2017 felt like a tough year. Although the stock market was booming, people were stressed. EVERYTHING was tinged by politics and nothing made much sense e.g. can anyone explain Bitcoin’s crazy pricing? Or the fact that the stock market rocketed 20% (maybe it’s the Russians?)
As we head into 2018, I anticipate another difficult year – although the burgeoning cannabis industry may provide a mellowing influence. I have no idea which way the stock market will go – it increasingly operates untethered from reality. I do expect politics to continue to be front and center, infiltrating every aspect of business (which is strange considering the administration ran on getting out of the way of business).
Here are 5 business trends I’m keeping an eye on this year.
1. Tech/Silicon Valley loses its allure, takes on the attributes of Wall Street
Technology which has been so remarkable and such a great equalizer is losing its cachet. Look for the industry to continue to be demonized much as Wall Street and hedge funders have been in the past.
- Tech companies are seeing themselves blamed for everything from gentrification to income inequality to lack of diversity in hiring.
- Facebook is facing congressional hearings for their role in running Russian-backed ads that may have impacted the outcome of the U.S. elections. They’re also in hot water for spreading fake news and most recently for using their algorithms to exclude older workers from seeing certain job postings.
- Apple, while still doing well (trillion dollar company), feels like it’s on a downward spiral. Although I am not ready to move on, it doesn’t feel exceptional anymore and I wish there was an alternative for me because I don’t see Apple getting their mojo back anytime soon.
- Tech IPO’s are no longer a sure thing. Most recent losers: Snap, Blue Apron.
- Overall, watch for tech to be regulated both here and abroad.
Read on below for more.
2. Walmart goes head to head with Amazon
I’m putting my money on Walmart (esp. their e-commerce biz). Under Marc Lore they are on fire while Amazon seems to be stumbling.
- Whole Foods (owned by Amazon) is a total mess – nothing but out of stocks
- Ordering on Amazon has gotten ridiculously convoluted
- Trump seems to be hellbent on making life miserable for Bezos and Amazon. Not a good omen.
3. Taking a political stance – or not?
This is the topic I get media inquiries about almost weekly.
- Howard Schultz, of Starbucks, is the poster boy for this. He’s taken political stances several times – always at the expense of the business.
- From his ill-advised campaign to have the baristas “talk race” to hiring refugees in retaliation for Trump’s anti-refugee and anti-immigrant stance.
- While some customers want to do business only with companies that share their political views, I know I am not alone when I say, I don’t want to have a political discussion with my pizza delivery guy or my Target checkout person.
- There is enough stress in the world, without having more political dialogue foisted on me by people I don’t even know.
I am opposed to companies wading into politics but I see more companies going in that direction.
4. Men on the outs
This is a disaster. I feel bad for the women who have had to put up with this behavior but I also feel bad for men in general – the vast majority of whom have done absolutely nothing but at this point, EVERY man is seen as a sexual harasser or predator. There’s no presumption of innocence anymore.
- Every man who has ever behaved even marginally badly will be ousted from his job without trial or jury. All swept away in the #MeToo frenzy.
- This is not going to end well for either men or women.
If I were a man, I would give women a wide berth and settle down with my sex dolls. Seriously!
5. Consumer Tribes vs. Demographics
This is not a new concept but I’m hearing more about it this year. In fact, on Google Trends there was a big spike in late 2017 (which may have to do with the launch of Tribe of Mentors) but it is a word, that is popping up more frequently.
- The concept of a tribe, a “think-alike” community, linked by their passion for a specific product/service, is very powerful. It’s key to building iconic, cult-brands.
- When a company actively engages that tribe, the brand is super hot e.g. Apple back in the day or Target when they hit their stride a few years ago.
Current examples of brands with strong tribe followings: HQ Trivia, Everlane, Supreme, In-N-Out Burger, Moleskine, Peloton Bikes, Wegman’s, and the one category that is going to be huge in 2018: the cannabis industry!