Trend Obs 2020 - Welcome to the worrying twenties

Trend Obs is an international observatory for emerging dynamics that compiles ongoing changes in lifestyles and consumption around the world. Each year, Ipsos surveys trend setters* in several countries and this year’s countries are Brazil, the United States, France, the UK, Italy and China. The observatory provides brands with keys to understanding the society of the future and helps them to position themselves better within that society.

The author(s)

  • Thibaut Nguyen Trends, France
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A year and a half ago, the latest edition of “AMERICA” highlighted a desire to believe in positive signs that recalled the American origins myth: technology-led innovation, individual materialistic growth and a healthy and moral lifestyle. This edition concluded by dividing the trend setters and their level of faith in this happy period, between sustainable renewal and illusion.

Trend Obs 2020 begins against the background of a sharp decline in positive signs, in a world where gloomy predictions, hardening of attitudes and political-economic confusion generate strong anxiety. Material anxiety is on the agenda, along with a dramatic rise in a type of mental fragility when dealing with a world that is becoming difficult to grasp,” explains Thibaut Nguyen, Director of the Trends & Prospective Department at Ipsos in France. To deal with this intense environment, trend setters deploy more radical strategies for living and consumption.”

Micro-world | Trends 2020 | Ipsos


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Trend 1


taking shelter on a human scale

Trend 2


the positive attitude continues to evolve

Trend 3


finding meaning in protest

2020: a worrying year?

In the 2019 edition, we mentioned the strange parallel between the “positive attitude” climate among trend setters and the Roaring Twenties: the desire to leave behind the grim aftermath of the Great War, blind confidence in industrial technology, the desire to dance, to create, but also the rise of puritanism and extremism, minority struggles, the early signs of the Crash of 1929, etc. A magical, paradoxical interlude which ultimately sets the tone for this new edition.

In 2020, the world will be more paradoxical and harrowing than ever

Whether it is the question of conflicting geopolitics, upwardly revised forecasts, the consequences of global warming or the spectre of a stock market crash, trend setters perceive a disturbing and disturbed general framework that governments do not seem to be addressing or even shaking up.

When we see how English parliamentarians are dealing with Brexit, we really wonder why we bother to vote” (Trend setter, United Kingdom).

In a world that they fear has become uncontrollable, the number of paradoxes and perceived discrepancies is a major cause of mental destabilisation: the injunction to happiness in business and on social networks is developing in an end-of-world context prophesied by catastrophists, wonder at the discovery of life on other planets contrasts with the project of discharging the radioactive water from Fukushima into the ocean “for want of a better idea”, deepfakes and toxic information make it more and more difficult to seek truth(s) and accelerated life and infobesity are overloading people’s cognitive capacities.

Mental disorders are at the forefront in 2020: forecast by the WHO, on the rise in several countries, spread through the media, brought to the screen via the “Joker” phenomenon whose make-up is already on the faces of many thousands of demonstrators all around the world.

We are in such an absurd situation, surrounded by all these opposing emotions and violence, that we are on the verge of madness” (Trend setter, Italy).

Restoring some kind of stability, by all possible means

Those trend setters surveyed shared a common problem: stabilising and safeguarding their lives and ordering their ways of dealing with the world in order to regain control. 

There are several symptoms: creating protective positive bubbles where content and distilled emotions can be controlled, reconvening the thinkers of past centuries, finding a proven method for reflecting on complex and shifting matters and reasserting the value of order, rules, in order to try to rebuild coexistence.

But, if stability and coherence are a shared objective for everyone, the strategies deployed are increasingly divergent:

  • Should we draw a line, focus on our micro-world and leave the big Question to one side?
  • Should we resist and try to impose the vision of a new order through activism?
  • Or strengthen faith in Promethean progress, which will be able to resolve objections and synthesise individual and collective happiness?

The year 2020 could conceivably herald a profound change in the very fabric of our era…”, reckons Thibaut Nguyen.

In this context, consumption resonates in a particular and multiple way: act of faith, political act, security act, identity, etc. And brands are urged to look inward at their current and potential role, their mission, their positive or negative contribution to the distressing complexity of this world.

*Trend setters are people aged 25 to 40 selected for their ability to understand and react more quickly than others to a situation. Recruited on essentially attitudinal criteria (no SPCs): eclectic, open, curious, sensitive, in contact with the creative world.

Trend Obs : positionnez vous dans le monde de demain

About Trend Obs 

Since 2001, Trend Obs has been compiling the changes in lifestyles and consumption observed in several countries around the world (this year: France, United Kingdom, United States, Italy, Brazil and China). Trend Obs’s originality lies in a mechanism that combines trend setters’ interviews, experts’ interviews, international monitoring, web listening and a summary of Ipsos’ published surveys in France and abroad. Based on this background, Trend Obs helps you to identify growth areas and innovation prospects so you can better position yourself in tomorrow’s world.

The author(s)

  • Thibaut Nguyen Trends, France