John Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Zephyr CMS. It’s a modern cloud based CMS system that’s licensed only to agencies. You can find them at zephyrcms.com, more about this later in the show.
John Jantsch: Hello welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Rohit Bhargava. He is an innovation and marketing expert and the founder of the Non-Obvious Company which has spawned a number of books under that title, including the one we’re going to talk about today. Non-Obvious Megatrends: How to See What Others Miss and Predict the Future. So Rohit, welcome.
Rohit Bhargava: Thank you. I love talking to you. It’s always a pleasure.
John Jantsch: This is probably your third maybe appearance on the show.
Rohit Bhargava: Yeah. Let’s go with that. Let’s go with that. That sounds good.
John Jantsch: So give me a little background on the Non-Obvious story. I hinted that this was, it’s book number 10 in that whole series. So maybe give listeners a little background on where that came from?
Rohit Bhargava: Yeah. It’s been kind of 10 years of my life, really. So that past 10 years I’ve done something that I think you as a fellow author will appreciate as completely crazy and stupid. Which is I take the same book and I rewrite it every year with brand new trends and brand new updates. And so typically, I just have a year long horizon where that book kind of reflects the trends of the year, and then I move on and I do a new version of it. And this year it’s been the 10th year. And so we’re doing something really special. And by the way, it’s the last year that I’m doing it too. So it’s kind of my moment to walk away on top hopefully.
Rohit Bhargava: But it also has given me a chance to look backwards over the last 10 years and say, look, what are the big themes that have changed the way that we think and the way that we do business and what do we need to think about in order to survive in the future, both as consumers and also as business owners. What do we need to know about the trends in a practical way, not an academic way to say, Oh, this is what’s going to happen like 50 years from now and we may or may not be alive to see it. But like, how are these Megatrends that are going to change the next decade actually changing life right now and what do we need to do about them?
John Jantsch: I remember one of the first business books I remember reading was a book called Megatrends by a John Naisbitt. Are you familiar with the theme?
Rohit Bhargava: Yeah, of course. Yeah. In fact, I write about it and it’s a fantastic book and it’s funny because I mean, not only has that book and his work been a great inspiration for me, but I learned years after I first read it that he and I actually have the same birthday. And he’s still around. He’s in his nineties now and he’s still around.
John Jantsch: Wow. Wow. Wow. I’ve always, and you see this time of year we’re recording this in the first part of January of 2020 that’s really popular for people to do the trends. Blog posts. And it’s funny because sometimes I feel like there’s this… It’s like, well we’ve got to name something a trend.
Rohit Bhargava: There is. Yes.
John Jantsch: Some of it’s may be prolific, some of it’s kind of dumb. Did you ever feel in the writing of like the next book that, well, I said, “X, Y, Z was a trend last year, so I can’t use that.” And it’s like, “Okay, I got to come up with something.” I mean, did you ever feel pressure or was it obvious to you what the thing, [crosstalk 00:03:38].
Rohit Bhargava: It’s a good question. I mean, I think the way I would answer that is the process that I use every year is, I really spend a lot of time throughout the entire year gathering stories and potential ideas for trends. And part of my process, and I have a couple of kind of viral time-lapse videos out there that kind of show what this looks like, where I’m moving paper around and using post it notes and stuff. But like a big part of that process is narrowing down lots and lots of potential ideas to what are the actual trends and what are the pieces of these things.
Rohit Bhargava: So usually what ends up happening as I go through that process is I end up with maybe 60 or 70 potential trends and I then have to take that, narrow it down to like 30 and then have to narrow it down again to like 15. And what I’ve been doing for the past couple of years before this year is I’ve been writing 10 new trends every year and I’ve been bringing back five previous trends because they hadn’t really, I mean, they evolved, but they hadn’t really gone away.
John Jantsch: And I was going to actually ask you that because you’ve got this 10 year history. Are there some trends that you identified that you said, “Oh no, the stars are all aligned, it’s going to happen.” And it just didn’t happen. It didn’t really materialize. So that’s part A and then I’ll ask part B, are there some that you’re absolutely sure they’re going to happen, it’s still coming, it just hasn’t happened rapidly. For example, we were writing about mobile marketing for about 10 years before it actually became something that kind of thing. I mean it was obvious it was coming, but it’s just, you can’t control the speed at which people, the behavior changes so to speak. So were there any that just you bombed kind of in a way and then are there’s some that you’re just absolutely sure if they just haven’t happened.
Rohit Bhargava: So the point of your question, which is are there hits and are there misses? Yes, there are hits and misses. But I want to just kind of share what it means to me to call something a trend in the first place. Because to me, if I call something a trend that’s not a prediction of something that could happen. Because it wouldn’t be called a trend in the way that I think about trends unless it was already happening. So the prediction is that this thing that only a few people are being affected by or only a small group people are paying attention to is going to be much, much bigger. And that’s the prediction, right? And so in that context, what I’m trying to predict is that this is going to take off and you better be paying attention to it because if you’re not somebody who’s going to start eating your lunch. And in that context, yes, some of them do better than others, like some of them accelerate faster than others do.
Rohit Bhargava: And there have been times in the past where I’ve looked at something and said, “Oh, this is going to take off.” And it hasn’t really taken off. Now, that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a trend in or taking off at the time when I wrote it, but over time it didn’t actually happen. And so what I tried to do as I thought about this, as I said, look, if I’m going to do this in an authentic way, in a non futurist way, right? Because I often joke that like if you ask a futurist if they were right about the future or wrong, they usually will only give you one of two answers. They’ll say either yes I was right or not yet, I was before my time. Right? Which is sort of a cheating, right? If you think of [crosstalk 00:06:54]. And I didn’t want to do that.
Rohit Bhargava: I wanted to be more authentic with it. And so at the end of every edition of the book, every year, there’s a full appendix with letter grade next to each one of the trends and how they performed over time. Because what I want to try and demonstrate to people as A, I’m not afraid to be wrong or at least less correct, right? And B, I want to put that out there because the more I put it out there and say, “Look, this is what actually took place and this is what didn’t.” Based on conversations we had, the more authenticity there is in the entire project.
John Jantsch: All right, so I’m going to push you one more time on this. Are there any that you feel like you identified, nobody else was talking about it. In fact, some people maybe even said, “Oh, that’s silly or.” That you kind of nailed it. Were you like, “Hey, I’m proud of this. Nobody else saw this coming. I did.”
Rohit Bhargava: I think that some of the writing I was doing early on that related to curation and specifically content and content marketing. Everyone at that time when I wrote about curation was saying, “Oh, it’s all about content marketing. Everyone has to be a creator.” And the problem with that is that there were a lot of marketing people in marketing roles where someone was telling them, “Okay, now you need to start blogging. You need to start with creating video. You need to start doing all this stuff.” And they weren’t good at it. And nobody gave them any training on it. And even if you give somebody training on being able to produce a video that doesn’t mean they’re going to be good at it, right? Because not everybody gets into marketing wanting to be a videographer.
John Jantsch: And many of them ended up hating it, that’s for sure.
Rohit Bhargava: And they hate it. And then that comes through in the work, right? I mean, if you were forced to do something in marketing that you hate, you’re not going to do great with it. Right? And so what ended up happening is you had all these creators and all this creation and people said, “Create, create, create, create.” And what happened? What happened was there was so much stuff out there that it all became noise. And now all of a sudden what became valuable was the few people who had expertise who said, “Look, this is what you should read this, this, this, and this.” And curation became much more important. And I was talking about that super early and I was starting to do that because that was just part of my process for how I was thinking about these trends. And now it’s a full blown thing. I mean that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for, I mean half of the articles that go viral are, 10 speakers that you have to have at your next event. Right? Like that’s not creation, that’s just curation of something that’s out there.
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John Jantsch: So one of the things I really enjoy about this particular version, and it may have come up in the other ones as well, but you really spend a lot of time talking about your process. And in a way that sort of potentially trains somebody else to think this way. Would you agree that a great deal of your success comes from a point of view about what you’re looking at?
Rohit Bhargava: Absolutely. And I think that if there is a big mission behind this book, it’s not to tell you what the trends are, even the Megatrends are. The bigger mission of this book is to teach you to see things that other people don’t see. And to be more open minded honestly. I mean, I think that the world needs more people to read things they don’t agree with. It needs more people to think for themselves instead of thinking based on what someone’s told you to think. And if I can try and give people a way of doing that, that isn’t work. Right? Because nobody wants homework. Nobody wants someone who isn’t even their teacher to assign them homework much less than their teacher. Right? But people do want to be more interesting. And that’s really what I’ve kind of landed on. It’s not about being more academic or studying, it’s about being more interesting as a person.
Rohit Bhargava: And you look, I love the advice and I consider myself a pretty good listener. And I love the advice of be more interested. Right? Instead of focusing on yourself. But like at some point we all do want to be more interesting and I think that’s okay. And I want to lean into that and say, look, if I can share more stories with you, more interesting things that basically elicit a response of, “Oh, I didn’t know that. That’s good.” That makes me happy.
John Jantsch: And ultimately I think makes you more valuable to whatever network you’re in.
Rohit Bhargava: Yeah. And I really do… Look, if you write a book called Non-Obvious, you’re kind of putting it out there that you’re going to share something that people haven’t heard. And you’re sort of making this bold promise, right? I mean, it’s like walking up before the game and saying, I’m about to throw four touchdowns just watch me. Right? Now, it’s going to be that much harder to throw those touchdowns, but if you can deliver, people are like, “Well, you said you were going to do it and you did it.”
John Jantsch: What do you think in, in hindsight, what do you do differently because of this work?
Rohit Bhargava: The biggest thing is I think that I don’t dismiss people who don’t think the way I do as being stupid. that’s the biggest thing. I think the other thing that I do because of this work is I don’t consider myself to be in any one industry. I’m not an industry expert. I’m in every industry expert. And that sounds probably egotistical to say. But when you come from the world that I came from, which was marketing agencies where you’re dealing with different clients and different industries every day. I was never part of a vertical group within an industry except for a short amount of time in my career. Otherwise I was working on pitches for all sorts of different things. I was working on B2C and B2B. I was working on small businesses, medium businesses, big businesses. Now I’m a small business owner and I’m used to working with large corporations.
Rohit Bhargava: So like I’ve seen a lot of different companies in a lot of different things. And the perspective that that offers me is amazing. I mean, I’m really happy with that. I can go to any party, any networking event in any industry and I’ll have something that I can talk about with someone with their industry. I don’t need to make it about me.
John Jantsch: That really leads to a great next point. If I’m reading this book, how would you suggest that, let’s say I’m a business owner or CEO or whatever my role is, how would you suggest that somebody profit from the ideas of this book?
Rohit Bhargava: Profit is big because I mean, first of all, we all want profit, right? And I think that there is profit to be had. I mean, there’s one definition from a famous writer of a trend book, Martin Raymond, I believe it was his name who said that trends are profits waiting to happen. And I think that’s a great way of thinking about putting your finger on the future. So the way I would suggest that they could profit from this is first of all by creating almost a stop doing list for themselves. Because a lot of times what happens particularly with small business owners is we don’t generate as much profit as we could because we hold ourselves back. We do the same things we’ve always done because they work. And they work medium well, but not amazingly well. But we don’t want to kill the medium well, and so we keep doing it. And that’s the inertia of kind of doing that same thing and being stuck in it. And so the biggest profit engine I think is for you to stop holding yourself back.
John Jantsch: Because I could, cause I think you could put the flip side of that if you want to take a negative to that, is that some of these trends are threats, aren’t they?
Rohit Bhargava: They certainly can be. I mean some of them, Oh look they’re, they’re double-edged in many ways, right? I mean I write about instant knowledge as one trend for example. And I know we’ll get into them, but you know, instant knowledge is a great example because A, like the positive side is we have everything in our fingertips, right? We can learn how to do anything by watching a YouTube video. The downside is like that’s all we know how to do exactly how to do it. The way like imagine you wanted to like get the pomegranate seeds out of a pomegranate, right? You watch a YouTube video of the guy kind of slapping the back of the pomegranate with a wooden spoon and now you think, well that’s the way to get the pomegranate seeds out and that’s the only way. And that’s kind of where we are now. Like you watch that one thing and you think well that’s the way to do it because that’s what I saw. That’s what I know.
John Jantsch: Yeah. I have a much better way of doing that by the way.
Rohit Bhargava: I everybody does, right? I mean it’s a funny one. Because you lose a lot of the juice. Like it’s fun. I mean I’m a drummer so you know that whole whacking the pomegranate is like it’s a natural thing for me. But even then like and plus it hurts when you whack your finger by accident, that’s the worst.
John Jantsch: So you’ve identified it’s 10, right? Yeah, 10 trend.
Rohit Bhargava: 10 Megatrends.
John Jantsch: 10 Megatrends. And they all have one and two word clever names, which in some cases doesn’t really reveal what it’s about. It’s a rather because I want people to buy the book. I think people should buy the book, Non-Obvious Megatrends. But I thought I would ask you rather than go through the list and give me like one minute on each. I wonder if you might pick one that maybe you’re particularly fond of or you think is particularly relevant for a Duct Tape Marketing audience and maybe just kind of unpack it.
Rohit Bhargava: Sure. Yeah. And you’re right, I mean, I spend a lot of time naming slash branding the trends. And I know you appreciate that. I mean, you’re a branding guy. You have a powerful brand yourself, right? That’s been around for a long time. And people get it. I mean, they know what Duct Tape Marketing is. So like brands matter because they stick in people’s minds. One of the trends that I thought turned out really well in the description and the research of it was a trend that I called revivalism. And revivalism was sort of a description of this thing that has started happening where we live in a world where we just don’t know what to trust. And so we’re more and more skeptical in our response because of that skepticism is to turn the clock backwards and to start going back to the things we used to trust when we were younger.
Rohit Bhargava: So we’re starting to listen to music on vinyl again, we’re playing classic video games, we’re going back to board games, right? Like all of these things are signs of something happening in our culture. And that’s really what I think a trend should describe. Something that’s happening in our culture and how are we going like backwards in time in order to recapture that. And so revivalism was all about that. And so the implication of that, because each one of these trends, like it’s not enough to have the trend itself. I feel like there’s got to be some actionable things you can do as result. And so for revivalism, one of the big things I talked about, and this is particularly relevant, I think for small business owners and especially for marketers, is what’s the downgraded option? What’s the version of what you offer that you might have considered a downgrade, but actually in retrospect might be an upgrade, right?
Rohit Bhargava: It might be actually better. So for example, my phone, I have a Samsung phone, I’m not an Apple guy. And my phone, when it has 5% battery life, I can switch to what Samsung calls ultra low power mode. And ultra low power mode basically turns off all my, like internet services turns off most of my apps, it makes my screen like two colors and that’s it. But my phone works, my texting works, and the basic stuff that I need works in my 5% left is going to last me another six hours. That’s a trade off I’m willing to make any time because it means that my phone is going to last for longer. Right? So that’s an example, right? Of us taking the clock backwards, because you probably remember the time, I certainly remember the time where we had cell phones where the battery power lasts for six days. Because it was just a phone.
John Jantsch: Yeah, yeah, yeah. The idea of charging it was a very much an afterthought.
Rohit Bhargava: Exactly. yeah.
John Jantsch: All right. Let me ask you this, and revivalism is a great one to apply this idea to. Do these repeat, I mean if you asked somebody 75 years ago, were they talking about revivalism or you know, whatever amount of time. Do these… Some of them are obviously enabled by technology and things like that, but I wonder if the concepts actually come back into culture, just on almost on a regular rhythm.
Rohit Bhargava: That’s an interesting question. I do think that there is probably a cycle to some of these. And I think that it’s echoed in the same cycle that you tend to see between government and corporations for example, right? I mean in a world where government is too powerful, people generally say, “Oh, we need the companies and the independent organizations to have more power.” And then when the corporations get too powerful, people are like, “Oh, wait a second. We need the government to actually be able to step in and balance that out.” Because the corporations have too much power. Right? So our culture does tend to move in these sort of pendulum shifts I think. As every culture does. So yeah, I think the answer to your question is there probably is a cyclical nature to some of these.
John Jantsch: So [inaudible] you tell people where they can, and the beauty is because you have this whole body of work, I mean, somebody could get the entire collection, they could get just the Megatrends, they could get… They could plug in a lot of places. But again, I really think that, if I were going to advise somebody, I think the trends are… At this point they’re early interesting. They really give you something to think about. But I personally enjoyed the part where you’re really teaching how to think about these trends or how to spot them yourselves. And so I would encourage people to get the book for that lesson, if nothing else. And then you get the trends on top of that. Maybe that’s not the way you want to book positioned, but that’s how I read.
Rohit Bhargava: No, that’s exactly how I would position it. Because look, at the end of the day, I’m an educator, right? I mean, I teach, and that’s kind of the background that I came from. And really that’s what I want. I mean, I’m not the sort of person that says, “Oh, you want to know what the trends are? Pay me a lot of money and I’ll tell you, right?” That’s not really my business like model. What I’d much rather do is be the force of education, the force of inspiration to try and challenge people to say, “Look, you can do better, you can think in more non-obvious ways.” And by the way, the world needs you to do that. Like we all need you to do that. We need you to put that into the world. So that’s the message. So the book should be pretty easy to find. It’s in booksellers everywhere.
Rohit Bhargava: It should be in the airports as well. If you want to go online and check out a free excerpt of the book and a bunch of other resources, including a time lapse video of me doing this crazy thing where I’m moving all of the papers around and stuff. You can see that at nonobvious.com/megatrends. And you can also buy… You mentioned the full set. You can also pick up a full set of a signed copies of all of the books. They look really nice on a bookshelf together because they’re all different colors.
John Jantsch: You’re going to be like the Beatles, the box.
Rohit Bhargava: Hey, I’ll take that comparison any day.
John Jantsch: It was great catching up with you. Hopefully we’ll run into you soon out there on the road or next time I’m in DC.
Rohit Bhargava: I’m sure we will. Thank you.
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