Trends in Two Minutes continues its ongoing coverage of the trends of the pandemic and examines the evolving transformations to business and communications throughout APAC as markets continue to strive towards economic recovery – and how best to navigate each development.   

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 World, New Education: Engaging Gen Z

In the early months of the pandemic, online learning skyrocketed – not just for children but also for adults. In March and April, some of the largest MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) providers saw year-on-year boosts in course registration between 400-640%. Globally, it represented a rapid influx of over ten million users, just for those providers.

It’s a trend of particular interest to Gen Z consumers and professionals. As previously explored in Trends in Two Minutes, Generation Z differ from their millennial forebears in that they preference individual ownership and entrepreneurialism over communal or shared experiences - with many drawn to skill-building activities and platforms as a result.

This trend towards independent learning and custom education has only been exacerbated by the events of 2020. With pandemic pressures leading to both widespread unemployment and considerable strain in higher education sectors, members of Gen Z are more invested than ever in the acquisition of new skills in non-traditional environments.

For communicators, it’s a powerful insight on how to connect with one of the world’s most influential demographics – i.e. by providing genuine, practical and accessible learning opportunities. Recalling the dynamics of previously-identified 2020 trend of the new value of expertise, young consumers are craving tangible support in a complex time.

Service to Product: New Consumer Expectations

Many businesses pivoted in response to the immediate challenges of lockdown – especially within the hospitality and service industries. From fine-dining restaurants offering takeaway experiences for the first time to bars creating wine club subscription models, businesses consistently extended their brands beyond their typical confines.

However, even with lockdowns eased or easing in many parts of Asia, it’s unlikely consumers will immediately revert to pre-pandemic behaviour (if ever). Most research confirms, for example, that some variety of remote working is likely to be a permanent fixture for the workforces of the future, regardless of the pandemic.  

As such, consumers are increasingly likely to expect a greater number of touchpoints and product possibilities from previously service- or experience-driven brands and sectors. In an inversion of the challenges facing the retail sector (e.g. needing to enrich physical products with experience-driven touchpoints), service sectors may need more diverse, tangible touchpoints to truly secure consumer attention and loyalty.

For brands and strategists, it’s a challenge to continue and evolve the creative thinking demanded of the pandemic era. How could a brand experience be made more portable or replicable? What are the gaps in the customer journey? Previously a necessity of a complex era, transforming a service to a product may now be transforming into a powerful competitive edge for brands bold enough to explore new opportunities.

Leather, Styrofoam, Concrete – From Mushrooms?

Consumers are increasingly invested in climate-friendly products – with 73% of those surveyed willing to adjust their consumption habits to better care for the environment. Couple these consumer attitudes with the potential reduced financial and manufacturing burden and it’s clear brands willing to engage with and promote climate-friendly processes or materials around their products will be operating at an advantage.

One of the major trends of recent years, for example, has been the rise of alternative meat products – Singapore actually just became the first country in the world to approve lab-manufactured chicken nuggets for sale. Increasingly instrumental to the rise of such products has been a surprising material known as mycelium. Derived from fungi and mushrooms, mycelium can be used to accurately replicate the taste and texture of traditional meat products with minimal expenditure.

However, many brands and sectors are discovering mycelium’s flexibility allows for replication of more than just meat products. Various businesses have begun using mycelium to replicate leather, cement, and packing materials like styrofoam. As the material’s popularity grows, it’s rife to transform an entire range of sectors. In addition to being cheap to manufacture, non-toxic, and capable of recycling existing materials, many mycelium products are also carbon-negative.

(This is to say, their manufacturing process not only doesn’t produce greenhouse gases – it actually reduces the amount of pollution in the atmosphere.)

The development and proliferation of materials like mycelium represents a new level of competition for brands. For communicators and strategists, it’s therefore of increasing importance to be aware of the processes, packaging and materials of a brand’s products and services – and how information around such materials can be managed or leveraged to benefit a business’s reputation and relationships with stakeholders.

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