She introduced the word ‘metrosexual’ to the public consciousness. She anticipated the rise of fake news on the Internet before it exploded into the mainstream. She gave prior warning about the dangers of advanced cyberattacks on developed countries.
Recognised by many as a foremost trendspotter, Marian Salzman is a communications tour de force. It was 7pm in Singapore and 7am in Connecticut, where she is currently holed up at, when we had our video conversation, but Marian had already been up since 4am, a daily regime that she’s dedicated herself to ever since she became the head of global communications for Philip Morris International. “Working on European time,” she explains, smiling.
It might seem strange for a non-smoker to join Philip Morris International but Marian shared that she accepted the role when offered because of the company’s desire to create a smoke-free future.
In a wide-ranging conversation that touched on everything from the extinction of religious-based faith to the changing definition of luxury, the former CEO of Havas PR North America shared her thoughts about what the future will be like, and how we can prepare for it.
Here are a few choice excerpts from the conversation.
Hypercapitalism has failed society.
“In 2008, we saw a shift from pure capitalism to a sort of conscientious capitalism. And now, we’re seeing a push back towards a pure form of success at any price… Hypercapitalism has failed society. It only benefited the one per cent.”
The death of the 9 to 5, and human touch.
“We can no longer think of our day like the agrarian economy of the past, when we woke up and went to work when the sun rose and stopped when the sun set. The reality is that you have a 24-hour day, and you have to think about life now as three daily parts – you owe eight hours to your employer, another eight to your community to make things better, and the final eight to sleep. How you choose to segment that is up to you, but there is now only one clock.
“I also think we’re going to be more stand-off-ish about face-to-face human relationships. You won’t go and hug someone or even shake their hand. In a post-pandemic environment, we’re not going to welcome that kind of high-touch anymore because we’re going to feel like it could be diseased. Even if Covid-19 is wiped out, we’ll now have institutional and personal memory of the ability of a virus to spread and the scar won’t go away. It just stays there.”
A return to localisation.
“In the past, we saw a big push towards globalisation. And now with Brexit and the other global episodes, you can tell that there’s a real counter-push now to localisation. I think people are going to identify themselves more as citizens of the village versus the world. I see people having great envy for small, homogenous countries where beliefs, attitudes and values are shared. The world feels so large and overwhelming that we are turning away from that and trying to take control as individuals over our homes and our neighbourhoods. We’re trying to figure out how to hunker down and who to hunker down with.”
Brick and mortar will become a relic.
“I think people will never go to a brick and mortar store again, unless they go there the way they go to museums. People go to brick and mortar to see things they may or may not want to acquire through e-commerce. The big box stores will also become a retail showroom for people to feel certain products before buying them online.”
The idea of luxury will change.
“Luxury’s going to take on a different meaning. It’s not going to necessarily mean luxurious clothing or luxurious shoes. It may be fragrance because fragrance is a more personal thing. Luxury is going to be education or deeply immersive experiences, where you feel you’ve really grown and benefited.”
Science and reason will be the new religion.
“We will put aside even our religious and spiritual beliefs and grow to believe that science is the ultimate overlay to humanity. It’s the opposite of fake news and biased reporting. Faith and religion will be like soup or motherhood. You keep it because it makes you feel secure but you fundamentally know that your mother cannot protect you from a bad day at work or from Covid-19. So, ultimately, you look at science and evidence as your greatest form of protection.”
Lesser children and more pets.
“People will seek unconditional love. And the only source of this is nature and animals. And I believe that domesticated pets as a source of unconditional love is going to be a non-negotiable fact in the future. It replaces that source of high-touch that you can’t do with other people. It’s not that people won’t have children; it’s that they are scared to bring children into the world. There are so many unknowns now that people have to think more carefully about children.”