2023 – Trends & Themes

Given that part of my professional life is spent as a futurist, I dedicate some time each day to “sensing” – the act of browsing through current conversations, taking notes about interesting things I find, and connecting data points across time to get a sense of trends. The following are three trends I’ve been seeing take shape over the last several years. I think they will be relevant in 2023, particularly for marketers and entrepreneurs, although how they might play out in specific industry contexts is somewhat beyond my scope (aside from tech).

Trend # 1: Fragmentation

This is not a new trend, and has been happening ever since the internet started to break up the monopoly of radio, TV, and print. In terms of influencers and their reach, what we are seeing is a fragmentation of narratives into a kaleidoscope of different takes on contemporary issues. While we currently slice up society into “conservative” and “liberal”, the truth is that within these groups there are different factions fighting for control, and within those factions different voices that have their own followings. Given that people are consuming unique blends of these mini-narratives, it seems increasingly difficult for people to occupy a consensual reality, and on the extreme end this fragmentation has resulted in division and alienation.

Trend # 2: Exhaustion

Multiple crises on global and national scales, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic, has left people exhausted and drained. Multiple consumer research reports have identified this as a key factor driving consumer behavior in 2023, and my own observations in public and on social media would agree. People are tired, they are looking for “simple” and “easy” solutions that they don’t have to think too hard about, and businesses that are able to bring comfort and simplicity to people’s lives may be advantageously positioned this year.

Trend # 3: Aversion

Related to the second trend, people are looking to escape reality in much the same way that they were during the Great Depression almost a century ago. Some of the largest consumer demographics for comic books and related entertainment are, in fact, Gen X/Y adults. People are starting to tune out of news programming like CNN, and even staying at home more to maintain a sense of their own space. Although this “bubbling” behavior is not ubiquitous, it is one of many responses to very difficult socioeconomic and global circumstances we can expect to see this year. This may make reaching these consumers very difficult for some organizations.


Theme: Rapture

Although this may come out of left field given the many failed “end times” predictions levelled by Christian pastors, several consumer research agencies have picked up on a groundswell of unstructured spirituality. Although people are generally mistrustful of organized religion, interest in astrology and tarot is up, religion is an extremely hot topic on YouTube and TikTok, and books like Urantia and A Course in Miracles, both claiming to be channeled from Jesus, enjoy worldwide followings.

Interestingly enough, there is a general consensus from Orthodox Rabbis that we may be entering the dawn of a new age, although not without birthing pains. From this perspective, events like COVID-19 and the war in Europe are seen as necessary but unfortunate precursors to a different way of living and relating to one another. The rabbis also relate an unprecedented interest in Jewish conversion from non-Jews, as well as a great deal of interest in following the laws of the B’nei Noach encompassed in the Bible’s rainbow covenant.

Regardless of what perspective one takes on these matters, it is clear that people are looking for something beyond what is being offered. Songs such as ALPHA 9’s Down to Love, Coldplay’s Higher Power, and St. Lucia’s Utopia all allude to this theme, as does Kanye West’s various Biblical obsessions.

Out of all the themes and trends I’ve been tracking, this is the most interesting to me personally as a shift in values towards spirituality, especially among the younger generations, could catalyze a number of downstream changes in lifestyle and policy. We shall see!

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