January 28, 2014


People will complain about privacy even as they don their Google glasses and other wearable computers.

People will complain about privacy even as they don their Google glasses and other wearable computers.

It’s January, and everyone’s fancy turns to predicting the future. Okay, maybe not everyone’s, but that’s what you’ll hear a lot about this time of year. December is for looking backwards and January is the forward-looking month.

JWT, a division WPP Group (formerly known as J. Walter Thompson), always makes predictions about marketing communications in the new year.

This year, JWT writes that people have been motivated by what’s called FOMO (fear of missing out). And it has been one of the main drivers (besides convenience) in our adoption of communications technology. We have also given up a great deal of privacy in exchange for always being in the know. It’s not that we wanted to give it up; it was just part of the bargain. JWT thinks this is the year we the consumers will take some of our privacy back. It’s what tech blogger Anil Dash calls JOMO (joy of missing out).

You may also want to read “10 Trends for 2014” from JWT Intelligence.

Think about the privacy we’ve given up just to make sure we can always be connected. As marketing communicators we tap into the knowledge gathered by technology and consumer behavior. We can efficiently target a prospect who has just about asked for the information — not through a direct request, but with their behavior. This knowledge has totally upended the ad world in the last decade.

But JWT thinks we maybe at a turning point, driven by the news of the NSA spying, a growing concern about privacy in Europe and the creepy feeling we get when it dawns on us that we really are being followed when we browse.

Or how about a headline I recently read on the Huffington Post, “Amazon Just Patented Shipping Items Before They’re Even Ordered.” The article’s author describes it as “Minority Report meets Walmart.” Amazon has gotten so good at predicting customer behavior that it feels it can stage many items prepackaged closer to where it believes the items will soon be ordered.

And all of this information is gleaned from computers, smart phones, E-ZPass and credit cards. How much more will be known about us when we start wearing communication devices that are always on and connected?

Will turning off and tuning out take hold? JWT thinks so. And the consumers who break the hold of FOMO will even take joy in being one of the disconnected, hence JOMO.

I do think JWT has some of it right. I too have joined the growing chorus of voices complaining about our loss of privacy. But I’ll also continue to freak out whenever I leave my cell phone behind. I’m not convinced JOMO will win out over FOMO. FOMO is a more basic human emotion. Fear trumps joy. And the technology is here to stay, and will get even better. Plus, the marketing communications industry will benefit from it. I do expect some legislation may try to slow it down. Kind of like when the No Call list was created because telemarketing got so annoying. But the vast majority of us are not going backwards. As they say, the genie’s out of the bottle.

So I predict that people will complain about privacy even as they don their Google glasses and other wearable computers. And that next January, we’ll have another round of predictions. And that Amazon will offer me the complete series box set of I Dream of Jeannie as soon as this is posted.