2022 trends: The Vibe Economy

Earlier this month, we launched our annual trends report – Think Forward 2022: Brave New Worlds. It features the five key trends that we expect to shape social media over the next 12 months. This post looks at the second trend covered in the report: The Vibe Economy. For more, check out the full Think Forward report here.

In a TikTok captioned ‘perfect sunset vibes…’, a girl clad all in white glides along a pier at sunset. On YouTube, an anthropomorphised Game Boy superimposed onto a background of pastel-coloured clouds bobs along to a lofi hip hop beat. Its title? ‘Just vibin’.

The popularity of this type of content highlights the growing emphasis placed on the broad body of digital content categorised into the genre of ‘vibes’. And it is broad. But much of the content within it is united by a common purpose – to elicit a specific and recognisable emotional response that unites all who engage with it.

This is a new generation of social content – one that connects people through complex moods and feelings, not just simple interactions.

Of course, vibes and social media are already comfortable bedfellows. On Tumblr, each person’s page was a window into their own personal vibe: at its peak, a place for teens to be in their feelings, and connect with others who felt the same.  

But the emergence of TikTok – and the exclusively ‘sound on’ experience of social it’s hailed in – has increased the prominence (and value) of vibes. And as we move into the metaverse, this convergence of multisensory inputs will only grow more central to the way people experience digital spaces.

A whole new genre of content and creator has moved to the fore: one defined by curating a specific mood or feeling.

The Behavioural Change

Cores and aesthetics are uniting teens online.
From cupidcore to cabincore, the prevalence of ‘cores’ in the digital landscape speaks to young people’s desire to evoke an emotional response through the curation of audiovisual cues and references that span cinema, fashion, art, pop culture and more.

Multisensory memes are connecting people across generations.
The video of @doggface208 cruising along to Fleetwood Mac on his skateboard, carton of Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice in hand, drew over 12.9 million views by embodying a carefree joy that only a track like Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ could have inspired.


♬ Dreams (2004 Remaster) – Fleetwood Mac

Curators with influence.
Creators no longer need authenticity or personality to get big: they just need to be great at curating relatable moods, feelings and aesthetics. @meta_visions is one of a number of Instagrammers who exclusively posts mood boards – carousels of up to 10 images or videos, all centred around a common theme.

How can brands use it?

1.  Brands can collaborate with curators to assimilate into specific cores or communities.
Many of the creators driving this form of creativity set the tone for aesthetics and feelings that define niche groups.

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Read more about The Vibe Economy in Think Forward 2022: Brave New Worlds here.