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6 trends that corporations are paying attention to

How do companies anticipate the trends that reshape their business and our culture? Economics correspondent Paul Solman talks to long-term trend spotter DeeDee Gordon about what's gaining traction now, from gender fluidity to virtual reality.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    We’re bombarded with advertising every day on TV, online, or just walking around the neighborhood. That’s no accident.

    The ad business spends over $160 billion a year on it. But even before the ad reaches your smartphone or whatever, manufacturers and other businesses are busy spotting trends before they take shape.

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman went to California to take a peek at that for our weekly segment Making Sense, which airs every Thursday on the NewsHour.

  • DEEDEE GORDON, Sterling Brands:

    When we talk about trends, we’re capturing what’s happening in the culture. We’re talking about what is happening with consumer behavior.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    And what companies need to know what to prepare what is next, says trend maven DeeDee Gordon, who advises many of America’s largest corporations on brand building and new product development.

  • DEEDEE GORDON:

    We look for opportunity and for white space, an opening here for us to create something.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    OK. The first significant cultural transformation in Gordon’s latest guide to the cutting edge:

  • DEEDEE GORDON:

    Gender-untethered. A lot of people are talking about gender right now because of Caitlyn Jenner, because of Laverne Cox and “Orange Is the New Black.”

    The next big movement is this idea of being able to move in and out of gender. There is this woman who’s actually an actress on “Orange Is the New Black,” and her name is Ruby Rose, and she identifies as being gender-fluid. She has some videos that she has posted online where she transforms from being a woman into a man.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    And institutional America is beginning to respond to the gender untethered trend.

  • DEEDEE GORDON:

    Fifteen hundred universities now that have gender-neutral housing, gender-neutral bathrooms. Even when you think about corporate America and H.R., they’re having to learn and understand a new vernacular, like, what do you call a person who is a he one day and a she the next?

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    As Gordon points out in her report, products marketed explicitly by gender can put up to half of potential sales at risk. But what might a gender-untethered product look like?

  • DEEDEE GORDON:

    I wanted to create a physical product that allowed you to be fluid. This doll allows you to change the gender as you like. This is just our way of kind of pushing an idea out there and getting people to think about it differently.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Gordon is president of the Innovation group of Sterling Brands, part of the Omnicom advertising and marketing conglomerate. She is based in the Los Angeles building that doubles as the set for a tech firm in the HBO series “Silicon Valley.”

    But, to Gordon, one of the new trends is anti-tech, a growing desire for privacy.

  • DEEDEE GORDON:

    We call it conspicuous isolation. People are feeling very overwhelmed by all of the data out there and so they are trying to find ways of being on the grid while being off the grid.

  • NARRATOR:

    Are you concerned about wireless snooping?

  • DEEDEE GORDON:

    There’s a wallet called the Block-It and it allows you to put your tech device inside this sleeve, so that there are no signals that can get to your device.

  • NARRATOR:

    Block-It Pocket helps you maintain your privacy in an ever increasingly wireless world.

  • DEEDEE GORDON:

    There is a pair of jeans that they have actually sewn this material into the pockets. So, there’s no way anybody can hack your technology.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    And in the near future, there might be a privacy helmet that prevents cameras from capturing the wearer’s face.

  • DEEDEE GORDON:

    The privacy helmet is not a real product. When we report on a trend, we like to showcase evidence that is out in the world that brings the trend to life, but we also like to future-cast where we think this trend can go.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Gordon has been trend-spotting since the late ’90s, when she was profiled in The New Yorker and later featured in a “Frontline” documentary as a cool hunter.

  • DEEDEE GORDON:

    There’s a group of people who would go out and scour the street, looking for the next big thing and take that information and report it back to large companies who were trying to design for new culture.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Gordon no longer hunts cool, a job that has been transformed by the Internet and social media, she says.

  • DEEDEE GORDON:

    It gets out there and it’s like, everybody has it.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    She now takes a longer view.

  • DEEDEE GORDON:

    When I do my trend research, I’m looking for larger-scale movements that aren’t going to quickly like go away.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Like technology itself. For example:

  • DEEDEE GORDON:

    Hyper-experiences, people’s need to be more immersed in products and in brands.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Virtual reality.

  • DEEDEE GORDON:

    Virtual reality, Oculus Rift, even looking at theme park culture and like the expectation that people have when they go to theme park destinations.

  • MAN:

    My favorite part was the heat and the speed, the drop, the whole ride, the wind, everything. It was so awesome.

  • DEEDEE GORDON:

    Even if you look at what is happening in home, like Sonos, an entertainment system. It allows you to have music or any kind of audio playing throughout your house. They have done a partnership with Philips, where it’s now linked to lighting, so you can create different moods within your own personal environment.

    What is that going to mean for the workplace? What is that going to mean for automotive? What is that going to mean for when you go out and eat with your family on a Sunday night?

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    A related trend, says Gordon, is life framing, taking pictures of your Sunday meal, for example, to post online.

  • DEEDEE GORDON:

    That trend is all about the documentation of experiences, how consumers are using photography to frame up these experiences to be able to elevate their status amongst their group of peers on their network.

    Have you heard of Instasham?

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Instasham?

  • DEEDEE GORDON:

    It’s a Web site where you can download pictures of any possible scenario, like a wild party or a scene of hiking up a mountain. If I post it, then people are going to think that I did that.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    And what are the economic implications?

  • DEEDEE GORDON:

    Right now, consumers are more interested in experiences than in products. They want to be able to interact with other people. They want to be able to feel a connection. They want to be able to meet other people that feel — that are like-minded.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    In a phrase, experience over consumption, an example of the trend Gordon calls Frugeois.

  • DEEDEE GORDON:

    Frugeois, which is really our commentary on frugal living. Millennials are extremely conscious of what they’re spending, so they want things that are cheap, but that are designed to function, last and look really good. Fast fashion products like H&M or COS, which is a kind of more adult line from H&M.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    And one final trend on which Gordon advises her corporate clients:

  • DEEDEE GORDON:

    Our bulklash trend, which is all about single living.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Bulk?

  • DEEDEE GORDON:

    Lash, bulklash.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    I see, so bulklash against buying in bulk.

  • DEEDEE GORDON:

    Correct.

    If you’re a single person and you’re living in a small apartment with not a lot of storage, not a lot of capacity, like, you want to be able to buy just for you.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    And come to think of it, with baby boomers downsizing as well, this could be a trend for young and old alike.

    This is economics correspondent Paul Solman reporting for the PBS NewsHour from Los Angeles, California, where I actually was.

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