How business has changed over the last decade and what to expect next

With 2020 paving the way for the next decade, creative services executives and industry-expert clients answer the following questions: what was the most impactful business shift that disrupted industries in the last ten years? And which business shifts can we expect to have a significant effect within the next few years?

Read on to discover their takes on the past and future of their respective industries.

Bertrand Cesvet
CEO, Senior Partner, Sid Lee

⟵ Past Trend
The 2010s were marked by the rise of social media. Initially, this tech-enabled form of peer-to-peer communication meant that brands had to hand over absolute control of their brand messaging to consumers. In order to regain control, brands had to turn to a new breed of brand advocates to deliver their message: social media influencers. By the end of the decade, Facebook’s disrespect for consumer privacy, the general realization that these so-called influencers were in fact manipulated by corporate entities, and the fact that populist governments began expressing doubts about the validity of news organizations seriously undermined the overall level of trust in Western societies. As we turn the page on the corporations of the 2010s, institutions and society alike will be under a lot of pressure to re-establish a baseline level of trust.


⟶ Industry Prediction
Many people believe the 2020s will be all about data, analytics and A.I. They are right. But unless society manages to deal with the issue of trust, we may very well end up with a dysfunctional society in which tackling every issue—from the existential threat of global warming to creating inspiring global brands—will become almost impossible.

Michael Birkin

CEO, kyu

⟵ Past Trend
If everything written about the advertising industry were to be believed, we would have seen considerably more change than has actually taken place. We have lived in a predominantly digital world for well over 20 years now, yet the major players remain in place. Business may not have grown much, but neither has it declined. When you consider how digitalization has decimated other industries, the advertising industry meanders along. Good defense; poor offense.

⟶ Industry Prediction
The easy answer is to say that the arrival of large consultancies will change our industry. But the danger is not that they will win business over directly; rather, they will reduce the importance of creativity by morphing work into analysis. Creativity needs to fight for its life, and that is why we have set up kyu in the way we have.

Sheila Morin
Chief Marketing & Experience Officer, Cirque du Soleil

⟵ Past Trend
For me, it’s the shift that ended the one-way marketing era. As a famous marketing scholar once said, we went from the age of persuasion to an era of influence… or even more than that: one of mutual and collective influence. Consumers are more aware and sagacious than ever before. Furthermore, they are now fully aware of their power over brands. They are the ones who determine what they want to see, decide if they want to participate, and become active content creators. The consumer is now the boss, and a clever one at that!


⟶ Industry Prediction 
The global quest for meaning and relevance is reaching new heights. Brands with no purpose, no authenticity, or that do not listen to their consumers are doomed… In life and in live entertainment, our fans and spectators are looking forward to significant experiences and memorable moments.

By investing in our products, people don’t only seek to be entertained; some are looking to escape their everyday life, while others want to experience a moment of awe or bond with their loved ones. Therefore, we are offered the incredible opportunity to serve a higher purpose in our consumers’ lives, and here at Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, we are working hard every day to deliver a product that connects people together, creates a more audacious reality, and goes beyond and beyond and beyond…

Brett Moon
Senior VP, Sales and Marketing, WeedMD


⟵ Past (and Ongoing) Trend
The most significant shift in the cannabis industry has been the decade-long transition from the black market to a medical-access-only market to a now fully legalized, recreational, adult-use market. With this shift, we have seen the industry transition to a dynamic, highly regulated CPG environment. With scaled-up production, supply chain and channel development, in addition to emerging brand portfolios, Canadians have not witnessed this sort of transition since the end of prohibition in the 1920s. With this comes tremendous growing pains, as even skilled black-market growers are forced to scale their production practices under the banner of a licensed producer, with many having little traditional manufacturing experience. In addition, Health Canada has adopted regulations that marry the Quality Assurance practices of traditional pharmaceuticals with the sales and marketing compliance practices of alcohol and tobacco. Needless to say, there’s a lot of learning happening in every aspect of the business!


⟶ Industry Prediction
Beyond the new “2.0” products that are currently being launched in the market today, I believe the biggest shifts will come from research and consumer studies focused on occasion-based behaviors surrounding cannabis and cannabis products. As marketers, we are still missing key data that will help us understand the motivating factors for consumers when they choose strains, formats and brands. As we begin to see consumer trends build and evolve, clearly understanding the motivating factors for consumers as they approach different occasions (partying, relaxing at home, creative sessions, etc.) will be the key to creating winning products and being able to market them accordingly.

Kirstin Hammerberg 

Global VP, Business and Experience Design, Sid Lee

⟵ Past Trend
Innovation Culture: Although few organizations were actually structured for implementing, scaling and nurturing innovation, the practice and process of strategic innovation monopolized client, agency and consultancy focus. Often viewed as a silver bullet for growth, we have seen an outbreak of innovation departments, corporate labs and start-ups promising new creative solutions that have democratized creativity and continue to challenge traditional agency business models, service offerings and the attention and budgets of CMOs.

⟶ Industry Prediction
Direct to Consumer: The continued platforming of business will be used as a tool to not only circumvent outdated distribution channels, but also focus on providing people and employees with new levels of supply chain and operational transparency in an era of mounting mistrust. This will require agency partners to support brands in navigating direct-with-consumer engagement practices, managing cross-functional stakeholders, and deploying a level of sophistication in inclusive design that few practitioners have traditionally been exposed to.

Tim Brown
Chairperson, IDEO

⟵ Past Trend
The biggest disruptive shift in the design industry has been the increased influence that design has gained in C-suites, and hence the arrival of many big management and technology consulting companies in our space. Many of them have acquired design firms to be able to offer design services to their clients. We see this as a positive development: it supports the thesis that design has an impact on business success.


⟶ Industry Prediction
Looking forward, we will see significant changes in the kinds of problems that our clients’ businesses face. Many of the threats to and opportunities for business in the next decade are on the systemic scale. So many sectors are being disrupted not just by technology, but by questions of viability and sustainability; organizations have no choice but to explore larger-scale and more complex change. This means innovating and creating outside the bounds of the corporation, and requires a willingness to collaborate in new ways.

Susan Schuman
CEO and Co-Founder, SYPartners


⟵ Past Trend
We have been living in era of constant transformation. When we started SYPartners, change was periodic—a client would hire us to undergo a large-scale transformation once or twice in their lifetime. Now, transformation is constant. And our clients—but all businesses and organizations, really—must build adaptive capabilities, mindsets, and cultures to constantly evolve. This requires us as consultants to help clients create the ability to transform internally.


⟶ Industry Prediction
It's less of a business shift and more of a cultural one: the erosion of trust—in data privacy, in traditional sources of power, in the workplace as a safe space—creates both a yearning for more compassion and humanity in our professional interactions, and it places a premium on relationships fueled by mutual respect and collaboration. Consultancies that help clients build workplaces and customer experiences designed thoroughly around humanity as much as brilliant strategy and operations will be the ones that thrive.

Jeff Alpen
Managing Director, Branding and Experience, Sid Lee USA


⟵ Past Trend
I believe the most significant shift was the emergence, power, and influence of technology companies. Technology companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, etc. place far more significant investment in product design than in brand design, marketing, and communications. Also, they have created tremendous competition from a talent perspective, making recruitment and retention far more challenging.


⟶ Industry Prediction
I believe the business shift that will affect us most is already underway. Technology companies will remain dominant in the next decade. They will continue to prioritize building and iterating products with high velocity, in addition to creating direct, non-intermediated relationships with people. As a next-generation creative company, we must transform who we are, how we operate, and what we deliver. With people at the core, we can build new business models that allow us to earn with our minds and not with our time through the latest tools and technologies and always employing what only humans can do: asking questions and sparking curiosity, imagination and ingenuity through our creations. I expect we will hire talent who will be considered as leveraged creatives who generate repeatable solutions to practical problems.

Jocelyn Wyatt

⟵ Past Trend
In the field of global development, the prevalence of smartphones has been the most disruptive shift we've seen. Because of the widespread access to mobile technology, community health workers are better able to diagnose and treat children in rural communities around the world, farmers are able to get up-to-date information about which local market to sell their crops to, and women are able to save money more safely and take out loans to start their businesses more easily. Today, people around the world have access to information and opportunities to connect that have transformed the ways they live and work.

⟶ Industry Prediction
Today, 60% of the population of the African continent is below the age of 25 and it is expected that the youth demographic in Africa will grow by 42% between 2015 and 2030. The burgeoning youth population provides tremendous opportunity in terms of economic growth and social development. However, without strengthened education systems, healthcare services, infrastructure, and private-sector growth opportunities, there are concerns that the youth won't have the opportunities to lead in the ways they might. There are many ways in which we, as designers, can positively identify livelihood opportunities for youth in Africa.

Mike Da Ponte
President and CEO, BIMM


⟵ Past Trend
The move from antiquated email systems to platforms powered by software as a service (SaaS) has dramatically improved our ability to create better, more mutually beneficial relationships with customers. We're able to design highly personalized, dynamically generated creative campaigns that are served up across multiple devices and technology platforms at just the right moment. The shifts that are a result of the SaaS model, and the corresponding collaborations between the SaaS providers and big media players in the market such as Facebook and Google, have forced our company to think of new models and ways of working in order to help our clients manage these changes themselves while allowing us to bring more technologically infused creativity to market.


⟶ Industry Prediction
In 2010, BIMM had 20% of clients using SaaS marketing cloud platforms. In 2019, that number shifted to 80% and is anticipated to reach nearly 100% by the end of next year. As a part of the race to build the most advanced marketing clouds, companies like Salesforce, IBM, Microsoft and Adobe are doubling down investments in artificial intelligence. This move will ultimately place greater power into the hands of our clients. These systems will leverage big data and predictive models to automate criteria such as audience, message, channel and timing to optimize performance. In 2019, IBM (Watson) and Salesforce (Einstein) worked in partnership to accelerate speed-to-market, offering predictive intelligence in Salesforce’s Journey Builder application. As the adoption of these tools becomes more widespread, the art and science employed by BIMM will impact how we add value to our clients’ businesses.

Dhushan Thevarajah
COO, BEworks

⟵ Past Trend
Big data has played a huge role in disrupting business. Our field—behavioral economics—was born in part as a result of what big data reveals. For instance, big data allows a close examination of behavior such as how investors participate and react to market conditions. And it has revealed many irrational tendencies, or as our Co-Founder Dan Ariely describes it, ways in which we are predictably irrational. The good news though is that we can move beyond observing from the sidelines. Behavioral economics leverages biases to help nudge people towards better behavior. That's where the next revolution is: helping people make better decisions. 


⟶ Industry Prediction
Not surprisingly, advances in data science and the more sophisticated automation this brings will be a game changer. We don’t perceive this as a threat, but rather as a potential opportunity akin to how many modern technologies have allowed us to do things faster, cheaper, and better. As a company, we’re embracing this by educating and being aware of these advances, seeing where and how we can participate to understand the new boundaries being created, and hiring and collaborating with academics in this space to push our own potential.

Alex Pasini
President, Global Alliances, Partner, Sid Lee


⟵ Past Trend
As an ex-Sid Lee client turned writer turned public speaker wrote, “Good is the new Cool.” Businesses have adopted higher moral standards, taking a stance on important issues and fighting for what is right. Being good equals coolness in today’s landscape.


⟶ Industry Prediction
ESG metrics will become (even more) mainstream. When it comes to advertising, the increased importance of ESG metrics will be felt through customer privacy, selling practices and product labelling, and employee engagement, diversity and inclusion.