The Meta Trending Trends: 2021
The fourth annual Meta Trend Report synthesizes 500+ trends from 30+ reports, ranking the 19 most frequently reported cultural trends for 2021.
Why? A meta-analysis increases our “sample size” of trends, accounting for bias. We can calculate reliability as a proxy for accuracy. Further, “Curation is not the new content.” Synthesis is.
To complement the most prevalent trends, for the first time, I identified the least prevalent, and in my expertise, most important. [The Overlooked: 2021]
A foreword looking back —
On January 23rd 2020, I prefaced last year’s report:
“Two catalytic events will transpire over the next year, which will re-model culture as we know it, however, not one report acknowledged them: The 2020 Presidential Outcome and The U.S.’ Next Recession. Both will catastrophically impact all consumers (their values, interests, and purchasing decisions) as well as all business verticals. [...] Culture moves on even if we’re not ready.”
I couldn’t be less pleased to be right.
Beyond accelerating existing trends, COVID-19 radically concussed the economy, spiraling us into a recession. But mass unemployment and our new priorities didn’t just deviate purchasing decisions, they upended something far more poignant: habit and safety. This financial and existential cost is a human cost. It flipped on the burner awaiting a flame. As a global phenomenon, COVID-19’s silver lining was an opportunity for unity. We failed miserably. Over the course of the year, public fury and horror somehow upstaged a pandemic.
Secondly, President Biden’s victory was a relief for many, but it didn’t come without nuclear fallout. The disenfranchised or simply moronic — pick your poison — challenged democracy, the bedrock of culture. When the once sacrosanct Capitol gets turned into a Museum of Ice Cream, it’s hard to believe we’re seeing straight. We are. And this surreality will be scarring. 2020’s trauma should not be overlooked. Throughout 2021, while it may appear as if we’re getting back into routine, internal normalcy is far gone. Beyond health and finances, another recovery is only just beginning. As an individual or organization, which part of the recovery are you helping with?
Last year I also noted, pessimistically, many of these cultural trends feel synthetic — adages to market marketers. We’ve been manifesting VR-paradise for 30 years... it’s not happening in the next 365 days. But in 2021, contextual to true chaos, we face a unique moment. There’s another opportunity to seize this outlined optimistic energy, no matter how imaginative, and channel it toward truly preferred futures. What we’re looking at here with trends are not established nouns, but malleable verbs. After all, we’re in control of what we want to see.