Trends in Two Minutes is a monthly bulletin of trends hitting businesses across
Asia-Pacific with a focus on marketing and communications. 
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New Tech Imperative – Easing the Healthcare Burden

Over the past twelve months, the global technology sector has been heavily committed to combatting and mitigating the impact of the pandemic – especially within the Asia Pacific region. Following the initial outbreak of COVID-19, many of China’s leading technology brands were immediately enlisted to manage contact tracing, communications, and more.

But, as the dynamics of the pandemic shift around the world, technology brands and businesses have begun to adopt a new role. Specifically, a role of easing the burdens (and potential burdens) placed on healthcare sector by massive upheavals like the pandemic or similarly-scaled disruptions.

Over the past year, it’s been consistently underscored that one of the major risks of COVID-19’s infection rate was that hospital systems would be overwhelmed and unable to treat either pandemic or standard patients. For example, in Australia, COVID-19 has already led to potentially over two thousand missed cancer diagnoses in one state alone.

Technology companies are currently endeavouring to minimise these kinds of risks by developing non-hospital or surgery solutions for healthcare challenges like epilepsy, chronic illness support, and seasonal allergies. It continues an ongoing shift of consumer technology into healthcare spaces that has been developing since before 2019.

For brands and communicators, there are multiple takeaways. In addition to the ramifications for consumer technology and healthcare, it also speaks to consumers’ general increased focus on wellbeing post-pandemic and the increased expectations for brands to serve the needs of their community in the current era of upheaval.    

More broadly, such an investment in healthcare technology only emphasises the post-pandemic shift in expectations regarding more sophisticated digitalisation; underscoring the rising value of communications that can successfully convey a business, brand or product's digital fluency in the contemporary marketplace.

Carbon Negativity - Beyond Carbon Neutral

In 2020, the world’s most valuable brand declared that the entirety of their organisation would be carbon neutral by 2030. In the same period, one of their major competitors announced they had purchased enough renewable energy to offset all of the carbon created over the history of the organisation.

However, in that same year, one of the world’s largest technology brands actually announced a commitment to be entirely carbon negative by 2030. And, in doing so, heralded a shift in the conversation around sustainability that is only going to drive greater expectations for brands, industries, and governments in the coming years.

As discussed in a previous issue of Trends in Two Minutes, carbon negative refers to processes that go beyond offsetting carbon usage to actively reducing the amount of pollution in the atmosphere. Rather than slowing or stopping the progression of climate change, it’s an approach geared towards undoing the damage already done.

With the impacts of climate change becoming increasingly more severe and expectations of brand purpose rising in the wake of the pandemic, carbon negative will likely soon be the standard expected of brands wanting to be perceived as being committed to sustainability. 

Brands from various sectors are already developing offerings around the concept – including a carbon negative beer club, a carbon negative carpet tile, and a carbon negative incinerator. For brands and communicators, it’s a powerful suggestion of what expectations will have to be addressed for stakeholders in the near future.

With the critical importance it may play in their present business success and future strategies, many companies have already made strengthening and communicating their sustainability narratives a top priority. Investing in carbon negative campaigns, targets, and products as a brand may substantially help increase the impact of those narratives. 

The Rise of Urban Farming

In recent years, urban city dwellers have become increasingly engaged with the practices of urban farms and community vegetable gardens. In 2017, the United Nations estimated over 800 million people around the world were engaged with some form of ‘urban agriculture’ on a regular basis.

However, following the turmoil of 2020, urban farming has rapidly transitioned from a popular hobby to a potentially life-saving industry. With pandemic lockdowns, disrupted supply chains, extreme weather events, and profound inequity, urban farming is being embraced as a new paradigm by individuals and businesses alike.

For example, London has just seen the launch of a vertical farm delivery service – with produce grown in skyscrapers being delivered within 24 hours of being picked. Brazil’s largest urban farm project has been helping sustain over 800 families throughout the pandemic with fresh produce delivered daily.

It’s a development that resonates with several concurrent trends. In addition to the reduced carbon footprint generated by short supply chains, urban farming also appeals to the post-pandemic consumer preference for local investment and community urban farms have been suggested as a solution in Singapore for loneliness among the elderly.

Urban farming is expected to have a substantial impact in Asia, in particular. Beyond the ongoing supply chain disruption of a region with widely differing strategies for managing the pandemic, Asia’s extant history of agricultural technology innovation and prevalence of population density makes urban farming both promising and practical for the region.

For brands and communicators, the rise in urban farming has many potential ramifications – creating new touchpoints and delivery methods for different industries and demographics as well as signposting a potential major shift of urban architecture incorporating a much greater amount of innovative green space.

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