September 25, 2015

2016 Trend Radar

At Unity, we’re looking at the most exciting emerging trends – the ones that are sparking conversation here in our offices at Hatton Wall – and that we believe will gather pace in 2016.


Gen Z’s digital natives, the oldest of whom are just turning 20, are turning their back on the social sphere – and the pressure to curate an idealised version of the self.

Rooted in a desire for privacy, Gen Z is the first group to realise its need for anonymity. We’re withdrawing from social media in favour of seeking out real-world, more genuine and memorable experiences.


The flawed, shallow and manipulated nature of lives led online has been exposed on numerous counts including a painfully accurate portrayal of hipster life by the Barbie Instagram account, and a Dutch student who made headlines Photoshopping and bluffing her way through a 5-week Southeast Asian excursion.


One of the most successful Gen Z campaigns saw Adidas steer its product launch and competition away from social, and arrive at the most basic and original of experiences – the jump.


Ephemeral marketing, loved by pop-ups and Snapchatters, including the 2016 American presidential candidates, helps people feel connected, unique and plays on their fear of missing out. We’re excited to see a rise in its counter trend: playing the long game.

So smart brands are starting to demand consumers wait. Being forced to go at nature’s pace enhances the ultimate pleasure in unveiling. In a strange way, in a world where everything is instantaneous, consumers understand the waiting game more than ever and really want it.


The Make That concept studio has examined the concept of time and waiting and created The Gift, an ice jewellery box, whose contents can only be obtained by waiting for nature to run its course and the box to melt.


The car brand took an inventor, who for over forty years has undertaken a personal quest to design his own astronaut suit, into outer space to test his creation.


As part of the film’s launch, Interstellar teamed up with Google Play to encourage users to contribute content to a time capsule documentary, passing on stories to the next generation.


Veuve Clicquot’s burial of 300 bottles and 50 magnums of champagne in the Baltic Sea, in an experiment to commemorate the discovery of shipwrecked bottles in the same area, will be salvaged in 2050.


There is an outcry against short-termism on the part of both brands and consumers. We’re continuing to see the idea that time equates to money repeatedly disproved: time is so much more precious – it’s irretrievable.

Those who envisioned cathedrals never saw their completion: they worked towards a vision of the future. Society is rejecting immediate gratification, and seeking out grand challenges and epic projects. For brands to be valued they need to convey a sense of time. Future-thinking strategies transform a disposable brand into an immortal one. Difficult for many brands when most marketing directors have a maximum three year tenure.


Google’s Long Now Foundation was created to foster long-term thinking for the next 10,000 years.


Hydrogen Society, Toyota’s future fuel programme, will span forty years before reaching any kind of fruition.


Richard Linklater’s Boyhood took 12 years to shoot and perfectly reflects the cultural demand for lasting spectacle.


We’ve spent the last decade in front of screens. Now, we’re exploring new ways of viewing and visualising information in an age of interactive design.

Boundaries to the screen are not just technical ones: it is the framing itself which is inherently limited. Moving beyond the parameters of the device will prove liberating, and will give way to a host of new technologies and opportunities.


Born from the minds at Google ATAP, Project Soli is an attempt to capture the intricate, precise and natural movements of the hand, the finesse of human action, and apply it to the virtual world. Using radar technology, the project is looking to launch a gesture sensor whereby we can interact with computer devices without the need for staid screen interfaces.


Exploiting our digitally-neglected sense of touch, haptic communication is looking at innovating how we interface with technology. Fashion designer, Lechal, recently launched a directional device embedded within the shoe. This tool moves away from screen-based navigation and prompts users with on-the-go directions, direct to the feet.


Self-improvement is a macro trend permeating all levels of our culture. Insta-skills are a part of this: immediate quick-fix abilities that we can learn and use through digital technology. Whether it’s learning how to put makeup on from vlogger Michelle Phan, or embracing technology to change the learning process itself.

We can only see this trend getting stronger as people have the technology to maximise every minute of their free time and give them practical knowledge in an instant.


Learn more about yourself with Pplkpr, an app that analyses your emotional and physical response to those around you. Ensure you spend more time with those you care about – and who make you happy.


Olive, launching later this year, is a wristband which manages stress levels and gives feedback and guidance on how to cultivate a balanced life.


A new launch for the green-fingered allowing amateur and professional gardeners to design, manage, care for and share their gardens online. A shortcut to gardening insta-skills.


Aware that as a society we’re starved for time yet information hungry, Highbrow delivers five-minute bursts of knowledge straight to your inbox.


We’re recreating our neighbourhoods – with all associated sense of community and belonging – using technology.

Where once people chatted over their garden fences, we now see hyperlocal blogs. Whether sourcing hyperlocal produce, such as honey made from local bees or micro-brewed beer, sourcing hyperlocal partners from dating apps like Happn and Tinder, it seems clear that people don’t want to accept an anonymous technological world.


A resurgence in local news, but now more local than ever before. There are more than 400 hyperlocal journalism websites in the UK, with Ofcom suggesting audiences are increasing. We keep up to date with The Clerkenwell Post.


We’ve all noted the pull of handmade, small-batch craft beers. Most importantly, these are local with proven provenance. The love of the hyperlocal means Hackney locals are returning time again to refill their Growlers at Clapton Craft.


Historically, race, religion and gender have been the most divisive markers of identity. And while they are a foundation of mainstream culture, we are beginning to challenge these rigid classifications and replace them with visions of identity that are more personal and nuanced.

Brands should stop relying on lazy stereotypes of identity to speak to their consumer. With the shift beyond traditional markers of identity, there are no tell-tale signs as to what their tastes may be. Brands must be willing to challenge assumptions.


We’re witnessing retail and fashion pushing forward an a-gender agenda, where gender identity is no longer a deciding factor in the clothes you wear. From Faye Toogood’s concept store in Selfridges, to Topshop designs, gender-neutral retail is moving beyond girls borrowing from the boys, and vice versa, to a deeper interrogation of shapes, colours and silhouettes accessible to all.


Advertising is at a stage where new representations of diversity, sexual orientation and gender are being explored by brands seeking to align themselves with a progressive future. For Nikon’s I Am Generation Image campaign, one family consisting of two black fathers and their three children featured in an advertisement asking viewers not to judge others on what their idea of ‘their normal’ is.


In recent years, we’ve optimised many areas of our lives, tweaking diet and exercise, travel and technology, so they work harder for us. Lifehacking has become an established trend, championed by author Tim Ferriss.

There’s a newfound focus on sleep, and making sure we have the best experience with our eyes shut, as sleephacking comes under the spotlight.


A Kickstarter project launched by a community of dreamers last year, the Shadow app starts with an escalating alarm clock to gradually rouse you. Once awake, record your dreams, and either keep them private or share with a likeminded community.


Finland-based Beddit transmits data from a sensor under your bedsheet to an app. The technology, based on cutting edge ballistocardiography (BCB), measures awakenings, heart-rate and snoring to optimise time in bed. In contrast, Andy Puddicombe, founder of meditation app Headspace, promotes a technology-free bedroom for refreshing sleep.


We may now sit behind laptops rather than campfires, but storytelling is innately human, with our oral tradition being passed down through generations.

The popularity of crime drama Serial, storytelling nights including Tales of Whatever in Manchester and Stand Up Tragedy in London, and performance poetry from Kate Tempest all nod to the current revival. On average, 90 per cent of the UK tune into the radio each week and a quarter of all adults now listen via their mobile or tablet.


A new series of events dedicated to telling stories in the dark through sound alone, launching in London this month. This collaboration between radio producers and enthusiasts worked well at projects for The Wellcome Collection, The British Library, and The Whitechapel Gallery.


Night Vale explores radio as an art form, through a modern medium; a twice-monthly podcast in the style of a community call-in show for the fictionalised small desert town.


We expect change for the better, and we expect brands to be a big part of making that happen. Brands with a voice, those who stand up for something and those who can affect change, are set to go from strength to strength.

No longer thought leadership, it’s now action leadership and stepping in to the unknown which defines a brand. The opportunity is huge – stand up against environmental bankruptcy, exploitation or even everyday emergencies…


Romanian broadcaster Observator addressed the problem of a lack of blood donors in the country with a striking illustration. They removed the red component from viewers’ RGB television sets and continued to broadcast – showing the results of a lack of blood red on screen.


Dramatically shifting away from years of sweatshop-associated criticism, Nike now centres its CSR programme, Better World, around the most innovative part of its business model. That’s not sustainable, that’s unstoppable.


This year with M&S, we celebrated contributing to the local community. The retailer mobilised its staff – from head office to the shop floor – and its supporters and shoppers, to complete 24 transformational projects across the capital in just 24 hours.


These days electronic music is best known as a European phenomenon marked by hedonism, but its roots are steeped in Black protest and the plight of Detroit. We’re welcoming a new tide of progressive protest music, particularly Darkstar’s Foam Island.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our Trends Radar. Let us know what big trends are shaping your industry. Reach us at to find out more.

Thanks, All the team at Unity