New consumer trend: Going Incognito

December 14, 2022

Consumers are entering 2023 with a rebellious mindset. Our Trending 2023 report explores four areas where consumers are rebelling: against perfection, authority, surveillance and restraint. Each of these unlocks new opportunities and implications for brands looking to engage consumers, maintain relevance and strengthen loyalty. Below, we dive into one of the trends defining the future consumer landscape and how to activate it.

Unlock more new trends for 2023 by downloading our free Trending 2023 Report Preview.

In 2023, we will see a rebellion against surveillance.

Tracking and surveillance are becoming increasingly prevalent: brands and workplaces regularly capture data, while governments and law enforcement across the globe, from China to India and the UK, harness facial recognition technology to locate suspects and make arrests, with racial discrimination and misidentification sometimes cited as negative consequences. Against this backdrop, consumers are craving anonymity. But the desire to disappear is not just about safety; it also reflects a fatigue with the performative nature of being online. Consumers are seeking relief from the pressure of creating a visual personal brand. How can brands engage and build trust with these wary customers?

To reflect the rebellion against surveillance, we have launched a new consumer trend for 2023:

New consumer trend Going Incognito

Striving for privacy and invisibility in an age of omnipresent surveillance

What is Going Incognito?

Some consumers are wary of sharing data. There has long been a niche but vocal group of privacy-focused consumers who have championed anonymity. Now, awareness of privacy issues is spreading. Our data shows there has been an increase since 2019 in the proportion of people globally who agree that when they download and use an app on their mobile phone, they are concerned about who their personal data is shared with. What’s more, data capture has expanded beyond the brand-consumer relationship. For instance, more workplaces are now using productivity tracking software – aka “tattleware” or “bossware” – to keep an eye on remote workers. In fact, a 2022 examination by the New York Times found that eight of the 10 largest private US employers tracked the productivity metrics of individual workers, many in real time.

Consumers are tired of being tracked on social media. It’s why apps and websites where users don’t have to use their real name or image – think reddit, Tumblr and Discord – continue to flourish, while new players that enable users to post and interact anonymously are gaining momentum. Meanwhile, Twitch users and VTubers (virtual YouTubers) present themselves online as animated characters, choosing to hide their real identity except for the occasional “face reveal”.

The onus is on brands to protect privacy without sacrificing user safety. Allowing consumers to engage with one another online anonymously is one way to protect their privacy. But a watchout here is that anonymity can sometimes lead to bad behaviour, such as trolling and cyberbullying. As brands begin to experiment with metaverse offerings, the notion of anonymity and its impact on virtual interactions will be an important one to consider. Consumers are looking for an individualised approach to find their own happy medium, and they will seek tools to help them achieve their own version of Going Incognito.

How to activate Going Incognito:

  • Clearly highlight how consumers can benefit from sharing their information. As surveillance and tracking scandals mount, it’s no wonder that some consumers see data-sharing as a necessary evil. Brands can play a role in reassuring consumers that sharing data can reap rewards for them too. By sharing the benefits and educating consumers now you will stand in good stead for the future, when you may require more new types of data from consumers.
  • Recognise and reflect consumers’ desire to opt out of being always visible online. The pressure to perform is keenly felt, especially by younger generations. As you invite consumers to socialise and connect with you and one another in online spaces, could you give them freedom to experiment with different digital identities and pseudonyms? Key to success here is striking a balance between allowing for anonymity and protecting users’ wellbeing and safety.
  • Support consumers suffering mentally due to the pressure of online presentation culture. Young people especially, who conduct much of their social lives online, are constantly under pressure to be camera-ready. Provide advice and coping tools for those who feel that aesthetic worries are inescapable.

Going Incognito is one of four new trends launched in our Trending 2023 report. Download a preview version now for a sneak peek at more trends.


Written by Margot Peppers

As Consumer Trends Editor at Foresight Factory, I write, commission and edit commercially impactful content for our intelligence platform Collision. Combining machine intelligence with human talent, Collision connects clients to relevant trends, data and innovations, helping them see beyond today so they can be ready for any tomorrow.

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