Archive for March, 2012

Introducing Trend and Tonic

Christina Linden-Hill writes:

One of the good things about working at The Futures Company is the opportunity to try out new things, to experiment.  When a few of us started thinking about creating a content curation site for the company, we were greeted with encouragement to “do it” and “see what happens”.

We spend much of our working days thinking about trends, and about the future, but sometimes struggle to share our thoughts and opinions outside our project teams, because of constraints of time and geography. To get round these, we decided to create a central site for fresh content, lightly salted with our opinion, which everyone can share, inside and outside of the company. The result is the newly launched Trend and Tonic section on the website – “a daily mix of foresight and futures.”

The new site includes a number of authors from The Futures Company contributing to the site daily; each author writes in their own style about topics that interest them. The intention is to highlight potential cultural shifts across the globe, and where we think these might lead, and to do this concisely.

The posts are categorised by subject,which should make the site easy to navigate, and there is space to comment and to contact the author. Thinking about the future is essential to good strategy, innovation, and risk management. It’s early days, but we hope that Trend and Tonic will be a quick way for people to keep track of the changing landscape.

15 March 2012 at 9:38 am Leave a comment

Doing good and doing well

Vera Kiss writes:

In his controversial 1970 New York Times article, Milton Friedman set the tone for a generation when he argued that the sole responsibility of businesses was to generate profit for their shareholders. But today’s Millennials disagree. Even those in corporate ranks. A recent Deloitte survey of a thousand Millennial employees of the firm reveals that 92% reject the idea that the sole measure of a company’s success is profit.

Importantly, more than 50% believe the primary purpose of business is innovation and societal development. This resonates with the Futures Company’s 2011 Global MONITOR survey, which found that 63% of Millennials believe that companies have a responsibility to support the society in which they operate.

Of course, not all Millennials are engaged with social issues. The Futures Company’s Millennial segmentation reveals significant variation between four global groups of Millennials. Against a global average of 62%, 55% of ‘Striders’ and 43% of ‘Satellites’ consider it important in their lives to make a difference. 76% of ‘Steppers’ and 85% of ‘Spirits’, in contrast, agree with this statement. Spirits, the poster children of the generation, stand out for their interest in global and local issues and are concerned with the ethics of consumption.

Millennial attitudes towards business tell us two stories. One now familiar story is about higher expectations of ethical conduct. The newer story is about the increasing appeal of business-inspired and even business-led solutions for global challenges.

We have seen a proliferation of business-inspired initiatives in the development sphere. Microfinance organizations have mushroomed around the world, pinning the hopes of poverty reduction on micro-entrepreneurs and small scale businesses. Websites such as Kiva provide easy connection between micro-donors and entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Importantly, the corporate sector is increasingly drawn into addressing societal issues through solutions that are designed to do long-term good while also being profitable. The founder of microfinance, Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, now tours the world engaging big business in social enterprise initiatives that seek to maximise their social impact rather than shareholder returns. He has already partnered with Danone to address childhood malnutrition in Bangladesh through a business selling fortified yoghurt products. Inclusive business strategies are also gaining visibility, with development agencies partnering with large companies to include bottom of the pyramid consumers as small investors and suppliers.

Business-influenced strategies won’t provide all-encompassing solutions to global issues, or replace public and non-governmental organisations. The point is that businesses can increasingly act as legitimate agents of social change. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as surprise (especially given the sample) that most respondents to the Deloitte survey think that business has the greatest potential of any sector to achieve societal change.

This creates opportunities for businesses and brands to connect with socially conscious Millennials – but they have to understand the differences within the cohort, and be able to demonstrate real impact through their business practices.

The picture of the Danone Grameen logo on the side of its factory at Bogra is from the Danone Communities Flickr photostream, and it is used with thanks.

12 March 2012 at 8:36 am Leave a comment

Working women

Pen Stuart writes:

It’s international women’s day, and the question of women’s work is top of mind – internationally women perform 66% of the world’s work, but earn only 10% of global income. For many, work is unavoidable, a burden rather than a right – the International Labour Organisation notes that in China and India there is falling female workforce participation among some groups, as more affluent families take pride in the fact that the women in the household can focus on childcare, homemaking, and informal social support for the whole family. Something similar happened in Britain in the 19th century, when the middle classes were glad to show their ‘superiority’ over the working classes, where women had to do manual labour.

It is also reflected in shifts in Pew Global Attitudes data: while 86% of the Chinese sample in 2002 felt the most satisfying kind of marriage is one where both husband and wife have jobs, this had fallen to 78% in 2010. Yet agreement with this statement rose in other emerging markets like Mexico and Russia, showing that you cannot take a ‘one-size fits all’ view of women’s empowerment.

Meanwhile in affluent markets, where work has become a central part of many women’s identity, this is becoming a luxury for some. Women in the US and the UK are actually being forced out of paid work by the rising cost of childcare – in the UK alone 30,000 women have left paid work since last year for this reason.

This challenges traditional understandings of the evolving female market – both in terms of spending power and how they see their identity – and therefore of how you should communicate with them. Women want to be talked to about expanding opportunities, and want more ability to choose their own direction in life – both of which are being squeezed by austerity. But in some markets, those who are no longer single, or feel that they have been squeezed out of the labour market, may not be striving for ‘having it all‘, but for a proper celebration of the work of being a home-maker, wife or mother.

The still from The Homemaker (1925) is from the archive at Stanford University, and is used with thanks.  The film is an early role-reversal movie: the wife goes out to work when the husband loses his job.

8 March 2012 at 2:43 pm Leave a comment

Re-framing well-being

Amy Tomkins writes:

A couple of things which have come across the desk this week reminded me of the increasing visibility of well-being as a set of social and public issues. The first was the latest edition of the United Nations Human Development Index (pdf), which combones health and education scores with economic measures to give an overall view of human development (Norwayis currently top, which is probably a tribute to how smartly they invested their North Sea oil revenues). The other is the UK’s first set of well-being data from the National Statistics Office.

As it becomes more important to people, it is increasingly under threat – from demographic change, economic volatility, climate change, and lifestyle pressures. Our Global Monitor data tells us that emotional wellbeing is declining, from 54% in 2011 to 46% in 2010.

With this in mind, we’ve recently explored how in a Future Perspectives report consumer attitudes to wellbeing are being reshaped. Our research suggests we are seeing the emergence of four new consumer wellbeing mindsets, each with their own implications.

  • ‘Reclaiming mental health’: consumers are increasingly engaging with mental and emotional wellbeing as a means of self preservation. Might we see the emergence of a more self aware society as a result?
  • ‘Search for new solutions’: globalisation and the desire for flexible wellbeing solutions are driving a fusion between East and West. Will this herald the development of a new global language around wellbeing?
  • ‘Coping with risk’: consumers across markets are acutely concerned about the threat from external risks. How will data from the physical environment help them to manage risk in the future?
  • ‘Safeguarding the future’; concern for the wellbeing of future generations is promoting the admission of responsibility from society. Will we see a shift to accountability as this becomes more widespread?

This may add up t the emergence of a Well-being Generation, which will expect products and services to deliver well-being benefits as well as functional benefits. They will exist within a more accountable society, where governments and companies are scrutinised for their impact on future well-being. Health practice will adopt – and adapt -approaches to well-being from around the world, which will create innovation opportunities.

The biggest challenge will be inclusivity. We expect the winners in the re-framed world will be those that manage to create mass market approaches  that drive engagement with well-being.

You can download Reframing Wellbeing from our website.  The image at the top of this post is from San Francisco State’s College of Extended Learning, and is used with thanks.

2 March 2012 at 3:56 pm 1 comment


The Futures Company blog

The Futures Company was created through the merger of Henley Centre HeadlightVision and Yankelovich in 2008. This is the blog of the new company - but the former posts from the former Henley Centre Headlightvision blog still can be found here.


WPP? Leaders in Advertising,Branding,Marketing