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Insights Interview: Q&A with Sarah Unger, Viacom

In this week’s Insights Interview, we sat down with Foresight & Trends 2017 speaker Sarah Unger, who is also Vice President of Marketing Strategy, Trends & Insights at Viacom. She shared the biggest global trends shaping our future, how to predict the future of consumer behaviors, and how to future-proof brands.

Here’s what Unger had to say:

What are the top 3 biggest global trends right now shaping the future? 

Unger: I’ll pick one: accelerated technological change. Though, I think climate change should be on the top of everyone’s radar, or else all other trends will be moot anyway.

How do we predict the future of consumer behaviors?

Unger: I don’t think we can predict exact behavior. Predictably Irrational is still one of my favorite reads on this topic – there’s certain patterns that we can anticipate, based on past behavior, but given the variables in any marketplace, a lot of room needs to be allotted for contextual, performance based variance. The best way to make sure your brand stays relevant is to have strong cultural feelers and focus on human-centered insights when it comes to innovation.

How can we future proof brands? 

Unger: By knowing your brand – and what it stands for – thoroughly. Having a unified vision, mission, and set of values lets a brand evolve without losing its sense of self. And by evolve, I mean not rest on its laurels – disrupt your brand, even if incrementally, before someone else does.

What does the future of work look like?

Unger: On a broader economic scale, I think the silos between industries will continue to disintegrate (like tech/media, for example). For employees, I see the boundaries between professional and personal life increasingly blurring, which will continue to herald the rise of co-working spaces, competitive perks/benefits from employers, and an openness to remote/flexible working scenarios. Geographically, companies will be increasingly based in cities and emerging markets.

Why does culture matter in the future of businesses?

Unger: That’s like asking how oxygen matters in the future of breathing! In terms of internal corporate culture, not only does it matter in terms of employee happiness and productivity, it’s increasingly intertwined with a company’s external identity. They aren’t two separate things. Consumers are smarter than that. Culture affects business performance.

Want more on this topic? Attend Foresight & Trends 2017 October 2-4 in New York City. At FT, you’ll connect with over 100 corporate futurists, innovators, trends and insights experts to leverage what’s next. De-risk by unlocking the trends that will fuel growth for your brand and business. To learn more or to register, click here

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