The 2021 Mega-Trend Is Emerging

I have seen these before and, in fact, actually donated to a couple of them.

I have seen the most in the intown, younger Millennial neighborhoods and neighborhoods where older folks have lived and never left.

A couple of them are along the sidewalks where I walked my dog and a couple of them are right in the heart of the local park. There’s even one of them next one of my most frequented indie coffee houses.

This morning, there was a feature story about them in the Wall Street Journal and how they are popping up in a lot of places lately. The article cited the Pandemic as the catalyst.

The Wall Street Journal is correct. We will see a lot more them in the next 12–18 months. And while the Pandemic has been a catalyst, there is way more driving these surge than the 2020 lock-downs.

The WSJ called them the “little libraries.” If you Google them, you will see that they are more commonly referred to as “book boxes” or “book box libraries.”

They are the little boxes with the hinged doors that sit on the top of a post. Folks can donate and put books in the boxes as well as take out books and read them. The access to them is free and they operate based on trust.

While many individuals have found them handy during lock-downs, what is driving them is way more than the closures of public libraries and more time on our hands.

Dating back now nearly 20 years, I always use the next several weeks to put together the next year’s Trendcast. By now, I have a short list of at least 10–12 changes that I have at least identified in my interaction with the marketplace, clients and the folks I talk to walking the streets.

What is happening may not only be the leading 2021 Trend… but actually a Mega-Trend that will reconfigure the dynamics of the marketplace.

There was a great WSJ news story last week about Airbnb and how the company reinvented itself when the Pandemic hit and the travel industry turned upside down.

One of the observations that Airbnb made was how people now focus more on their local 3 hour-drive time world for get-away vacation travel.

I write this before Election Day and right now I could care less who is elected to sit in the White House. During this election season, I have seen way more activity and interaction focused around local elections… Mayors, Commissioners, State Reps and local Judicial seats.

When I asked a new client that is a Millennial launching a healthy soft drink brand if he “caught any of the recent debates,” he replied yes and he found them very informative. I was shocked. When I next asked who he found most informative — Trump or Biden, he responded with the question, “who?”

I then learned that he was talking about a debate that aired on a local radio station between some candidates running for local commissioner slots. He was unaware of any Presidential debate taking place.

What is evolving in front of us is a re-orientation of perspective, identity and focus.

A good friend of mine is the owner of a network of digital and print community newspapers. He and I got into a discussion about the changing façade of the retail marketplace.

I laughed and told him that so many in conventional corporate leadership believe that the Internet is not only overtaking the physical retail marketplace, but if digital doesn’t consume it all, the mergers and closures of conventional retail brands will consume whatever is left.

I always have to remember if all business leadership was sane and strategically smart, I would be out of work.

My good friend and I both made note that as the larger brands close down, local entrepreneurs are launching new start-ups. Department stores are being replaced by locally-owned specialty retailers. Supermarkets with mom & pop grocery stores and bakeries. Restaurants are even being replaced with food trucks.

Local junk stores are far more engaging than the conventional furniture and house & home stores. And the local junk stores are viewed as more valuable by the Millennials crafting their home space because the pieces found there have local roots.

Uber’s founder is featured on today’s WSJ front page as the architect of a food provider empire. It talks about how he purchased a portfolio of properties where stores closed and has re-purposed them as “manufacturing” space for home delivery food that use locality as a key sales attribute.

As I write this blog, I am sitting in an indie coffee house that is packed. There is not a free seat at any of the tables. I find the same thing at local donut and sandwich shops. With Starbucks shifting to drive-thru only customer access the local shops are filling the gap.

The last observation I will share may be one of the most unique observations yet.

As schools have shifted to the homes, the latest to spring up are grass-roots neighborhood “classrooms.” These are found in basements, porches, dining rooms and even carports and garages. These are locally rooted in neighborhoods where parents — yes, both moms and dads — take on the role of serving as the teachers.

While math might be separated from literature, other topics are taught more holistically and there is limited grade level break.

Students are staying way more fixated on the topics and actually working together vs. competing with one another.

The refocus around locality is not something anyone predicted.

From my perspective, what we are witnesses happening right in front of us just might be a Mega-Trend that will reshape the marketplace and how we socially interact with one another.

The “book box libraries” not only are local, they are physical. We can actually physically borrow one to read as well as physically donate one for others to enjoy. We can visually see the library when taking a walk or a morning run. We can even see how worn a paper-back book gets from use.

This also true about the connectivity with political leadership and retail brands.

Today’s WSJ led with the headline story of Google being labeled a monopoly and the breakup likely to be next.

As much as the Mass Media world faced its demise and the rise of Digital and Social Media, the Digital and Social Media world may be about to face what some think is the impossible… the threat of local newspapers and maybe even radio stations!

Keep in mind that the Millennials are driving this change.

And just when their parents thought that they had them all figured out, they were surprised by what happened next.

Hold on tight as we enter into 2021!

CEO & Discovery Chief at EXPERIENCE Insight Group, Inc. In the business to discover and craft brand experiences that humans seek out and engage in.