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TBWA’s Backslash Reveals 39 Cultural Shifts Shaping Our World


In the face of cultural chaos, Edges offer a strategic blueprint for the year ahead

TBWA’s Backslash Reveals 39 Cultural Shifts Shaping Our World

Backslash, the cultural intelligence unit of TBWA\Worldwide, has released its annual glossary of Edges. More than a trend report, Edges are defined as meaningful cultural shifts that have the scale and longevity to help brands capture a greater share of the future.

“Culture is not only accelerating, it’s also becoming messier - making it harder for brands to keep up, make sense of where they can play, and determine what to act on. That’s where Edges come in,” says Agathe Guerrier, TBWA\Worldwide’s global chief strategy officer. 

Backslash’s rigorous set of criteria requires Edges be rooted in human values, be recognisable through consumer behaviours, and lead to clear business implications. In order to be declared an Edge, identified shifts must have sustained relevance for over a year and should continue to matter for the foreseeable future. Each Edge must also be globally relevant, manifesting in a majority of the world’s regions.

This year’s 39 Edges span categories and countries, offering a comprehensive forecast of what’s to come. Six new Edges have been identified for 2023, including:

Artificial Creativity: Creativity is undergoing an AI revolution. Giant leaps in the progression and availability of generative AI tools are driving a shift from purely logical, task-oriented applications to more artful, previously impossible outputs. As AI pushes further into creative industries, culture wars around ownership, value, and definitions of 'real' creativity will ensue.

Lab-Made World: Beef, blood, building materials: the future is being grown in a lab. While 'all-natural' was once thought to be better for people and the planet, our current environmental reality calls for a different approach. One that begins with science. As resources run out and supply chains fall under scrutiny, 'lab-made' will go from sterile and apologetic to responsible and aspirational.

Neo-Collectivism: A renewed emphasis on collectivism is redistributing power at scale. Realising that individualism can only get us so far, brands and organisations are relinquishing control and inviting participation in the form of decentralisation, crowdsourcing, and co-creation. The future belongs to all of us.

When looking across the 2023 Edges, major themes like resource scarcity, taboo toppling, and tech backlash sit at the root of several separate but related shifts. Each of these conversations have become seismic pressures underpinning the rest.

“Together, overlapping Edges tell a larger story about where culture is heading. Other Edges inherently contradict one another, which creates an even more interesting narrative full of cultural tensions,” says Backslash’s director of cultural strategy, Cecelia Girr. “The reality is that no cultural shift is good or bad. They all encompass various perspectives and a great deal of nuance, which means there’s several different ways for brands to leverage them.”

To help clients better understand which Edges influence their audiences, TBWA’ Disruption Index - a data product spanning 18 countries - collects cultural relevance and economic impact data from thousands of people worldwide. This has allowed TBWA to quantify the impact of Edges against a particular brand or category, giving clients the confidence to build a long-term strategy upon them.

For instance, Disruption Index data found Body Debates (an Edge introduced in 2021) was the most relevant Edge in around 70% of the markets last year - with an average of 84% of consumers saying it is “very important to be able to make decisions about their body and health.” For healthcare clients, such an insight can unlock richer creative territories centred around body autonomy and empowered decision making.

To help further inspire business action, this year’s Edge glossary also includes provocations for the future of brand experience. These insights were born from a partnership between Backslash and TBWA’s global innovation practice, NEXT.

The complete glossary of 39 Edges can be downloaded here.  

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TBWA Worldwide, Mon, 06 Mar 2023 16:18:11 GMT