The Top Consumer Trends of 2010

From bling to Twitter, London Business School marketing professor Nirmalya Kumar focuses on the trends which will change the world – and how we consume – in the year ahead.


From bling to Twitter, London Business School marketing professor Nirmalya Kumar focuses on the trends which will change the world – and how we consume – in the year ahead. 

1. Internet goes mobile

The personal computer is running out of steam. Who wants to lug a laptop everywhere? Thank you Apple for the iPhone and RIM for the Blackberry (but where is Nokia?).  iPhone owners are much more likely to consume wireless broadband internet and after 2 billion downloads of applications from iPhone apps stores, consumers are voting that they want internet where they are, not where the PC happens to be. Cloud computing, 3G networks, and next generation smart phones are only going to accelerate this trend.

2. Google is passé, Facebook is hot

Would you rather get 68 million results on Google to your search for “digital cameras” or 68 filtered by the preferences of your Facebook network? At the end of 2009 for the first time, people spent more time on social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook, than on email in the United States.

3. Traditional media needs to reinvent itself

We only have two eyes and 24 hours in our days. With all the time spent on smart phones and social networking something has to give. Unfortunately, it is traditional media. Expect to see more newspapers, magazines, music companies, advertising agencies, book publishers, book and music stores disappear, restructure, or seek new business models.  

4. Content explodes and democratises

Remember when TV executives, DJs, and book publishers decided what the little people should see, hear, and read? New content is being uploaded on You Tube at 20 hours per minute – equivalent to 1200 TV stations a day! As CNN i-reports demonstrate, content has never been fresher.

5. Layer reality takes over

The above trends have led to iPhone applications which layer mobile internet access, information about your location, camera phone, and social network data. Point your camera at a building to obtain, through Yell, details of the nearest restaurants with reviews. 

6. Social responsibility meets big business and big brands

After decades of moving brands from functional to emotional benefits, brands begin differentiating on social responsibility. Consumers, especially younger consumers, are demanding it. Coca-Cola, Unilever, and Wal-Mart have launched major initiatives to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Unilever estimates that for every tonne of greenhouse gas it emits, 10 are emitted by its suppliers and 30-60 by customers using its products.  As companies start taking greater responsibility for this, it will change how products and services are procured, produced, sold and consumed.

7. Energy consciousness goes mainstream

Forget the outcome of the negotiations in Copenhagen, consumers and companies will move ahead of governments. Why? Because it makes economic sense. Energy will only get more expensive and there are billions of dollars of new businesses to be created in alternative energy. Just watch what General Electric and Toyota are doing. Someone needs to let foot-dragging governments know that energy is going to be the brake on their economic growth, unless they get smart about conservation. 

8. Brands seek value

The economic recession has led to consumers demanding value. As a result, expect to see more brands adding value lines, the market share of private labels to keep climbing, and the launch of new products that are just good enough without bells and whistles. 

9. Bling is in

Brands like Armani and LVMH focussed on understated luxury to cater to European and Japanese tastes. Now, it is new money from China, India, Middle East, and Russia that is driving luxury consumption. And, they like to wear their wealth!

10. Innovation moves east

For a long time, global new products have been developed in the image of what US consumers wanted or dreamed of. But innovation is now moving east. New cars developed by Porsche and BMW have been stretched as rich buyers in China prefer to be driven by chauffeurs.

Nirmalya Kumar ( is Professor of Marketing and co-director of Aditya Birla India Centre at London Business School. He teaches on the executive education programme ‘Market Driving Strategies’. He is the author and co-author of India’s Global Powerhouses, Marketing as Strategy, Private Label Strategy, and Value Merchants.