Posts filed under ‘global’

The future of golf

Andrew Curry writes:

As The Open Championship hits its stride in Lytham St Annes, I thought I should mention that we’ve just written for HSBC a report on the future of golf. HSBC’s a patron of The Open, and sponsors a number of tournaments – including women’s tournaments – in various parts of the world, as well as supporting junior golf programmes in both the UK and China. Hence their interest in how the game could evolve.

Golf’s 2020 Vision: The HSBC Report looks at the big trends that will shape the game over the next decade, including the rise of Asia, more women (and young people) coming into the game, the emergence of shorter forms, the impact of digital technology, and the rise of sustainability issues. Working with Hill+Knowlton’s sports team, we also secured a range of interviews with leading golfers, including Gary Player, one of the game’s greats.

For the moment, the report can be downloaded from The Futures Company website (opens pdf) and from Scribd.

As a taster, here’s the ’12-hole guide’ to golf in 2020, taken from the report:

  1. Golf clubs and golf courses will become more family friendly. There will be family rooms instead of bars, holes set up for younger players, and certified womenfriendly facilities.
  2. Six and nine hole formats, and othershort-forms, complement the 18-hole tradition. A pay-TV sports channel accelerates this trend by promoting a professional short-form competition.
  3. Golf will benefit from its association with younger fitter players—driving more fashion and more word on the street.
  4. The ‘next’ Tiger Woods—the hot sponsorship and TV property of 2020—will be a young Asian player.
  5. Asian golf brands will be making major inroads into the golf equipment and clothing market.
  6. Golf becomes more unisex. As more women come into the game, golf becomes the way for men and women to share leisure time—as cycling has done in richer markets.
  7. Golf simulation games—using motion sensors and gestural interfaces—become mainstream.
  8. Gamers become golfers. Social gaming environments and family-oriented golf video games encourage people to move into the sport, not the other way around.
  9. The app as caddy: smartphone and tablet software helps golfers make the right choices, while sensors in equipmentand on courses—the smart coach—help players learn from their mistakes.
  10. Golf becomes a centre of expertise in water management, conservation and biodiversity.
  11. The first carbon positive courses are opened—in a hail of publicity.
  12. The authorities change the rules about equipment to reduce the distances achieved by professionals and bring course lengths back under control.

The photograph at the top of the post, included in the Golf’s 2020 Vision  shows American golfers Natalie Gulbis and Paula Creamer of the USA giving advice to young golfers from Singapore and China during an HSBC Junior Clinic held in Singapore. It was supplied by HSBC and it is used with thanks.

20 July 2012 at 4:24 pm 4 comments

The volatile world

Henry Tucker writes:

The Futures Company has recently released the latest edition of Global MONITOR, our large scale syndicated future-focused Insights Programme. Global MONITOR’s analysis is underpinned by a survey of 27,000 respondents in 21 markets, and its research underpins much of thinking about social, cultural, and consumer change. Over the next few weeks we’ll be running a series of blog posts on themes from this research.

One of the most important themes of Global MONITOR 2011 is about consumer volatility. Three years into the financial crisis, those in richer nations have experienced long periods of austerity, unprecedented since the last World War. Eleswhere, pressures of growth are causing their own problems, from pollution to poisoning, in the case of China’s food scandals. This has made consumers feel both vulnerable and vigilant. And some of the data are striking:

  • 42% agree that they ‘usually buy the cheapest product available’
  • 51% of consumers, globally, agree that they are making more of an effort to buy less than they did before.
  • 62% agree that ‘the world feels like an increasingly hostile and uncertain place’ (a high level of agreement for such a strongly worded question).

These tensions are expressing themselves culturally as well as economically. In most markets, the proportion of those agreeing with the statement ““I appreciate the influence other cultures have on our way of life in this country” has fallen quite sharply over the past two years. People are drawing in.

What we’re seeing as a result is that consumers are becoming as self-reliant as they can, reducing their exposure to an uncertain world wherever possible. Of course, ‘self-reliance’ conjures images of people storing clean water and tinned food in their cellars, but the emerging trend is, instead, about networked reliance. People use social connections, both to find new information, to look for deals, and to lean on each other for support. As they do so, their expectations of what business should be doing for society have become sharper. The proportion agreeing that “Companies have a responsibility to help support the society in which they operate” has seen a significant jump year on year in many markets. It’s another layer of complexity that many businesses could do without in tough times. But get it wrong and consumers will punish you for it.

The picture at the top is from Global MONITOR, and shows people’s perceptions of how their countries are doing and also how they are doing.

Global MONITOR is an innovative, strategic, future-focused Global Insights programme for clients and agencies. It identifies the key dynamics shaping the world and the consumer marketplace, as well as potential implications for your clients’ businesses. If you want to know more about Global MONITOR, please call Simon Kaplan in the United States, or Deniz Erdem in Europe.

18 November 2011 at 10:47 am 2 comments

The World in 2020

Andrew Curry writes:

I’ve been working on a Futures Company report on The World in 2020 for the last couple of months, and since I’ve end up doing much of the work in the evening I’m delighted to say that we’ve just published the summary edition, and the full version has just gone into production. The summary edition can be downloaded from our website, although registration is required.

The World in 2020 is the first in a series of ‘Futures Perspectives’ reports which we’re publishing over the next few months.

It takes a high level view of the big drivers which are shaping the world, and looks at some of the innovation spaces which may emerge as a result. Here’s are a couple of extracts:

The financial crisis of 2008 represented an ending, but not a beginning. We are in a liminal moment, betwixt and between, when there are more questions than answers, but when, increasingly, our assumptions about how the world works are open to challenge and interrogation. … Liminal moments such as this one can last a decade or more, before opinion coalesces around a new set of operating assumptions about how the world works.

Over the next decade, we’ll see much tougher resource constraints – energy, food and water, and resources will all be under pressure – as well as the continuing long economic shift towards Asia. Issues involving technology and inequality will also be influential. It will be harder to make money in the coming decade. As a result, businesses will have to rethink their approach:

The changing economic environment creates the dilemma of new yet alternative prospects for different types of customers. The emerging middle class across much of Asia and Latin America will be very different from the debt constrained consumers of Europe and the United States. Globally, the
costs of basics such as food and energy are likely to rise over the next decade, so discretionary income will be lower than some project. In the richer countries, the experience of recession will create demands for more social behavior from businesses.

Business critic Umair Haque talks of the “meaning organization” that builds “authentic prosperity.” As he writes in a blog post, “An isolated notion of ’profit’ is obsolete: it’s an arid industrial-age conception of a currency-focused construct that’s built to trivialize everything but what a firm owes its ’owners’.

14 March 2011 at 9:16 am 3 comments

Rising East

Joe Ballantyne writes:

We’re experiencing a fundamental shift in the global economy, as wealth moves from West to East. As Asia and the Middle East assert themselves as the brightest prospects on the global landscape, in some ways we’re witnessing a return to the 16th–19th centuries, when the Chinese and Indian economies dominated world trade.

The scale of the shift is huge. In 1950, America was responsible for 27 per cent of the world’s GDP. China accounted for just 4.5 per cent and India, 4.2 per cent. Fast-forward to 2050 and the picture will look very different: forecasters say China will then be about to become the biggest economy in the world.

This economic shift, and the large implications for European businesses, was the subject of a recent report, Looking East, produced by The Futures Company for HSBC. The report included extensive analysis of the main drivers of change affecting the global economy to 2020, as well as a number of in-depth interviews with experts and businesspeople in a number of European countries.

It can seem as though this story is now a familiar one. But the research uncovered some striking findings, some of which go against the grain of popular conceptions about the rise of Asia. I was most struck, as we wrote the report, by these three:

  • The ‘global financial crisis’ isn’t really global at all – it’s a manifestation of a longer term economic realignment. While Western economies stagnated through 2009-10, Asian economies are increasingly “decoupled” from the US, and have increasingly influential trade partners in other parts of the world – notably Africa and south America. China and India have continued to expand rapidly while Japan and several European economies have slipped into near-depression.
  • Asia is no longer just a source of low cost labour – it’s increasingly a source of high value innovation. The model whereby the West does the research, development and design and the East took care of production is anachronistic. Lines have been blurred – as a result of a huge investment in education, countries like India and China are world leaders in areas such as software design and green technologies, and their multinationals are reshaping industries such as energy, steel and car making.
  • There’s more than one way of running a successful economy. It’s easy to assume that the Washington consensus – open borders, economic liberalization, and free movement of capital, privatization – is the only way to run a successful economy. But these are largely a legacy of the ’80s, and an alternative model of ‘state capitalism’ developing in emerging economies. Companies are encouraged to exploit global capital markets and seek new opportunities abroad but are directed by the state and help to manage the domestic economy. This is most obvious in strategically important national industries: for example, 75% of the globally available crude oil reserves are in government hands. But it is also manifest in other industries: China Mobile, the world’s biggest telecommunications company, is listed on the NYSE, but controlled by a holding company owned by the government. In India, the central government has hundreds of state-run enterprises in diverse industries. Sitting behind the state capitalist model – in Russia and the Middle East as well as Asia – is the sovereign wealth fund, which invests globally for the benefit of the people but is managed and controlled by the state. These funds are increasingly active investors in the West.

The report – Looking East – was widely covered by (among others) the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and Business Week and can be downloaded online (opens pdf), free of charge.The picture at the top of this post is from the China Digital Times, and is used with thanks.

15 October 2010 at 9:02 am Leave a comment

Looking beyond price

Walker Smith writes:

A ‘new normal’ is emerging among consumers in the wake of the financial crisis and the recession:  ‘considered consumption’. This trend, which we noted last year, has now been reaffirmed by our latest Global MONITOR survey, which has just been released. One of the consequences is that the focus on price which was so strong immediately following the financial crisis has started to weaken.

Two data points stand out. The first is that 53% of consumers – taking a global average across all 20 countries – agree that ‘price is more important to me than brand names’ (down from 59% in 2009). The second is that 39% agree that ‘it’s best to buy famous brand names because you can rely on their quality’ (up from 34% in 2009).

Although these changes are small, they are notable. It can be easy to lose sight of the fact that consumers who are still tightening their belts also want the reassurance of name-brand quality.

And while there’s been a lot of talk about consumer frugality, what’s actually happening is that they’re practising prioritization. Consumers will stand up for the things that matter to them. But brands need to play their part as well. One of the other trends tracked by Global MONITOR is about interest in brands that practice social responsibility or deliver innovative wellness benefits. That’s been climbing, albeit slowly, over the past three years.

Global MONITOR is The Futures Company’s syndicated insights service. It encompasses an annual quantitative global survey of more than 27,000 consumers in 20 countries; the Global Energies, our consumer trends framework; and Global Streetscapes, our interactive database, continually refreshed, of consumer and brand behaviour. For more information, please contact Jennifer Childs in London or Simon Kaplan in the United States.

1 October 2010 at 4:12 pm Leave a comment

New consumers, new rules: branding the World Cup

Alex Steer writes:

In Cape Town, ‘This is Africa’ is normally a sort of verbal shrug. It’s what you say when you see a road that’s more pothole than tarmac, or when a breakfast meeting finally starts at noon. In the last few months, though, ‘This is Africa’ has taken on a rather different meaning, as every media channel, and every brand, scrambles to ‘welcome the world’. This is Africa, and this is Africa’s World Cup.

The more optimistic see it as a chance for one of Africa’s most successful countries to show that the whole continent is coming of age. The more pessimistic see the World Cup as a cynical commoditisation of the idea of ‘Africa’: a cheap shorthand of Lion King imagery and broad cultural stereotypes lending a false exoticism to a Euro-centric and hugely commercial football tournament. The evidence for the prosecution rests on the shambles of ticketing, which either incompetently or viciously priced the vast majority of South African and African football fans out of attending matches.

If FIFA had paid more attention to its hosts, it might have avoided mixing bland pan-Africanisms with repressive corporatism. If brands are paying attention, there are a few deeper lessons they might draw about South Africa’s new consumers (the ones that didn’t make it to the stadiums) – lessons that even consumer research sometimes misses, to its cost.

The first is the need for specificity. Just as vague nods to ‘Africa’ will not wash, neither will any brand proposition that is not explicit about why it deserves attention. FIFA’s major sponsors are spending hundreds of millions on media and global brand campaigns – yet an increasing share of purchasing power in South Africa is in the hands of millions of low-income consumers who are driven by a fundamental conception of value. Brands thrive because they offer low cost, quality, safety and personal status. Global sponsor? Nobody cares.

The World Cup has also revived the lingering stereotype of the ‘new African consumer’: young, upwardly-mobile, black and with disposable income. This isn’t confined to advertising: hugely popular soap operas like Generations and Rhythm City are dazzling cocktails of social issues and fetishisation of commercial success that make Dallas look tame. These ‘new consumers’ look remarkably like the old ones, though, and there are some signs that the use of aspirational ‘black diamond’ images to sell existing products to new target audiences is wearing a bit thin.

‘Emerging consumers’ do not think of themselves as if they were playing catch-up with richer ones – or as if they were the same as each other. The smarter brands are segmenting these markets attentively, and looking for genuine insights. Asking the wrong questions can lead brands astray. Few low-income South Africans, for example, report having life insurance (24%) or investments (17%; see Global Monitor), in part because they do not associate these labels with membership of informal burial societies or stokvels (rotating credit unions), widespread in these markets. Insightful financial services brands are developing formal versions of these, tailoring their products to their new (not ‘emerging’) consumers.

If the World Cup has given us anything, though, it is the sound of the vuvuzela. Raucous, unfamiliar, disruptive, it’s an apt metaphor for the new South African consumer landscape and its challenge to brands. You can’t block it out, you can’t change it, and you’d be churlish to try. Sorry, brands of the world, but you’ll have to get used to it. This is Africa.

Alex Steer is a WPP Marketing Fellow and worked in our London office in 2009. He is currently a planner at Ogilvy Cape Town and rejoins The Futures Company in New York in September. The picture at the top of this post comes from the internet guide to Cape Town, and is used with thanks.

1 July 2010 at 10:30 am 2 comments

When pigs flu: the social life of pandemics


Alex Steer writes:

The numbers are changing constantly, but at time of writing, somewhere around 1,800 people (over 1,600 in Mexico) have been infected with the new ‘swine flu’ strain, and 103 people have died. The World Health Organization is coordinating the response, calling it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

When reading headlines like these, our thoughts naturally turn to the past and the future: where did this come from, and where will it lead? Our impressions of the past often inform the futures we imagine. We know about the possibilities of pandemic disease, even if few of us have experienced them. In 1919 between 20 and 100 million people worldwide were killed by an influenza pandemic; between 1982 and 2007 more than 2 million died of AIDS.

From flesh-eating viruses to ebola to winter vomiting, we are fascinated by the extremely unpredictable: the small outlying cause that transforms our lives; the sick man on the plane who brings down a city. Modern zombie lore is driven more by our fear of inexplicable pandemic outbreaks than by our belief in voodoo. (If you don’t believe me, watch 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead and Dead Set in succession. But don’t do it late at night.)

Pandemics, unlike zombies, have full and active social lives. Even events which seem radically unpredictable have driving forces, many of which don’t need a microscope to be seen. They range from urbanisation to the dense migration networks and transport systems which increase each infectious person’s sphere of influence; from healthcare policies which exclude uninsured low-income workers from care to lumbering organisational structures which make it hard to close roads or supply drugs at short notice. It takes a whole range of forces, not just a few strands of RNA, to make a pandemic.

Our own stories also drive our behaviour. In the hour before this post was written, 24,000 stories containing the word ‘swine flu’ were indexed by Google News. This morning airlines and hotel chains saw steep declines in their share value. Newspapers carried photos of travellers at UK airports wearing masks.

Swine flu may or may not go pandemic, but so far it isn’t even close. Each year 3-4,000 people in the UK die of normal-strain influenza. Our response is out of all proportion to the clinical risk. It reflects our fascination with the pigs-might-fly rareness of new diseases, and our unwillingness to grapple with the other factors that affect how, when, and where people get sick.

The picture of that childhood game of chance, “Pass the Pigs”, was borrowed, with thanks, from Kaptain Kobold on Flickr.

28 April 2009 at 8:45 am 2 comments

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