web site for more details on her latest trend spotting.
- Yes, she changed her last name to Popcorn. Faith, she was born with, it seems.
- I originally wrote this in 2015 but checked it again as of 2020. I’m not sure it’s been updated since 2014. However you can follow her on Twitter where she tweets regularly: @FaithPopcorn
[Edited to add descriptions and examples for the listed trends.]
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