The Top 5 mutations that changed the markets’ DNA

After last week announcements, we know what is on offer for 2021. We know that the offer will continue to be deliver amazing experiences, but the real unknown in 2021 is the demand, the channels, customers and consumers. What will s.he actually do, how will s.he purchase, what and when?

Which variables did mutate, what changed enough to make usual recipes obsolete? How strong and durable are these changes? What is the opportunity to build on this in the next years? Rather than stacking up excuses, my shot at the top 5 mutations of the 2020s consumer.

There are clearly more themes to highlight, more venues to explore, more opportunities to grab, enjoy 2021 and the coming decade!

If interested, these will be available in PDF on request (just message me) or through my podcast (Making Nonsense of it – Tech 2021 – Spotify)

Wishing to you all a fantastic 2021, whatever looms on the (distant) horizon!


-summary table

-the 5 dimensions and potential opportunities detailed

-grabbing the opportunity: how to leverage these mutations, one example




Trust is the fundamental component of exchange, economy, dialog, politics, marketing, anything that requires mediation. 2020 is a turning point in the authorities underpinning the markets.

For a very long time, much of the world, markets, consumers, took for granted a series of authorities. We implicitly agreed that they were the final word in their domain. Whether in ideas, science, politics, systems, products, brands, media, … we had co-opted, conquered, voted, established for every domain a set of authority filters.

Trust and validations’ mechanisms hardly changed since the end 1940s, unchallenged since then, becoming implicit. Once the dust settled, the 60s just marked a new generation of authorities, with a new way of expressing it, but authorities they were, and the core rules did not change. New mandarins replaced the old mandarins. Perennial, and familiar to all, whether audience/public/consumer/…, even if doubted, they were at least an established reference, a benchmark.

This status quo was already rattled by the alternatives available through the internet, but they have been found out, out-manoeuvered, sometimes all but wiped out by the corona crisis. Whether political debates or conspiracies, scientific dogmas or truths, information or fake news, the “truth” is pretty much out there, once again, trust rattled and the implicit status-quo discredited.

Opportunity: truly take stock of the reset of trust, take no past validation for granted, reset or reinforce accountability and engagements


-do not rest on your company / society / … history, restate your claims, demonstrate them

-do not rely solely on established external validation systems, dig deeper in what can you deliver, go beyond the established industry/channel rating, do not just  add another A or + to the energy ratings (AAA+++/etc……)



A Reality based on seamless Digital and Analog worlds

In 10 years, digital reality has taken a life of its own, creating as a norm a series of schizophrenic, mutually exclusive persona. It is obvious on social media, less so in online retail, or in zoom meetings, but this dichotomy analog/digital life was one of the basics on which we operated as individuals, companies, states. This schizophrenia was not only between persona, but also their behaviours: for example, we were at the same time actors and spectators on social media, establishing both analog and digital families which sometimes crossed-over but never truly met IRL…

These worlds have spilled over each other, melted to the point where they create a new alloyed reality, the balance between both still oscillating, but certain. Take conversations: we used to be able to delineate digital and analog conversations, but this distinction is now largely inoperational, as they more and more seamlessly overlap. The divide between Pure Digital and a Pure Analog reality, including their respective validation processes, is all but gone. The 20s will neither be “Tron” nor “Ready Player One” and their clearly split realities.

This conflagration of digital and analog worlds may seem may seem challenging, even dangerous, but both are ruled nevertheless by immutable logics, gravity and binarity for example. Humanity has harnessed physical, social, intellectual and political realities over the centuries through customs, traditions, laws, …. with greater or lesser success to be true, but defining a new balance between the needs of both realities simultaneously seems the most likely outcome and discussions of the coming years, rather than waiting for the next tectonic shock between them.

Opportunity: whomever will move first to bridge this in a seamless way this apparent dichotomy without transforming the analog reality in a binary space will win


-in-person, zoom, high street, retail park, conference, website, twitter handle, FB are one persona, let it be so

-be the first “new world” citizen by having as seamless online-offline presence and strategy (define the roles of each precisely and clearly)

-do not rely on the past dichotomy between digital and analog (ex. onliners)

-engage with the consumers behind the personas, playing on this duality




2020 cancelled or at least frustrated something we took for granted, the ability to think, or even simply outline, the future. What used to be a given has become muddied, we miss a sense of vision, mission and, ultimately, future.

Consider the current global “projects”: when they exist at all, “universal” projects concern at best a select few individual timelines, meaningless and irrelevant to the vast majority. As such, no surprise that one of the few defining project of the period is squarely advertised as a private trip to Mars. Whether you called it Sputnick or Apollo, projects of that type used to be the cement of entire societies. Common futures were implicit in many societies, and have gone missing over the past decades. Arrestingly, the stronger the country and society visions, the better managed the health crisis of 2020 (cf China, Singapore,…).

Set aside a shared and a common understanding of the future, that is possibly a social goal. But what we have lost is the very basic view on what the future may hold; the 2020 health crisis has cancelled any sense of what tomorrow could bring. In the Western world at least, the future seems to have narrowed down to the next state subsidies.

Answering, “where do you see yourself in 3 years from now”, the simple basic run-of-the-mill question of any interview, has become the privilege of the few, if any. That change is one defining consumer feature for the 2020s, maybe the most critical and novel one.

Opportunity: create and stick to a clear, believable timeline, absolutely forego short term avoidance


-Map a clear future for your customers, not a the run-of-the –mill “roadmap”, but restate your vision, your “dream”, including individual stakeholders, customers, consumers, society…

-Project your brand into a long term Future

-Re-write your missing statement, build a timeline with a view to a legendary; we all know that most of current companies/ideas originated earlier, in the 50s, 60s, or 90s, credentials are not anymore linked to longevity of your survival, (cf “Authority”), what we want to know now is what they mean for tomorrow, with a view, a vision, a future, to carry along stakeholders, customers, consumers




Modern life since the industrial revolution came to be defined by schedules, the corner stone of industry, society, families, individuals. Schedules, rhythms were thrown out of the window in 2020. Either short term, daily schedules, familiar news programs, email checks,… or longer term, such as yearly holidays, sky or sea, education programs, diplomas and studies, all social, economic, psychological and cultural agendas and markers were up-ended, deleted, rendered obsolete. Whether it was our personal or social plans for travels, meetings, dinners, or economic and cultural plans, such as product launches, conferences, film releases, elections… not a single aspect of our life rhythms was left untouched.

Time and timelines are often an implicit, and strongest, commonality we share, as societies, corporations, individuals. Their global significance and reach is unmatched: take as an example either Valentines day celebrations around the world, or the well known proxy torture of denying basic time schedules, playing on basic animal instincts.

2020 literally threw off our everyday life, from alarm clocks, school runs, office hours, Monday morning meetings, week-ends, religious rhythms, 17h00 pub-times, Sunday afternoon BBQ, sky-holidays, … and the pendulum has not yet settled. This means that customers, consumers established habits, daily, weekly, yearly, are at least up in the air, possibly disappeared. Periodic events, established rhythms may have become obsolete, irrelevant. This means that we have to anticipate, manage or create the upcoming new schedules, be there for the new meeting times. So far, experience showed that, rain or shine, curfew at 18h00 or 20h00, lockdowns or not, ads, TV programs, time, meeting set-ups, schedules, did not change that much, if and when at all!

Opportunity: Initiate and master the new timelines, cadences, understand the new timelines, for yourself, your consumer and define the new schedules


-Rethink all practical timelines based on today’s realities to create a new daily, weekly, dynamic

-starting at 10h00 and driving out at 20h00 may be needed if you commute in traffic jams, but not today… what does it mean for your team meetings?

-coffee machines pauses: how to re-create spontaneous/informal chats (….critical element in italics….)

-use the new time slots, rhythms and schedules to mesh your time with your stakeholders’, not the other way around

-Rethink your strategic long term agendas along core and accessory moments:

-what festivities have a long enough pull to create their own gravity despite the physical stacking at home (Valentine’s, Mother’s Day,…)

-what new advertisement cadences and media to establish a non-intrusive dialog instead of 1970s linear ad strategies

-what rhythm of rewards for consumer loyalty programs?

-Delivery: same day delivery will ultimately be the norm, whether financially sustainable or not, as next day or immediate availability is pretty much the standard expectation today

Space rediscovered

We woke up in 2020 to new surroundings, not because we did not know them, but because we never actually paid much attention to them, or at least not in such a way. Sure they had been familiar enough, but we were forced to explore them anew, find back our place in them, re-discover their barycentre, whether it was our apartment, building, garden, city block, nearest city park, or the 1 kilometer radius around.

How many social media post were about missing the “coffee machine” or “water cooler” chats? Canteen lunches, ashtray pause, for some I guess… all these are de facto critical locations, physical environments that were all but invisible, and which we now see with different eyes or even simply look at. Travelling, moving around, whether for business or pleasure, used to be largely a given, the experience mostly one of boredom, habit or expediency?

Moving from A to B, whether for a supplies, shopping, work, holidays, social has become a planned activity, one where we try and maximise the result, whether acquisition, entertainment, discovery or experience.

The familiar has been unfamiliar, the unfamiliar exotic. That is both a reset as much as an opportunity.

Opportunity: re-purpose space and location


-channels will end their evolution between convenience, discovery  and experience, and each format showed its importance, attraction and potential usage as a destination. Each shopping format, location has a specific relevance as a destination, online specialist, marketplace, proximity store, high street, retail park, shopping mall

-retail: rethink movement around and in store,

*the 80s shelf optimisation schemes may still be valid at a pinch, but why and how we shop fundamentally changed, rethink formats and update catalogs

*whether online, proxy, main street, retail park, shopping mall, each has a potential new destination role, as demonstrated, al can be attractive enough,

some formats may be a re-discovery!

-tech channels have a card to play in meshing the same online/offline/convenience-proximity/experience/discovery dimensions

-the pent-up demand for shopping could be a trigger if enticed properly




How can you mix all of the above into new opportunities?

trust + reality + future + map a future + need for meeting + pent up demand =?= VR




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