Looking back at ’07, ahead to ’08

Today's year-end pundit is renowned NYC-based author and futurist Marian Salzman, who's credited with popularizing such terms as 'metrosexual,' 'singleton' and 'wiggers.'

Today, NYC-based Marian Salzman, EVP/CMO of JWT Worldwide, offers MiC readers some provocative thoughts on where we’ve been lately and where we’re likely headed.

MiC: What were some of the highlights of ’07, and how might they morph in ’08?

‘The environment continued to be a major theme. But I believe there will be a turn in 2008, where blue will replace green as environmentalism’s colour du jour. Climate change has quickly become the driver of environmentalism 2.0, and people worldwide understand that climate is all about the seas and the sky – both blue.

‘And blue (denoting water) is becoming as big an issue as green (forests). The era of apparently limitless clean water supplies is coming to an end around the world, due largely to pollution. Water management and conservation will rise up the agendas of governments and corporations around the world – water just might become the next oil. Yet while there are some alternatives to oil, there’s no alternative to water.

‘Watch for ‘green,’ which is starting to feel too limited – and too strongly associated with ‘tree huggers,’ the ‘beards-and-sandals’ ethos of earlier environmentalism, and with brands going through the motions of environmentalism (greenwashing) to become a subset of ‘blue’ – which is coming to denote the much larger emerging spirit of good-citizen ethics.

‘Technology continues to be a common thread among many trends we’ve been highlighting. It drives the serendipitous randomness that throws up chance connections, groundbreaking discoveries and great business ideas. Last year, we predicted that the tech-driven movement towards ‘entertaining ourselves’ – or expressing ourselves at minimal expense or risk in formats that range from blogs to video clips to mash-ups – would continue.’

MiC: What do you see as the next big opportunities?

‘For 2008 and beyond, some of the tech-related trends include:

• Radical transparency: In this world of two or three degrees of digital separation, conspicuous living is at an all-time high, with people clamouring to show and tell all, no matter how personal. This radical transparency marks the new generation gap, a divide between those who relish privacy and those who feel they have nothing to hide. Having grown up with celebrity culture, reality TV, the Internet and anti-terrorism security, younger generations take lack of privacy for granted. Unlike their wary elders, they have few qualms about opening up their lives.

• Cooperative consumption: Fractional ownership is moving beyond the jet-setting, time-sharing elite, with the masses sharing everything from art to cars to designer handbags. With technology for pooling demand and resources becoming increasingly sophisticated, expect the idea to be applied to an even wider variety of unexpected categories.’

MiC: What do you see as the next big looming threat?

‘Watch for reality checks to kick in as the tech bubble in the US and the economic bubble in China continue to stretch. In the US, Silicon Valley is flooded with young, eager Web entrepreneurs. Venture capitalists are throwing seed money willy-nilly, and everyone is talking about the Internet. It feels like 1999, pre-dot.com crash.

‘Where is all this leading us? Our prediction is that the market will undergo a serious reality check. The wider economy, at least in the US, is souring, thanks to the weak American dollar and the sub-prime mortgage debacle. And few of these start-ups are going public, which means they will be strapped for cash – there are only so many Googles and Microsofts out there to buy them up. Watch for companies and investors to become more cautious and take greater heed of eBay, which has admitted that it paid a billion dollars too much for Skype.

‘China is also at risk of a bubble burst, of a more traditional nature. The Chinese, who have been known for their strict savings practices, are now taking a gamble in the country’s growing stock and real estate markets. As Chinese equity valuations reach their stretching points, watch for its institutions to undergo their own reality checks.’