Is this the biggest marketing megatrend of the decade?

marketing megatrend

I’ve been thinking a lot about relevance lately. When you get down to it, having a great career, company, or brand gets down to one thing: fighting to be relentlessly relevant.

This means being keenly aware of what’s happening in the world and adjusting to “surf” the waves of change constantly crashing around you (see in my recent TEDx talk on this subject).

I’ve become a collector of shifts. I have a whole passel* of them.

*Passel. such a good word.

But there’s one new marketing megatrend that is so big, so important … dare I say overwhelming … that it will transform business and marketing in profound and unexpected ways for years to come.

And once I tell you what it is, I predict you’ll start seeing it everywhere. Ready? Here we go.

The whacked-out world.

Here are a few headlines ripped from the recent news:

  • Doctors recommend that children over the age of eight get tested for anxiety.
  • It’s nearly impossible to get a psychological counseling appointment in most cities. Appointments are booked out for months.
  • An NBA player insisted on having mental health breaks included in his new contract.
  • Powerade sponsored the March Madness basketball tournament with ads calling on the “power of pause,” featuring gymnast Simone Biles.
  • Psychologists regard Gen Z as the “saddest generation” with record increases of depression, loneliness, and suicide.

marketing megatrend

New cultural norms are being forged before our eyes through the strains on mental health. There are two big contributors to this alarming trend:

  1. For years, studies have shown that the more time people spend on the internet, the more lonely, isolated, and depressed they feel. And we are all spending increasing amounts of time on the internet, especially young people. They almost never leave it.
  2. The pandemic, a negative news stream, and culture wars exacerbate this problem and add additional pressures of anxiety, sleeplessness, grief, loss, and depression from the accumulated stress of the world.

I have an additional theory. Humans are not built for this amount of rapid change. For generations, we did the jobs of our ancestors … using the same tools and processes. Nothing ever changed. We lived a simple agrarian life. Our bodies and brains evolved to handle hunting and gathering, not remote working in the metaverse, or making a living playing video games for our fans on Twitch.

This extreme level of mental stress in the world is sad and profound. It also adds up to one of the biggest business priorities of the decade.

Implications of this megatrend

Most people in the world are severely stressed-out, and it’s going to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Let’s think this through. What are the business implications when nearly all our employees and customers are harboring chronic, and probably untreated, levels of mental strain?

  • Higher absenteeism
  • Higher medical costs and insurance claims
  • Lower productivity
  • Demands for more vacation time ( a need for “pause”)
  • Divorce
  • Record numbers of people quitting their jobs
  • More conflict in the workplace

… I’m sure you can think of more.

This is a marketing blog. So let’s get more granular now and think through the implications for marketing.

A long-term shift

In my book Cumulative Advantage, I teach a new way to look at strategy. The world is changing so rapidly and so unexpectedly that we can’t hope to have a three-year plan like the old days. We need to observe the shifts going on in the world NOW and align our strengths and skills nimbly so we can ride those waves.

This long-term pressure on mental health might be the biggest consumer shift of our time. It’s bigger than the metaverse because it impacts almost everybody. It’s bigger than any economic trend because a downward shift in wealth just makes the mental health issue worse. We’ve all read about the dramatic cultural shifts being driven by Gen Z. But to a large extent, mental health issues are driving the needs and desires of Gen Z.

So this is huge. It’s happening now and it’s not going away. What does it mean for marketing?

A marketing megatrend

In the long term, the business world will step up and adjust to these changing needs, as it always does. In the short term, this is an opportunity to serve our customers in new ways. There is a new set of unmet and under-served customer needs.

To start, there will be a massive new demand for anything that soothes our frayed nerves:

  • Music
  • Spas and massages
  • Stress-relieving activities like yoga, meditation, and running
  • Sleep aids
  • Alcohol
  • Comfort food
  • Pets and pet supplies, veterinary services
  • Flowers and gardening
  • All types of games
  • Psychological counseling (both online and offline)
  • Vacations
  • Comfortable clothes
  • Nostalgia
  • Hobbies like painting, knitting, woodworking, and cooking

I’m sure you can think of many more products and services that would be needed by people under constant stress.

If you think this through, the changes being forged by stress and mental health could even impact how, when, and where they shop, how they consume content, and who they trust. In the last two years, there has been a big surge in impulse buying. I think “comfort” is factoring into that equation.

This marketing megatrend is an opportunity to reflect on not just what we do, but how we do it. My friend Tanya Thompson remarked, “It’s important for marketers to think about how they are adding or subtracting from their customers/prospects stress and overwhelm. Sending a third irrelevant impersonal LinkedIn message in a week doesn’t feel good for anyone.”

Our customers are crying out with new needs. They want to belong and connect. Can you serve them?

What this marketing megatrend means for you

Marketing becomes irrelevant when we get stuck in a trench. Are you working on the same things you were working on two years ago? Are you preoccupied with optimizing headlines, Facebook ads, and SEO while overlooking the fractures in the status quo changing your business forever?

Today, I’ve pointed out one of those big fissures. But there are so many others. Spend time looking outside your company, watching carefully for change, and assessing how these shifts should change your approach to marketing.

Now that I’ve pointed out this globally-important issue, be aware of how the mental health crisis is showing up in the news, in your community, and in your business.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. He is the author of some of the world’s bestselling digital marketing books and is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Follow Mark on TwitterLinkedInYouTube, and Instagram. Discover his $RISE create community.

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