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Inspiration Series is a regular feature on The Mintel Blog, giving readers an inside look at industry events, local happenings and shared encounters taking place in cities around the world as experienced through the eyes of Mintel’s expert analysts…

The Chicago-based Mintel Trends team recently attended Chicago Ideas Week (CIW), “a movement built on one core belief: when a broad spectrum of thinkers and instigators share ideas, we have the power to transform our world.” Last week, Trends Analysts Carli Gernot and Stacy Glasgow identified three examples of how Mintel Trends are playing out in the marketplace, as well as the inspiration they present for brands and businesses. Here they share three remaining examples…

3. Pushing Toward Urbanization

During the panel discussion of the CIW talk “Cities: Reimagined,” the Loop Link and Navy Pier Flyover were held up as examples of how changes to infrastructure that move citizens more easily through urban spaces can make enormous differences in how a city functions. The Loop Link will move Chicago residents more efficiently through the Loop and connect neighborhoods across Chicago via expedited bus routes. The program is developing dedicated bus lanes, protected bike lanes, two traffic lanes and more sidewalk space from the West Loop to Michigan Avenue; the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2015. The Navy Pier Flyover is an elevated path for safer walking and biking along the lakefront trail near Navy Pier and is expected to be completed by 2018.

Jason Roberts, founder of A Better Block, discussed how his non-profit works to change neighborhoods one block at a time. The project temporarily changes underutilized streets and storefronts into a walkable, bikeable, vibrant area for residents to enjoy. They use watercolor paints and white duct tape to create bike lanes and crosswalks, landscaping and lighting to narrow streets and make space for sidewalk seating and pop-up outdoor cafes. The goal of the project is to build the block that would better serve residents and would better host businesses, albeit temporarily, so that people can experience the potential these areas hold. After seeing what their neighborhood would be like with bike paths and improved infrastructure, residents are more likely to petition local officials and push for the changes they know are possible.

What it means

As cities change to accommodate the future, brands have a great opportunity to get involved with infrastructure improvements and the rehabilitation of urban spaces. Partnering with community organizers and sponsoring initiatives to make changes that communities need and want will build positive brand association and can create loyalty to companies which are seen as being instrumental in making revitalization possible. Focusing on transportation systems that meet the needs and the desires regarding how people prefer to move through cities will be key.

Taking a comprehensive approach will be important: citizens will likely be skeptical of campaigns which do little more than pay lip service to an issue. Staying sustainable, local and meaningful in efforts that are visibly helpful to consumers will pay off for companies looking to get involved with building the cities, neighborhoods and communities of the future.

4. A Helping Hand

The CIW talk entitled “Food as Medicine” included discussion of Pilot Light, a program in Chicago that brings food and nutritional education into schools. Chefs and teachers collaborate to empower school-aged children with the knowledge, skills and attitudes they need to have healthy relationships with food. Cooking and nutrition are being taught as part of the Common Core curriculum, and educators have access to classroom lessons that weave food and nutrition into everyday subjects like English, math, social studies and science.

Turning to emotional health, the Moodies app was presented as a part of a talk focused on language. The app detects emotion by analyzing voice intonation and non-verbal markers to communicate to the user precisely how he or she is feeling. This app operates across languages and cultures, since vocal intonation which expresses emotion is universal.

What it means

As consumers realize how developing healthier habits can impact their day-to-day happiness and productivity, brands have the chance to move in and become the help people need to stay on track with regards to diet, exercise or stress management. Whether that assistance comes in the form of a comprehensive and educational approach to meal planning, cooking, and eating or whether an app can be developed to remind a user to take a deep breath and relax, businesses can do more to encourage people to stay on top of good habits and work toward eliminating less desirable behaviors.

Looking ahead, an app that identifies a user’s mood along with a suggestion on how to de-stress or take advantage of a happy mental state can be expanded to incorporate local businesses: When the Moodies app identifies a stressed out user, it can then suggest she heads across the street to the yoga studio which has a class starting in an hour, or stop by the tea shop around the corner for a relaxing beverage.

5. Growing Diversity

The CIW talk looking at “slacktivism” discussed several organizations aimed at empowering those in search of community and justice. The Mighty is an online community which allows participants to share stories about their issues with disease, disorder and disability. It was founded by a family dealing with a rare disease who struggled to find others they could share their experiences with.

The Justice League New York City is a task force of juvenile and criminal justice advocates, artists and experts, and formerly incarcerated individuals who work together to fight for social and criminal justice. They have organized marches to draw attention to issues related to non-indictment of police officers involved in the deaths of young, Black men and they are working toward mobilizing communities to participate in the movement to encourage police reform and accountability.

CIW’s talk “The Evolution of Gender” hosted activists and educators who participated in a discussion of issues impacting the trans community and how society is evolving with regards to gender expression and those who don’t fit into traditional gender roles. Gender Spectrum is a platform that provides services in the US for parents, educators and organizations to help them understand and address concepts of gender identity and expression. How-to guides and sample training materials are provided, as well as resources chosen to assist physicians and nurses who care for transgender youth and others exploring or otherwise struggling with their gender expression. It also hosts the Gender Spectrum Lounge, an online community which encourages individuals from all over the world to tell their stories.

What it means

Diversity cannot be ignored, nor can it be addressed according to outdated definitions and parameters. Modern diversity incorporates more than the inclusion of a token ethnic minority in marketing materials. Brands and businesses need to not only boost accurate representations of consumers in campaigns, as they must also continually address social issues and the importance equality and human rights through community initiatives, product development and the adaptation of services according to what consumer groups need and expect. Reaching out to consumers to inquire what next steps should be taken is a great way to foster relationships between brands and individuals as well as an effective way to please the people.

Carli Gernot is the Manager of Trends for North America. She’s been with Mintel for seven years, contributing to the success of Trends since 2010. Carli is responsible for creating content for global trends, North American and EMEA regions as well as ensuring that North American consumer trend content is relevant and insightful.

Stacy Glasgow is a Consumer Trends Consultant at Mintel. Stacy joined Mintel in 2013 bringing with her an exciting blend of CPG, agency and marketing experience. Her time is spent traveling the US engaging clients across global CPG, Beauty and Financial Services in meaningful discussions around the consumer trends that will propel their businesses forward.