Curated by Pamela McConathy Schied, MS, Futures Studies in Commerce, College of Technology, University of Houston; Principal, Foresight Communications Group,

Get Ready for Gen Z

Gen Z kids in business environmentAs employers and retailers continue to struggle to fully understand and accommodate Gen Y, here comes the hyper-connected, multi-screen, super digital Gen Z — the generation born since 1995, now moving into adulthood. By 2020, Gen Z will make up 40 percent of consumers in the US and Europe. “They are quite comfortable in a share it, show it, tell it, App it, check it world, where interactivity is the norm and socializing is done almost more on-screen than face-to-face,” says researchers with Shaping Tomorrow.” Their lives are visible – whether via social media or stored in the cloud of memories. Virtual and real world interactions are extensions of each other, not separate.”In America, Gen Z has been called the most diverse generation ever. More likely than those who’ve come before them to have grown up in single-parent households. Consequently, their sense of gender roles is blurred. They’ve lived through hard times, the threat of climate change, 9/11, wars and a financial crisis. They are more comfortable with uncertainty and instability than most who have preceded them. And they want to make their mark. Their parents are mainly Gen X ( but also Gen Y and Boomer) and will encourage them to be different, to do their own thing and find their life passion. This generation is likely to be mercurial, fickle and fragmented. Catching and keeping their attention will require delivering fun, theatre and experience.

Tethered Drones to the Rescue

Tethered Drone

PARC (Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications)

More than a 10 years ago Helen Greiner was one of the three people who designed the Roomba, the now iconic vacuum cleaning robot. Her new startup, CyPhy Works, is now developing powerful pint-sized drones that weigh less than three ounces called PocketFlyer. These drones were created to help emergency responders check out potentially dangerous situations and send back high-quality video with details. While drones like this are not unique, PocketFlyer is attached to a thin, disposable microfilament tether that unspools as the drone navigates an area for responders. It can film for up to two hours (compared to 20 minutes for most drones today) and broadcast uninterrupted communications without being disrupted by Wi-Fi.

“A lot of people make drones that go out and see things. We make a drone that goes up and it stays there,” Greiner says.

CyPhy Works recently garnered a contract with the U.S. Air Force to develop a production model. Greiner believes the drone, which will be built to be disposable after several uses, will ultimately be most useful to soldiers, FEMA, SWAT teams, firefighters, police.

Marketing Trends to Watch in 2015

Marketing Trends to Watch in 2015Most savvy marketers know they need to anticipate the next big things or be devoured by competitors. Avi Dan, founder of Avidan Strategies, a leading agency search and compensation consultancy, believes, even though the business landscape is changing at the speed of technology, the fundamentals of marketing remain static. “What matters most now is how one activates the fundamentals.” Here are some trends he recommends watching in 2015:

Transparency now marketing’s most vital tool. Next year the best brands won’t be those with “the best stories,” but those that give an accurate picture of what they are doing in the interest of the consumer — in real time.

CMOs become silo busters. To optimize consumer and customer engagements, CMOs will think holistically about the company’s overall value proposition, integrating messages and insights across business units, geographies and functional groups.

Marketing technologists emerge. These hybrid experts are masters at “marketing in a digital world,” and will play important roles in developing and applying marketing strategies.

Real-time marketing replaces pointless “likes” and “tweets.” Successful marketers will have access to better consumer data, will adapt faster, face shorter lead times and learn to master always-on, real-time marketing.

Creative media agencies to lead. Moving from being media-facing to consumer facing, successful media agencies will become their clients’ key strategic partner as big data and technology play key roles in smart media placement.

Hispanic agencies will go mainstream. Hispanics are 17 percent of the U.S. population, and 56 percent of total U.S. population growth since the last decade. U.S. Hispanic purchasing power exceeds $1 trillion and is expected to grow by 2017 80 percent faster than non-Hispanic.

Personalization is a marketing tsunami. As consumers resist homogenization, marketing is becoming more regionalized, localized and even more individualized. This will impact how we think about and manage global brands.

Procurement gains more power. Company procurement departments will continue to carry a lot of clout, driving for greater accountability and transparency, and focusing more on improving efficiencies.

Internal communications shines as marketing channel. Companies will move to ensure employees and vendors know and live their brand, leveraging internal communications as an opportunity to create and build brand ambassadors.

Economics of marketing in a digital world will challenge marketers. Because smart content creation should be native to the digital channel that reaches the audience, the single biggest challenge marketers have is how to scale content in an economical way.


  • Houston Neuroscientist Testing Extrasensory Vest
    Dr. David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, recently tapped Kickstarter to fund research to “see how far we can push the limits of human perception.” “We’re developing the most advanced sensory substitution system to-date, he says, ” — a wearable vest that communicates sound to the brain using the sense of touch. We expect this will be powerful enough to give deaf individuals a new ‘sense’ of hearing.” Eagleman calls it the Versatile Extra – Sensory Transducer, or VEST.” Scott Novich, a graduate student of Eagleman’s at Baylor has developed a wearable prototype now being tested and modified. Essentially, a cell phone would send data — any sort of data — to little motors that cause the ten-pound vest’s wearer to feel pressure in different parts of the torso.” Check out nationally known Eagleman’s website for updates on his research and other neuroscience projects under way — or to participate in the studies yourself. Watch Eagleman’s video on his work at a recent Being Human conference.
    (Houston Chronicle)
  • Creativity + Intelligence + Foresight = Future Career
    Success.Writing on “tomorrow’s employment ecosystem” in the November-December 2014 issue of The Futurist, the former president of the World Future Society, Timothy C. Mack, explains that forecasting the future of work is an increasingly complex process. It includes not only deciphering broad trends in the marketplace, but considering the rapidly shifting economic, social and technological landscape that will create new jobs and reshape older tasks. Knowledge workers who possess problem solving and strategic skills will be in high demand. Other qualities required for the workers of the future will be creativity, intelligence beyond mere experience, commitment, task ownership, personal integrity, ability to work in teams and likability. Twenty-first century workplaces will require employees have the ability to look beyond existing rules and goals to create new directions for themselves and their organizations

  • Tech Entrepreneur Aims to Replace Banks
    PayPal co-founder Max Levchin is launching a new finance start-up called Affirm. It’s first service will offer online, point-of-sale loans that allow customers to repay them in three, six or 12 months. Levchin envisions a modern form of banking that is mobile, connected, works in real time and is transparent — targeting younger consumers who are getting their first jobs and setting up their apartments. “After 2008, lots of people especially young people lost faith in financial institutions in this country,” said Levchin. “At Affirm, we believe the financial industry desperately needs reinvention. Not only is the core infrastructure built with technology from the 1970s, but a dwindling number of people can say, ‘I trust my bank to look out for me.’ We are using modern technology to re-imagine and re-build core components of financial infrastructure from the ground up. We’re focusing on improving the lives of everyday consumers with less expensive, more transparent financial products.”

  • Security Breaches to Spike in 2015 Despite Budget Increases
    According to Forrester, organizations are planning to significantly boost security budgets in 2015, but throwing money at the threat probably won’t guarantee fewer breaches.  In fact, the technology analyst firm predicts that 60 percent of enterprises will discover a breach in 2015. Oddly, only 21 percent of enterprises report that improving incident response is a critical priority, says Forrester. As the digitization of everything leads to new opportunities for the bad guys, this lack of commitment to protect consumer data and privacy is almost frightening. Today, about a third of security decision-makers in North America and Europe view privacy as a competitive differentiator. Forrester expects to see half of enterprises sharing this sentiment by the end of 2015

  • “Beam Me Up, Scotty”
    By 2025, one scientist believes we will be traveling less and telepresencing instead, especially for business. “The ability to have multi-person meetings without travel will be enhanced significantly,” says Jim Hendler, a professor of computer science at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. People won’t need to travel so much, and we’ll enjoy “truly immersive entertainment and communications,” according to Kathryn Campbell, partner with interactive agency Primitive Spark. She predicts something like the Holodeck, the simulated reality room seen on Star Trek