The Great Dispersion – a trend that businesses can’t ignore

What does it mean for marketing in 2021 and beyond?

Jan 15, 2021

By Neil Davidson

Many of us approach the deluge of trend forecast content generated at the start of every year with a healthy mix of interest and cynicism. It’s rare for me to share a trend forecast, and in some ways I’m slightly embarrassed because it seems obvious, but on the flip side it’s a rare thing, a trend that business, brands and marketers particularly can’t ignore: The Great Dispersion.

Like many changes in the world, it isn’t new, but has been accelerated by our global pandemic. Scott Galloway has talked about it before but now identifies it as the mega-trend that you can’t ignore.

‘We are entering the post-distance era, as tech has dispersed ever larger segments of the economy without regard for existing distribution channels…The pandemic is causing dispersion in even larger industries — the greatest opportunity for wealth creation in decades. Work from home, telemedicine, and remote learning represent an impending disruption of over 25% of the U.S. economy. The largest sectors are about to leapfrog HQ, doctor’s offices, hospitals, and campuses.

Not all dispersion is about “x from home” or from cities to smaller towns. Social media is a form of dispersion, enabling connections, competition, and debate despite physical distance, print, and paywalls — the dispersal of community. It has also removed healthy friction (truth, science, editors) resulting in an afterburner for misinformation and conspiracy.’

We’ve already seen business thrive or fail to survive due to the forces created by the pandemic, as well as smart businesses prospering from being ready for the shift to e-commerce and legacy businesses being caught out.

The new year is the right time to step back and think about the enormity of what marketing leaders need to really consider, rather than the survival responses generated in 2020.

How do we truly change how we work together after the pandemic, truly embracing working at distance while maintaining culture and belonging?

What’s the next phase of adapting content and channel strategies to meet the expectations of people now focused on at-home consumption?

What should our businesses truly step up on and make a difference in, particularly reacting to accelerated expectations in inclusivity and diversity and sustainability?

How do we embrace the opportunities that can be created by collaboration rather than competition amongst businesses in a sector?

There are challenging times ahead but marketers have to fully engage with The Great Dispersion, and see that there may be as much positive as negative in the acceleration of change.