Last Thursday we invited a group of clients, brands and leading industry thinkers to our London office for the launch of our Think Forward 2018 report. This is the third annual trends report we’ve compiled in as many years, and the theme this year was ‘Misinformation, Mistrust and Multiple Mindsets’. These challenging concepts are a reflection of the contradictory environment we find ourselves in and our aim with this report is to help brands find their voice in these conflicted times.

Our chief strategy officer Mobbie Nazir, who authored the report, began the evening by reminding us that the hands of the Doomsday Clock have this year shifted to 2.5 minutes to midnight. Dramatic though her introduction may have seemed, the events of 2017 have truly shaken the world and we now find ourselves at zero hour - the point where we must begin to make positive change for the good of our society.

Addressing the audience next was Harvey Cossell, our head of strategy. Harvey introduced the overarching framework for our report and explained why we’ve chosen to take a slightly different approach with this year’s publication. “When there is so much contradiction in society, how can we find a baseline for consumer behaviour? We need to get back to the things that relate to us as humans.” Harvey then proceeded to talk through three of the six social drivers that form the basis of our report - which can be downloaded here and contains a full and detailed breakdown of each social driver, and how they impact brands.

After the in-house team, it was the turn of our guests to share their views on the report.

First up was Dr Oli Pattenden, senior behavioural strategist at Canvas8, who talked at length about the way in which the internet has “enabled the truth to be twisted beyond recognition” and reminded us that “there are no innocent bystanders” in today’s world. He revealed the astonishing stat that 59% of people will share a story without even reading it - proof if ever it were needed that consumers have little time to fact check. His key takeaway was that brands must be ready to take responsibility in these uncertain times, and step in when they’re required.

Mary Keane-Dawson, CEO of Truth, gave us a fascinating cross-generational insight into consumer behaviour by introducing us to her extended family. It was a neat way to walk us through the diverse consumer behaviours that brands now find themselves faced with.

Alex Krasodomski-Jones a researcher from the eminent thinktank DEMOS shared some fascinating insights on the currency of truth and posed the digital existential question of: “How do you flourish in an environment where the system financially incentivizes the spread of false information?”

Our final speaker of the evening was the esteemed Dr Kathleen Richardson, professor of ethics and culture of robots and AI at De Montfort University. She was, by her own admission, unashamedly critical of some of the advertising industry’s tactics of targeting consumers. However, Kathleen provided some much-needed and refreshing insights into how AI can be used in an ethical fashion to reflect the true plurality of societies, without the need for pigeon-holing or stereotyping.

Our guest speakers then joined Mobbie on stage for an open debate on some of the topics form the report and you can see all of their responses in the Facebook livestream video below.

You can download a copy of this year’s report at thinkforward.wearesocial.com.