Understanding Youth Culture Is the Key to Success in 2019 and Beyond

Trendera founder Jane Buckingham urges entrepreneurs to prepare for the future by looking at what the youngest generation wants right now.
Understanding Youth Culture Is the Key to Success in 2019 and Beyond
Image credit: Justin Coit
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the December 2018 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Jane Buckingham started trend-hunting at age 17, when she wrote her first book, Teens Speak Out. Some three decades later, she’s still hot on the scent -- and still hanging out with teens, because doing so provides a keyhole view of the future. “They’re not so set in their ways, so that’s where you see change happening,” Buckingham says. The firm she founded in 2009, Trendera, forecasts what’s next through deep research and consumer surveys on everything from technology to gender fluidity. Entrepreneurs should pay particular attention to shifts in culture, she says, “because when attitudes change, there’s always opportunity.”

Related: The Young Founder of This Celebrity-Loved Activewear Company Shares Why You Should Always Trust Your Instincts

What macro trends are you seeing in 2019?

Entertainment is all about to change. Youth culture is where trends often take root. There’s a company called Brat that’s doing 10- to 15-minute shows online for teens. Let’s call it a Sweet Valley High meets Riverdale. They’re acting like a TV channel but using social media as direct marketing and making it the primary draw. They’re getting, like, two million views an episode. I think we’ll see a shift to our phones as our central entertainment system. That’s a huge opportunity. 

Give us another big trend.

“Have it your way” to the 98th degree. “I want what I want, when I want it.” On-demand and personalizing will trump everything. For example, cars are one of the least customizable big purchases. I have to imagine that’s an area that could ultimately explode. 

One of Trendera’s reports this year talks about self-protection.

We’re entering an unfortunate period of totally excused bad behavior. We’re going to see more safeguarding developments -- whether it’s a nail polish that tells you if your drink has been roofied, or a digital contract that allows college students to tape themselves during sex so they can prove it wasn’t rape.

Related: Isn't It Time to Be Your Own Boss? These Women-Founded Companies Want You to Join the Movement.

Are you making this up? 

Oh, totally! I don’t know what that looks like, but people will become self-­protective. But a more positive trend is health. 

Aren’t we already obsessed with health?

What’s new is the integration of wellness into everything -- from work to school to food to parenting. It’s one of the few things we feel we can control, so it’s a gold mine for entrepreneurs.

What’s in your crystal ball with tech?

Have you seen this workout device called Mirror? You work out in front of it with a virtual trainer in the mirror showing what to do. That’s going to be the next evolution. So you’re going to have technology in your kitchen where someone walks you through the recipes, and tech where someone scans your closet and tells you, “Oh, you know what would be a great outfit for today?” 

Related: Millennial Women Are Facing Serious Burnout -- Here's How to Beat It

Are you seeing opportunities to invent these tech products or use them? 

Both. There are tons of areas for entrepreneurs to ask: How do we make technology feel more human by incorporating people? And on the business side, it’s everything from better bots to better customer service to better shipping and delivery. It’s all going to just get more connected.  

That sounds great.

Till the robots overtake us. Because we really have seen this movie, right? We all know how it ends [laughs].

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