The Path Ahead: The Stuff Nightmares Are Made Of
This article covers 22 trends that may affect you live and work and ends with some pragmatic parting advice. We encourage you to read it, skim it, cultivate that which serves you and unapologetically hit the eject button on that which does not. There’s a lot of material covered here – so take a few laps and focus on what’s relevant to your world.
1. The economic outlook doesn’t look good.
Inflationary spending has run amuck, then the secret inflationary spending to bail out banks is sending things from really bad to nearing apocalyptic. Most people don’t understand that those bank bailouts are just as bad as the inflationary stimulus from the Covid era. What’s worse is just like in the 2008 crisis, there are many trying to obfuscate, cover-up, or outright define recessionary elements to prevent people from noticing what is really going on.
- Layoffs are everywhere despite the current administration saying things are booming. Let’s call it what it is: complete and utter BullSh*t.
- Quiet Layoffs – Pulling the plug on remote work, when many left the cities and states they lived in is another form of a forced layoff. If you moved your family 2 states away from the corporate HQ, and just got settled, and now are called back to work from HQ. Many of these people are forced to quit.
- All of the unemployment numbers have been off for some time now. Unemployment numbers do not factor all of the people on pandemic assistance, because it only counts those “looking for work”. When you factor in the people who are otherwise able to work, the real unemployment rate is a lot higher than you’d expect.
- Technology is making “right-sizing” the company even easier – thanks ChatGPT, OpenAI, Comrade Google and Microsoft.
2. Commercial real estate is in trouble.
It’s expensive and employees hate it. Banks are pooping their pants and losing a fortune on holding empty buildings.
The homeless crisis, the feces in the streets, defunding the police, bail reform, and just letting crime run rampant has resulted in creating unsafe and undesirable places to live, work and play.
These issues have chased out many retail outfits, and office space out of those once coveted downtown office buildings. That fancy office building is now more of a liability than an asset.
Remote work trends accelerated by Covid response have transformed business forever. And many organizations have been slow to adapt.
There is value in meeting and connecting face to face, but the technology, real estate costs, and transportation costs aren’t helping matters either.
Clients are now accustomed to meeting via Zoom, or in a cafe. It’s become normalized
3. Residential real estate is in trouble.
People in the industry are quick to point out that prices are falling compared to pre-pandemic highs, but that means owners are losing equity, and combined with high interest rates, many people are stuck and waiting where they are. Also the interest rates are so high that they don’t inspire a lot of mass movement. In fact the mortgage lending industry is now trying to normalize 40 year loans to keep monthly costs down (while they make massive amounts of money on the interest).
Institutional money is moving into the residential real estate market. Wall Street is so volatile that the big guys have been steadily gobbling up residential real estate. Don’t worry they will ruin this too. This means more rentals, but it also means rents will remain high, and purchasable inventory will be kept lower.
The supply chain crisis and cost of lumber may have come back down but there are reverberating effects throughout the industry.
An uncomfortable truth for many is that they will have to consider buying a smaller home, and in many cases, perhaps even a tiny home. Keep an eye on those tiny home manufacturers and developers as they create sub-divisions of tiny homes, and continue to normalize them:
- Good for the environment (smaller eco footprint, etc.)
- Owning one gives you an asset that generally will appreciate (therefore a likely better investment than that sprinter van.
- You can actually afford to live there.
- You can be so close to your neighbor (you can literally smell them)
Just wait for the zero lots where these things are placed right next to each other with no yards in between. They will resemble a port full of cargo containers.
4. The automobile industry is in trouble.
5 Trends in the automotive industry worth noting:
- Banks aren’t lending dealerships the money to get new inventory
- To make that truck more affordable, they’re starting to approach life sentences on auto loans.
- Repossessions are on the rise, which is a big deal and a REAL indicator of ACTUAL economic health. This was an important data-point of the 2008 recession.
- Dealerships are disappearing as more and more car manufacturers are shifting to direct to consumer models, yet again mimicking Tesla in every way they can.
- The current administration is trying to aggressively force everything to go electric – just in time for more rolling blackouts, mandating adding kill switches, so they can shut down your ride for any number of reasons. Those who can think critically are turned off by these moves, and will want to steer clear.
5. The global supply chain clusterf*CK didn’t go away and is poised to get worse.
Just because the news media couldn’t suck up any more clicks on the issue, and it was inconveniencing the current administration, didn’t magically resolve the supply chain crisis. Cutting domestic fuel production didn’t help, starting an economic world war created nightmare shifts in the global supply chain. The options: America loses and succumbs to the NWO, or we fight and win economically, and crank up manufacturing in the US and in friendlier countries. Either way, it will take years to play out, and in the meantime – it’s going to suck, which I’m told is a technical term.
6. Stagflation is real. Costs are up. Wages are down. Spending will be down too, which means competition for customers, clients and projects will be rigorous.
This also means that production costs will increase. This adds uncertainty, makes planning difficult, and adds financial burdens that businesses will have to find ways to weather. All of these factors also add competitive pressures which will make the market more cut throat to earn what business is available.
7. The current White House administration APPEARS TO BE hell bent on collapsing the economy and creating one National Security crisis after another.
It’s no longer politics – it’s fact and it certainly affects business. Let’s go over a few things:
Run-away inflation: pay attention to core inflation and your actual bills, not the manipulated PR version they use to tell you it’s only 5%.
Bailing out banks after printing all that money only continues to add to inflationary forces and weakening our dollar, but conveniently you only begin to understand the impact if you’re paying attention to finance and economics. The average consumer will feel this when it’s far too late to address it. Rest assured, these chickens will come home to roost.
The Debt Ceiling – We’ve played kick the can far too long and now there is the classic showdown between the political parties – that will inevitably compromise and kick the can a year down the road. Good thing we printed all that money, bailed out our friends’ banks, paid for the war in Ukraine, because our economy is totally fine right?
The war in Ukraine, with all its murky origins, has resulted in the creation of BRICS axis powers that no longer want to trade with the West. So the petro-dollar is in jeopardy as a result of footing the bill to support a non-NATO ally’s war, because it hit us in the feels? Nevermind those bio labs and nuclear weapons research that were at first denied and have been revealed. We are on the brink of WW3, and what is factually clear, and documented in the news, is that there has been a steady aggressive presence in Ukraine that any reasonable neighboring country would take issue with. If Canada started making bio-weapons or nuclear research facilities, I’m pretty sure it would cause a strain on the friendship to say the least.
WW3 Great for the defense industry and warmongers, but presents real problems for global businesses HQ’d in the US. These add shocks to supply chain and logistics, and in case you’ve been living under a rock, the US hasn’t exactly been a hotbed of manufacturing lately. This will require some long and hard turns to absorb and adapt to the implications.
Unrestrained illegal immigration poses a number of national security risks as millions have entered illegally, and no one is commenting on the destruction of food supply, or large scale industrial accidents that keep occuring. Not only that but apparently, they are shipping, yes shipping, illegal immigrants to what appears to be strategic locations throughout the US. Is it for congressional districts and house seats? There’s a lot to wonder about.
It doesn’t take an economist or even a smart plumber to realize there are a lot of HUGE crises either created or exacerbated by the current administration. And it’s way past time for the business community to call it out to say the least.
8. Brands continue to go political, adding new dimensions to consider, but mostly risk, division and volatility.
The politicization of brands have influenced organizations to take positions on political issues to back candidates, specific policies, covid response, war response and so on.
And riding the political trend may have felt good to earn that temporary boost of engagement. But as more and more facts come to light, and scrutiny intensifies, brands that adopted those trendy activist positions stand to reap deserved backlash through guilt by association.
Every tweet and post your company made are in the history books. And your record of these publications will influence your market, existing customers, existing employees, and the candidates you seek to hire.
It was oh so easy to ride the short-term trends with this new dimension of branding and marketing, but as people have time and cause to reflect and think critically, will those positions stand the test of time and support the growth and performance of your organization, or will you come to regret them? …especially in a recession?
9. Injecting politics into work culture distracts from the core business and poses serious issues for your organization.
If you had your employees binging on diversity, equity and inclusion training, ESG (environmental, social governance), and training on other bougie, soup-of-the-day corporate culture concepts, you may not have anticipated the unintended consequences. Turns out those trainings may have had no positive impact on performance, and actually may have had an opposite negative effect. In effect, those policies were distracting, more of a luxury concept for a good-times economy. Now these too pose a risk to your business.
First, the policies probably don’t support your core business, which in times like these, you should definitely be reaching for the eject button as they’re a costly expenditure that’s not adding value. Secondly, it scares away qualified job-seekers who don’t want to get sucked into political theater and office drama. And of course, you’ve probably alienated the hell out of your staff to ride the trending idea without thinking it through in the first place. This probably leads to some quiet quitting – just saying.
ALL THE WHILE, Digital did not go anywhere. Ignoring it probably didn’t work for you. And it definitely won’t work moving forward.
10. AI is changing everything. Are you even in the AI business yet?
The generative AI apps out there, ChatGPT, MidJourney, are amazing. And the open source competition is poised to surpass them. What does this mean for you? Well first off, there’s no excuse to not be creating great content, doing better and faster analysis, and going deeper with data. Secondly, automation through AI Agents is on the rise and could save you a ton of money… If you are capable of setting clear and specific goals, and clearly communicating instructions, you can take advantage. But for most manager types, clear communication and goal setting, or thinking in terms of architecture and systems in relation to AI are foreign concepts.
First and foremost – you and your team need to become more cybernetic and take advantage of the tools, optimizing workflows, creating more value than the competition, saving money, and generating more revenue in the process.
AI in healthcare will also be disruptive though not on the same timeline. Emerging applications are leading to new discoveries but also dangerous new technologies, that likely falsley inflate our sense of safe applications.
AI is destroying the global outsourcing industry – for better and worse. No more calls from call centers where you can’t understand the person on the other end. All that low level work you were paying to outsource just got a whole lot cheaper thanks to the new AI tools.
But as with all things, as the technology shifts.. So do the scams. Those fancy AI tools can now generate malicious code and try to trick you to execute it. It’s a whole new world.
11. Social discovery and AI are in. Google search Engine rankings are out, as IS seo- EXCEPT FOR LOCAL/BRICK AND MORTARS.
Google is doing the Yahoo thing. They are out of the neutral search business and have become basically an editorialized web aggregator. TikTok is eating Google and Facebook’s lunch – and trust me, you can ban it all you want, but people will just VPN their way to the competition.
How’s your marketing strategy? If you’re positioned on all SEO and creating crappy content to improve your search engine rankings, congratulations. That effort is pretty much obsolete. The notable exception is if you’re a local brick and mortar seeking to appear in those coveted Google maps listings.
Aren’t you glad you spent all that money on converting to Google Analytics 4?
Well the rumor mill sounds like that overly complicated clusterf*ck has been rendered moot by AI entering the scene.
In fact ,Google is selling, YES SELLING, search engine rankings. That’s how bad business is for them. They have deals with the New York Times and United Nations. So, gone are the days of neutral algorithmic search. It’s been steadily dying for a long time. Google is pulling the same move Yahoo did. They are going the way of the Yellow pages and cannibalizing their core product. These days, you can trust Google to feed you ads and their opinions, but not neutral rankings for your web searches.
TV, Global Entertainment & The Streaming Wars
The media scene is desperate to cut costs, increase subscribers, dollars, and growth. This has led to a combination of big media conglomerates consolidating their streaming services and raising prices for their subscribers. It’s also worth noting the business maneuvers that are weakening streaming services.
12. fallout from The fake news sagas continues.
The truth is out. The multi-year wall to wall stories consisted largely of fake news. It was great for business at the time, but came at a cost: viewer trust and brand integrity. Knowingly or not, if you profiteered from the cycle of top-tier trash news, your brand will continue to take a hit, as will the top advertisers on those programs. Guilt by association or being an accomplice is irrelevant.
13. Turning the political dial to 12 in the entertainment industry is causing subscribers to ditch or switch.
The more subscribers who become aware, red-pilled and pissed, the more likely they are to unsubscribe. And that’s made easier as prices increase, paychecks decrease, and the dollar weakens. These factors help draw more critical attention to expenses on platforms, including their content positions. This can go from a small leak to flooded compartments really fast.
Disney aggressively launched itself into a politicized woke brand. By “woke” we mean adopting an attitude of progressive political activism that includes a willingness to use coercive and combative tactics, commonly including: censorship, bullying, boycotting, replatforming to force others to not only accept but also advocate for their positions. Adopting a woke position often conflicts or morphs the core of the brand, especially as it is perceived by the market.
This was jarring to fans and caused some to cancel their Disney+ subscriptions. They also lost Cricket coverage in India which cost them a fortune. Disney is cutting costs by merging Hulu and Disney+ while raising prices for the added content. Since they abandoned their traditional family values position, this made putting all sorts of content in one place easier. But this will add pressure to the traditional disney family values fans which may lead to more detractions. Disney is stubbornly holding out that the new progressive values platform will win over America. It faces a growing trend of the God-Family-Country crowd, which is currently winning (despite overwhelming media coverage, promotion and corporate culture adoption). Again, this isn’t political, this is just performance over noise, and the media market, especially Disney, has lost the trust of the American family.
It’s not just Disney. I’m looking at you Netflix & Amazon Prime Video.
Netflix took a shotgun approach to content and lost a fortune. Then they spent a fortune and added more progressively politicized, woke content. And yes we can use that word, because there is observably no moderate position on the scene at all.
Amazon said “hold my beer” and torched the Tolkien franchise and several others with a similar approach trying to connect with Gen Z and hope that the rest of the audience didn’t take notice of all the lovely political-product-placements made on their flagship content.
Both platforms made up for their losses by raising prices as they continue to expand their catalog of movies and shows you wouldn’t buy at Walmart from the one dollar bin.
14. People are more aware of the low value of filler content of all kinds.
Adding more filler content to pump up the streaming services’ title count despite no one wanting to watch most of it is drawing more ire. There is a growing meme that expresses consumers will spend more time searching in the menus (and getting served ads) than actually watching content.
15. Hollywood’s Global Business Strategy: America Second
The box office panders primarily to China now. That’s not a political statement. It’s a fact.
Have you noticed all the heroic Chinese characters in films lately?
- Did you know that one of the reasons John Wiik has so few lines is so they translate better in overseas markets?
- Have you noticed a change in themes of movies in general, always portraying China as the good guys or far more formidable than ever?
- Have you noticed the rise of Bollywood videos (some of them really great) in the catalog?
- Have you noticed that many of Netflix’s original titles are big budget marvels of mediocrity?
This isn’t by accident. They translate better to a mature global business.
America is no longer the target audience. America is becoming a smaller market. And the big media publishers and streaming providers are focused on growth overseas. They will argue it’s a global audience, but they’re chasing the numbers and their content exposes their strategy: China.
16. Merging platforms is great for providers but it means pushing content consumers didn’t ask for at higher prices…as we enter a recession
Crappy content and traditional cable are what drew Consumers to streaming services in the first place. Now that they are about equally bad, something new might happen.
People shift their habit away from streaming entirely and replace it with the new social media short video platforms. TikTok and YouTube shorts (if Google can catch up) instead of watching the same top 40 films and shows from the 90’s (back when content was good).
A New Hope? HBO+Discovery For the Win?
I will say there is hope in all these moves for some. One example is HBO and Discovery coming together. Mike Row and Harry Potter on the same network? Yep. They offer a smaller catalog of premium, more carefully curated content, and fan favorites. If they can avoid politically washing the Harry Potter series, they can grab many customers who are fed up with the other streaming services.
17. Yo Ho…All Hands…Hoist The Colors High…Return of the Pirates
I know. You thought you were done with that life. But all this activity will lead to consumers seeking to cut costs and cherry pick more protein packed content. So we may see a resurgence in the Jolly Roger being flown over many households and flea markets.
The same economic forces that made thrifting a humble brag, gave rise to countless forms of reality TV (American Pickers), also give rise to ahem…alternative methods of acquiring media. Imagine opening a box of pirated DVDs your friend just bought for $5 at the local flea market.
Since streaming media quality continues to erode while the prices go up, good media is expensive and hard to come by. As people seek to cut costs, and some may cut streaming, expect to see a resurgence in pirated media. You can already watch full movies on TikTok as it is…wait until the regulators find out.
“But I’m not in the streaming media business. Why should I care?”
These trends transcend the entertainment and media industries, and in the Digital Age, they will manifest themselves across the global business landscape. People will have less time, and more incentive to scrutinize whatever content you produce and think of it as low-value filler and noise. This means fewer clicks, fewer opt-ins, fewer leads, and fewer deals.
18. What About Social Media? Platforms Long in The Tooth Getting their lunch eaten by TikTok
Gen Z is calling Facebook, Instagram and YouTube “legacy social media”. This doesn’t bode well for these platforms. You thought legacy media just ment cable news right? Not any more.
Historically, big tech chases children and younger crowds – in more ways than one. You see, young people are stupid, or more precisely ignorant, and they spend more. This makes them top marketing targets. And big tech platforms rely on attracting them specifically young women to platforms to attract advertisers and shore up their numbers. It’s like running a night club, young ladies get in free because they attract everyone else. This is definitely not wisdom of the crowds or the best platforms getting propped up for a reason beyond those mentions. Remember, even Facebook has roots in an era of networks built on rating the attractiveness of mostly college girls.
It’s enough to make you miss Tom and the simplicity of MySpace.
Sadly this is worth mentioning, because somehow, these platforms get conflated with hubs of intelligent or enlightened thought, but when you get under the hood of their numbers, and how things go viral, with a little helping hand from an algorithm or two, you realize it is not the epicenter or public square of brilliance on display, nor a free market of content competing on merit alone. Sex sells. And to heck with the impacts on mental health and society. It’s not like they’re trying to normalize attraction to minors… oh wait they are! We can’t ignore the most valuable user segments on the platform, and the rise of the tectonic shifts in society to make it all “okay”. It’s not okay, but regardless it is the unspoken underbelly that drives most of these platforms. And the current societal push is a tectonic shift.
19. The Future is Vertical – Meta – Facebook, Instagram are NOT going to “reel” them back in.
Facebook’s targeting in their ad systems are abysmal. Marketing agencies have covered up this for years. Meta has been crapping on advertisers and marketers for years, making it harder to reach the audience, and keep them on the platform. The cost of advertising is up but user engagement is WAY down. This has turned out as a double whammy on your social media ad spend. Expect to spend more to reach FEWER humans at least on Meta’s properties. So if you were already under-spending on ads, and having limp results, expect to go full turtle-mode this year. If you’re going to play on these platforms expect to budget more to do so.
20. Twitter is up, down, and all around and the Free Bird desperately want your ad dollars.
Hate Musk and the platform all you want, but imagine if you could turn a profit and grow your business with 10% of your staff. Musk is certainly shaking up the snow globe at Twitter, but there is a clear opportunity to run awesome ads at a great price with great targeting tools to reach a big audience.
21. Working- No Code has gone mainstream in the Do-er Community
Dude do you even data? Do you even leverage data to make informed decisions?
Does your business have a hive mind or organized Knowledge Management System (KMS)?
In order to take advantage of automation, you need good processes, data, and fundamental organization of all your digital assets. This is where the no code movement shines.
Have you taken advantage of the No-Code revolution?
Apps like Notion, Coda, and AirTable have given even the smallest business an edge to organize and leverage their data in the digital age. Do you even know they exist or what they can do? Your competition does, or will shortly. These tools allow the laymen to create massive, relational databases that make it easy to connect the dots, create new opportunities, speed up operations and keep everything organized and cataloged in one awesome, searchable place.
22. VR – Apple v. Meta – The New Paradigm Will Take a While
Apple is one of the few companies positioned to profit by offering privacy and protecting user data. Virtual Reality, Augmented, Metaverse, whatever you want to call it, is the next paradigm shift if it can overcome the economic obstacles of horrible timing. Apple is set to enter the market with a $3,000 premium XR headset with a wimpy 2 hour battery life. This will be aimed at developers first probably, but really ramp up with a second model or two in 2024…just in time for the recession to ramp up.
I’m long on Apple and VR, but in the VR platform war, pricing is important. I’m not sure the world will scramble to Apple first. But hey, it took Sony’s Playstation years to rise to dominate the market. Heaven knows that Apple has the cash to play the long game. Facebook does not, and their board is pissed at Zuckerberg and not really patient enough to see it through – at least that’s the current read.
The rise of VR could come just in time to create virtual offices, storefronts, and the metaverse, if only Apple or Facebook could get it right. It needs to be open and have user protections which no one in their right mind would trust Meta / Facebook to offer.
You will likely redesign your website for 3 dimensions real quick. Early adopters will get the wow factor for offering an experience. Then it will become the norm. Are you ready?
This will add pressure to think about your brand through the lens of experience design, physical and virtual architecture.
And there’s a huge requirement to think about how the future VR workplace will organize and interact. You need to get your data and digital business together now either way.
This could be yet another kick in the groin to the commercial real estate industry. Digital real estate will likely be cheaper after all, and there are many who prefer to work remotely.
CONCLUSION: What’s your plan to weather the storm? Is your business in good shape? Hopefully you have some financial survival weight.
Hopefully you have some financial survival weight to weather lean and challenging times. It’s hard to think strategically when you’re scrambling for every meal. If you don’t have a stock pile of cash, the time to make a plan is now.
The defacto impulse will be to cut your expenses by 20%. Trim the fat. Reduce the staff… that will do it right? I don’t think so. That might buy you time, but it won’t keep you afloat.
It’s critical to consider all of the external market forces at play and how they may impact your business and your life. We put this together to give you a bigger picture of the whole, and hopefully brought new pieces of the puzzle to your attention. The point isn’t to instill fear, it’s to help you face the formidable by first acknowledging that it exists. Heroik can help you develop a strategy and DTFW – Do The Formidable Work.
Here are Some Things to Consider:
- First get a digital hub and knowledge management system – use Notion, unless you’re strictly numbers outfit, in that case use AirTable. Then start working with Zapier, and AI to add automation. This will allow you to gather data and get laser focused on what’s working and what’s not.
- AI, ChatGPT, MidJourney – Start making your top teams use it. Use it yourself so you know how to set expectations with your team members. Expect your content creator vendor and teams to use it. Raise your content quality and originality standards and ensure they are meeting them. Expect more, pay less? There is every reason to expect more – courtesy of the freemium AI tools out there. There will also be more content creators than ever flooding the market with copy and pasted content from ChatGPT.
- Be ready to increase your ad spend on Meta (Facebook/Instagram) if you just want to tread water and get the same performance as last year.
- Spend money on Twitter ads – better targeting, better bang for your buck. Better ingredients. Better pizza. I have no idea where Twitter will be in 2024, but for now, there’s an opportunity to reach your target audience in a cost effective way.
- Do a global supply chain audit of your business – no matter how small or large your company is. You need to assess exposure. What parts of your business depend on the global supply chain and to what degree. Extend this assessment to your core customers. Ask your partners to do the same. Start getting a read on how these issues will affect your business so you can plan and respond accordingly.
Prepare for bad…real bad times. Yes It’s to the point where this is sound business advice, and not calling it out would be negligent.
Now is a great time for continuity planning. War-game out a few scenarios, losing your workforce, losing suppliers, etc.
Make a lean contingency strategy for when things get really hairy.
Remember PACE (Primary, Auxiliary, Contingency, and Emergency) as you make your plans. Ensure you have these layers of plans as well.
If your primary business plans fail, should the economy crunch hard and fast, you will wish you had some, if not all of the following:
- Raise some chickens, eggs are currency
- Learn to grow potatoes and the easiest food items you can
- Buy some gold (in small transactional weights)
- Buy a solar power generator (Bluetti makes a good one, haven’t tested Anker’s new one)
- Buy a bunch of dry food and emergency supplies (Costco sells 5 gallon buckets of the stuff for about $75 last I checked)
- Squad up with your neighbors. Train up with them for emergencies
- Ensure you have means of providing for the safety of each other’s families and the neighborhood. This is good for man-made and natural disasters either way.
- Means of communication, coordinating basic movement
- Get a ham radio license, and some radios
- Learn basic firearm safety, buy a few firearms, become proficient with
- Pray everyday.
Use all of the above items as a social context to grow closer together with your family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. These are the people who will help you and need your help navigating storms of all kinds. These relationships matter more than just about anything else.
These aren’t uncertain times. These are certain bad times. Come to terms with that. I know we’ve all been through a lot, but we haven’t really gone through the storm yet. Buckle up. Hunker down. Be Ready.