Cultural Researcher & Business Consultant at Sparks & Honey. Fascinated with the relationships between psychology, technology and culture. KleinKleinKlein.com
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If cultural trends are patterns, predictions are derived projections. Trends take an eye for dot connecting, while predictions take accountability. It’s easy to get them wrong. But after a year of intensive trend analysis for some of the largest organizations in the world, I’m confident to forecast the following business moves.

1. Robinhood Sinks Into The Red

This past year, people earning between $35,000 and $75,000 increased their stock trading by +90% the week after receiving their first stimulus check. For many of these new investors their first stop was Robinhood, which signed up 13 million new users. It’s not all golden news. Robinhood users, notably amateur investors, are conducting 40x more trades than Schwab users, and 88x more options. According to just one analysis, Robinhood users are more likely to invest in volatile and loss-making stocks than the broader market, and have been speculated to even sway the market. Questionable predatory practices such as overly simplistic interfaces, auto deposits and investments, lack of customer service, fractional shares, and frequent outages insinuates Robinhood has gamified investing. It’s not a good look when r/WallStreetBets and “loss porn” are associated with your brand. The SEC has already hit them with a $65 million fine for misleading users, while stories around suicide flurry online. Massachusetts Secretary of Commonwealth, William Galvin, stated, “This is a very reckless company when it comes to these investors. They’re interested in expanding their market base, they’re not interested in serving their investors.” …


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Four years ago I pulled the trigger: I founded a startup, supplementing full-time employment. Solo and bootstrapped, it truly was a hustle — countless long nights and working weekend only intensified existing work.

After servicing clients from around the world, appearing in international press, and kindling strategic partnerships, my side-hustle, now poised as a full-time business, has been acquired.

My baby was PRSNL Branding, an education platform and consulting studio, enhancing professionals’ online presence to advance their careers. After all, how you appear online dictates job prospects. …


Who’s the real director in our ambient TV era?

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Photo: Thibault Penin/Unsplash

This past summer, The Verge reported that Netflix was experimenting with giving people the ability to control the playback of any show or film — from 0.5x slower to 1.5x faster. While Netflix was testing the feature primarily on Android mobile devices, the feature is now being spotted on desktops across the country.

The creative community has been pushing back since the rumors began. Judd Apatow, an outspoken critic, replied to the early headlines, “Distributors don’t get to change the way the content is presented. Doing so is a breaking of trust and won’t be tolerated by the people who provide it.” He added, “Don’t make me have to call every director and show creator on Earth to fight you on this. …


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Just as robots replaced the factory workers, and the drive-through workers were outsourced to India, those employed to yacht the world, drink fat-burning smoothies and just be attractive are getting furloughed too. Stars — they’re just like us.

Influencers are being upended by Virtual Influencers, and these CGI avatars may be disrupting something even more integral: truth.

We’ve already been mystified by their soft edges and been made uncomfortable with their attractiveness. There’s Shudu, the world’s first digital supermodel, Blawko, the digital tattooed “fuccboi,” and Miquela Sousa AKA Lil Miquela, the Princess Leia-bunned poster child of the movement. They now come in an array of options. Human or alien. Political or apolitical. White or BIPOC. Lean or plus-sized. …


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When the U.S.’s climate inaction is being considered a breach of the constitution, mask wearing has become politicized, and funding toward sectors like education are being cut, we come to expect less from our government. It’s just not working for us. Eight in ten Americans are “dissatisfied” with the state of the U.S., and “government” itself has been named the country’s number one problem since 2017.

If the electees can’t help, perhaps the mascots can. Online brand campaigns, many of which are spilling over in-store and into the streets, are garnering significant traction as they move the needle. …


How new packaging technology is changing commerce

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How does connected packaging work?

Connected packaging manifests and works in a multitude of forms. The term is currently a bit of a catch-all for any package that connects to the internet, either actively or passively. All connected packaging ultimately augments the package’s functionality. The end goal is to increase value for either the manufacturer, retailer, brand or end consumer. And depending upon the stakeholder, this means bolstered logistics, prevented theft, increased engagement, or enhanced experience.

Connected packaging is either triggered by a user’s action such as scanning or tapping, or automatically activated by time, proximity, or temperature. Here are a few examples…

For perhaps today’s most ubiquitous activation, connected packages printed with a QR (Quick Response) code allows consumers to scan the barcode with their mobile camera to open an experience. 19 Crimes, a wine label, allows drinkers to scan the bottle, bringing the printed characters to life via AR in an app. It’s been downloaded nearly half a million times already, and has helped establish 19 Crimes as a recognizable brand in a category not known for loyalty. …


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Warhol declared, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” But was not predicted was that everyone’s “fame” would be experienced simultaneously.

Ask a kid today in the U.S. what they want to be when the grow up. No longer is musician or athlete the top answer. It’s a YouTuber — an answer 3x more popular than astronaut.

According to a new report by VC firm SignalFire, today’s global Creator Economy is only poised to grow as 50 million people already consider themselves a “Creator.” But what’s more noteworthy beyond the mass self-reported title and lowered barriers to entry are the financial opportunities that come along with becoming a Creator — a new classification of “small business.” …


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“Fun way to reward yourself”

A new app just topped the charts, passing Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and the newly beloved Zoom along the way. It’s call Zynn and well, it’s not that new. It’s a complete clone, down to the exact button layout, of TikTok.

It’s only difference? It pays you to watch its short videos. Time spent watching turns into points, which can then be redeemed for gift cards or cashed out via PayPal. Create an account and you’re already up a buck.

But when you go to Zynn’s bare-bones website and realize its overnight explosion, you may guess something’s up. …


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Expression surrogates augment our communication.

This past week, the internet’s GIF repository, Giphy, was acquired for $400M. Replying to Snap’s Bitmoji, Facebook’s Avatars reached the U.S. And Animal Crossing’s success continues to spur countless headlines.


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“In these dark times at least we have Mufasa”

When days blur and optimism is scarce, Mufasa and his hype man are here to cheer you on, reminding you that we made it — it’s Friday.

Still a relative hidden internet gem, the infectious smile and dance moves of Mufasa, an up and coming internet celebrity bordering meme, are sure to put anyone in a better mood. His videos and vibes have become a remedy for millions as of late, delivering absurd elation and necessary positivity.

Now regularly posting across social media under the @cousinkeether handle, Mufasa’s personal brand is “Good energy only.” …

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