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Downstream effects: Consumer behavior in the mid 2020’s

UM’s Patriz Salazar Datlangin redefining the culture of the decade

As we get into the groove of the mid-2020’s, we’re well on our way to re-defining the culture of the decade.

Consumers who are caught between economic anxieties and a yearning for normalcy have exhibited a remarkable capacity for both frugality and extravagance. Despite high inflation and recession fears, there has been increased spending on leisure and travel – so much so that we’ve termed this period as the “funflation.”

The second-order effects of the pandemic are also at play in which digitisation and AI are poised to play a crucial role with the UAE and KSA pioneering its adoption in the region. The former established the ‘AI strategy of 2031’ and the UAE Council for Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain, while the latter is set on being the leading economy for utilising and exporting data and AI by 2030.

The above are downstream effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and have a big impact on the future of the media landscape across the following aspects.

Life’s new beat

Flexi-work, born out of necessity during the lockdown, is becoming mainstream.

Sharjah employees reported increases in productivity and job satisfaction after adopting the three-day weekend while Dubai is looking to expand flexible hours and remote work policies to ease traffic congestion across the city.

With a more hybrid or flexible future ahead, we’ll see shifts in productivity patterns as employees try to reclaim the day for personal use or compensate with late-night work. Traditional media consumption will be in a flux – think about the potential impact for linear TV and on-demand streaming as well as the blurred lines between the once-distinct morning and evening rush hours on the road.

Such evolving lifestyles will challenge traditional media and marketing, necessitating AI-driven strategies and personalised communication to reach consumers effectively.

The remixed city

The wider world is also being reshaped given housing affordability issues and climate change anxieties.

Initiatives like the ‘15-minute city” are becoming more prevalent around the world. The UAE’s Expo City and Saudi’s Neom are anticipated to shape a future where sustainability and tech significantly influence housing and city development.

Electric vehicle adoption is also on the rise while mobility innovations like drone delivery, the Hyperloop, driverless cars, and flying taxis are well under way.

These are the foundations for a twenty-first century city that looks straight out of a sci-fi movie. Time will tell but it’s very clear that it will change the way we interact with media on the road and when we’re on the go.

Revenge of the monoculture

While the lockdown is partly to blame, decades of the niche-ification of our media ecosystem led to an ever-increasing desire for unifying cultural events.

Before the streaming revolution, it was usual to watch the same show and discuss it with friends. While social media platforms are reshaping themselves in TikTok’s image and are becoming less about the ‘social’ and more about the ‘media’, focusing purely on serving up entertainment. We are also entering an era of zero content creation costs with generative AI democratising and supercharging the release of content.

While we are spoiled with variety – it has ultimately created separate communities of discussion.

Then Barbenheimer came along epitomising the revenge of the monoculture – a worldwide trend that compelled people to watch these movies to engage in a global conversation.

The Barbie movie itself is a prime example of establishing that FOMO feeling by dominating with months of brand collaborations. Ultimately, they got the whole world invested in the hype.

Brands need to identify their own FOMO opportunities to fuel such long-lasting connections. Monoculture may well be our salvation in an increasingly fragmented world.

The expanding experience economy

The experience economy is thriving showing that the drive for connection isn’t limited to digital environments.

But if seeing Taylor Swift live represents the pricier end of the ‘experience spectrum,’ and watching at home in an immersive headset lies at the other – hybrid events are the exciting middle ground in the experience economy.

ABBA Voyage, for example, had the band’s virtual yet realistic avatars take to the stage even interacting with the audience between songs.

Blending such cutting-edge tech with what consumers are already familiar with can create fresh and engaging experiences. Imagine how we can take this further for gaming, sports and beyond.

Now is the time for brands to be at the forefront of the evolving media landscape and seize this window of innovation. Time won’t stand still for you and your brands to catch up.

By Patriz Salazar Datlangin, Associate Media Director and IPG Media Lab Ambassador, UM