Future Mapping


The challenge for many marketers when planning future products, services and communications is to understand the emerging consumer and their needs, wants and desires for the future.

Consumers have a desire to live in the future but struggle to imagine what the future will look like. Asking consumers to imagine the future is like asking them to imagine life on Mars. Everyone will have different ideas, none of them substantiated. From a behavioural science perspective, asking open questions like this lacks validity because consumers need to:

a) Be primed on what is possible for the future.

b) Require anchors that they understand.

It is argued that consumer’s emotions and decisions are actually based on their expectations and fears for the future, and then projected back to the present. Therefore, in working with future tense in market research, we need to frame the future possibilities to help them brainstorm current to future needs and modalities.

At Ruby Cha Cha we can help marketers by creating and projecting ‘memories of the future’ through our future mapping and scenario planning tools.

Memories of the Future – Scenario Planning

Since the future is inherently unknown and unknowable, the challenge is to create a number of different scenarios about these emerging consumer narratives in order to uncover the dynamic aspect of consumer change and readiness to change. This is an intuitive process and since consumers are usually unable to create scenarios and focus on the future themselves, it is our job to create these narratives for them based on an appreciation of what has happened and what is rooted in the ‘here and now’.

Scenario planning as a process of structured, reasoned storytelling is a great way of ensuring that we focus on a combination of PESTLE factors relevant to the job at hand.

We could be talking about the bank branch of the future, or the streaming service of the future, or perhaps we are talking about the ‘energy’ beverage of the future. Whether we are talking about a product or service, we need to build some scenarios to anticipate environmental and social factors that might occur (based on emerging trends we are seeing) as well as political and economic forces. We also need to be cognisant of differing consumers or customers, groups or individuals with very different views and needs such as we might find in passions, mindsets or lifestages.

The key advantage of using a scenario planning approach is that it creates new mental maps of the consumer environment by constructing a range of different narratives about the future and creating a conceptual framework for making sense of all the different factors the can have an impact. It is thus an exercise in bringing order out of chaos, a means of organising the multiplicity of deafening information sources about consumers, market research data, consumer trend data, anecdotal information, news and articles into a form of useful knowledge.

When working with a number of different narratives about the future of your world of interest for instance, new developments and information sources can assist terms of unfolding of different stories or patterns that we can map out for consumers to react to and build from.

Building a coherent framework

Ruby can help here by running a stakeholder workshop to build a coherent framework to make sense of consumer change that will create better validity and encourage a more dynamic and substantiated search for future forethought and consumer insight.

Armed with a set of ‘memories of the future’ it is much easier for consumers to look for ideas and insights. What we mean by this is that when people think they know something they tend to give it virtually not thought or attention, assuming that they know all there is to know about it. As a result they will push for closure and the creative process shuts down. What we need to do is scope the idea more broadly, allowing people to keep issues and possible open for discussion to get the creative juices flowing.

Imagine we come up four different scenarios about the future of schools in Australia (following the obesity trend, the home schooling trend, digital trend, overseas success ideas and something different and out of the box etc, , rather than the current ideas that have been generated in the business; technology, staffing and people, property and footprint, other channels) we could potentially come up with many different drivers of choice and many different scenarios. We could then pick the most interesting for us (from safest to blue sky) and work with those to build true insight.

How we do it

1

We start by a parallel review process with your core team downloading information, and key sources of date.

2

We then use these sources to generate four somewhat polarised futures, creating a ‘future map’ of opposing outcomes that ‘might’ happen. Of course, not one specific future will come true in the years to come but the map forces us to push our understanding of what society could be like and this is ideal for driving creative thinking.

3

The four possible futures are brought to life and visualised by drawing how people will live, interact with each other and go about their business. By capturing what will motivate them and drive their decision making, hopes and fears, Ruby with your team or key stakeholders can either map existing ideas or generate new ideas for the future of your product or service.

The figures below demonstrate how this could work and provide examples only.

The maps are made up of two key axes that define four future narratives:

  • One axis highlights the distinction between busyness and balance in consumer lifestyles.
  • The other outlines the distinction between risk aversion and the accompanying tendency for people to live in the future versus risk acceptance and tendency to live more in the present for others.

Figure 1: A future map

The first map comprises of a mixture of dominant trends in society today and those underlying movements that could potentially gather momentum and become more pervasive given the right conditions. The map is constructed on two axis which illustrate the key drivers and these drivers are supported by a number of examples.

Figure 2: Drivers of the future

The second map outlines the drivers that we might build to underpin the future world map. Once we have the future worlds built, we can then take these into Consumer Co Creation sessions. Ruby Cha Cha has a process called Ruby Espresso which is a co-creation workshop involving consumers, naïve experts, influencers and stakeholders.

Our process has been used successfully with many clients including Westpac, Real Insurance and Foxtel.

Get in touch with Ruby Cha Cha

Get in touch with Ruby Cha Cha