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Lynn Casey, trend expert + empathetic futurist

(ICYMI: we have a new podcast!) Welcome to the second episode of The Art of Sway! Each week, our CEO and host Danielle Wiley sparks candid conversations with industry insiders and influential tastemakers, in order to uncover all the ways influence impacts our work, our lifestyles, and the choices we make.

In this episode, we’re talking with Lynn Casey from Shine Scout, one of Danielle’s longtime friends and colleagues. In our conversation, we managed to cover: just how much media consumption Lynn has to do in her job as a trend-spotter (spoiler: SO MUCH), why Katniss from The Hunger Games tells us everything we need to know about Gen Z (wait, what?), and how today’s influencer environment is harkening back to the old days of social media.

We hope you enjoy this episode as much as we do!

A few standout moments:

  • (7:53) Trust economy: the conversation dives into the shift from macro influencers to “circles of trusts”
  • (10:41) How Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games represents Gen Z — and how to make this mentality work for marketing outreach
  • (19:56) Into the Splinterverse: how the pandemic forced us all to learn more about our own selves
  • (21:19) Danielle and Lynn discuss how our identities can be influenced by our jobs, and how side hustles can be an expression of who we are and what we care about

Scroll down for a full show transcript!

Danielle Wiley
Lynn Casey, trend expert + empathetic futurist
Danielle Wiley recording an episode of the Art of Sway podcast.

Episode 2: Lynn Casey Transcript

Danielle Wiley: Welcome to The Art of Sway. This is a podcast that brings you inside the world of marketing through the lens of influence. I’m your host, Danielle Wiley. Each week through candid conversations with industry insiders, we will uncover how influencer marketing is making an impact across all consumer buying habits and is changing the way we talk to each other. Let’s dive in.

I am so excited for all of you to hear this conversation. I chatted with Lynn Casey from Shine Scout. We’ve known each other for a number of years, and were introduced through a mutual friend slash colleague, and just always end up having the most amazing conversations. Some of the things that we’re going to talk about include just how much reading Lynn has to do in her job as a trend spotter. Working with everything as diverse as sneakerhead culture for her clients at stock X to the world of beauty fanatics for her Sephora clients. You will learn why Katniss from the Hunger Games, tells us everything we need to know about gen Z and how today’s influencer environment is hearkening back to the old days of social media, a topic that’s really near and dear to my heart. Here you go.

Lynn Casey is a highly sought-after trend expert, brand builder, and empathetic futurist, best known for connecting the critical culture dots driving change. With over 20 years of experience, she defines her work as cultural cartography. Making maps to tomorrow through the exploration of the shifts in consumer desire driving big data. Lynn is the founder of the global culture and strategy consultancy Shine Scout, where she leads strategic innovation and leadership projects for fortune 100 brands, ranging from Instagram to Coca-Cola to Estee Lauder. Her goal is for all her clients to uncover and amplify the biggest potential brand possibility by identifying the emerging trends and global shifts that create new opportunities. Her work changes cultures and corporations.

A deep believer in experiences as teachers, Lynn leads worldwide cultural immersion sessions for senior executives to drive empathy and ideation. She works with companies to reimagine their cultures and to create places and spaces that fire up radical imagination and shift whole industries into the future. She shares cutting-edge insights on future trends and current culture in her frequent keynotes, corporate workshops, trend talks, and articles as well as in her ongoing newsletter, The Scout Look, find out more about Lynn and the work she does at www.shinescout.com. Well, hi. Hi Lynn Casey. Thank you for being here.

Lynn Casey: Thank you so much for having me, Danielle, such a pleasure just to get to spend time with you. We’re both so busy.

Danielle Wiley: I know. I was just thinking about how I don’t even, it was like way pre-COVID. The first time we met in person we met for lunch at, was it Quince in San Francisco?

Lynn Casey: It was Spruce in San Francisco.

Danielle Wiley: Spruce. I knew it was named after the street and was expensive and fancy. And I had never met you before. And we met for lunch and we probably sat there for three hours, which does not always happen in this day and age.

Lynn Casey: I seem to recall that the wait staff was eager to show us to the door because I do believe we closed the lunch crowd.

Danielle Wiley: Yes. Well, that was great. And we have kept in touch, which I am so grateful for. And thank you for being a guest. So I guess I just wanted to start, I have a sense of what you do, your company’s called Shine Scout. And I always kind of describe it as just a trend-setting company. So you work with big brands and help them understand the trends that are coming their way and how they need to adjust to better meet the consumer where they are. Would you say that’s accurate?

Lynn Casey: It’s interesting. I think we both sort of do the same thing, right? Different aspects of the same thing. So yes, we’re a future trends and consumer insight consultancy. We work with primarily fortune 100 brands that are really looking to understand where the consumer is going and how do we intersect with them in a meaningful way? I actually have started describing what we do as cultural cartography.

Danielle Wiley: I love that.

Lynn Casey: Because I really think we’re map makers, right? We really help people see the future and then we build maps so that they can get there. So whether those tools are helping them better with medium and messaging, whether those tools have to do with innovation or even acquisition, how do they need to shape, shift and move towards the future in a way that it’s going to intersect with this human journey that we’re all on.

Danielle Wiley: And how do you get that data for them? So I know how stay on top of what’s going on, just because we’re working with all these influencers and we’re seeing how their audiences are reacting, but without that network in the palm of your hands and at the tips of your fingers, is it focus groups? Is it the usual suspects that we all know about? What’s your process without, don’t share too much of how the sausage gets made if it’s your proprietary.

Lynn Casey: Oh, the secret sauce, right? There’s no real secret. It’s just a lot of, it’s sort of a 24/7 job. So I think there’s three main conduits of information. Number one is this sort of very large platform of secondary research. So whether I’m looking at something from MRI or Nielsen, sort of the big chunky secondary studies, pew studies that tell us about these tectonic plate shifts in human demographics. [inaudible 00:05:55] political thinking, pre and post-pandemic, what shifted. So I like to look at those big sort of chunky secondary studies. The second piece to it is absolutely primary.

So whether I’m in the field doing ethnography or leadership trips with Instagram or Este Lauder, whether I’m working with Sephora on store checks around the globe, what are they doing in South Korea that might inspire, right? And then the final piece is I work with influencers and global trend scouts who are really the creators and the thinkers around the globe. So I have sort of a cadre of people in sports, in music, a lot of people in fashion that sort of sit at that tipping point of where we see the shifts occur, and I’m in constant communication with them. And the result of all that is I spend probably a third of my life reading abstracts, blogs, the most obscure newsletters subs, just really trying to constantly be stirring the pot of what’s shifting, what do I see emerging, and what feels like something that the human spirit is longing for right now.

Danielle Wiley: And you work with so many different types of companies, I mean you really can’t limit the universe of how much you have to be reading and on top of it all times is huge. Because what makes sense for Danone is so different from Sephora.

Lynn Casey: It is. So in the last six months I’ve worked with everyone from Experience, to Danone, to Estee Lauder, to stock X. So whether it’s sneakerhead culture or insurance, it all really sort boils down to human beings and what do we want and where are we going. It’s understanding those, again, tectonic plate shifts of what has shifted and how do we want to experience life. And then of course dialing down into the specifics of the target, depending on who I’m working with.

Danielle Wiley: And so you and I were talking a little bit as we were planning for this, just kind of about this new order of influence. So as we were chatting pre-podcast, you were talking about this, move away from super influencers to tighter circles of reference and trust. I think that’s a fancier, way more elegant way of saying nano influencer, which is the language that we typically use. And just in real life stories and people wanting to hear from others themselves. How are you seeing that? I mean, I certainly know what we’re seeing in terms of what brands are asking us, the levels and tiers of folks that they want to work with and where we’re seeing the most engagement. But how does that play out in your space?

Lynn Casey: You use the magic word there, Danielle, you said engagement, right? And I think that’s the big shift that we’re seeing. And like most trends, trends rarely spring up overnight that magical desert lily that blooms at midnight in Nevada on the 30th of May every year. Trends really are the result of shifts and changes that we see emerging over 10 year periods for the most part. So we saw this coming. This was not just the result of the pandemic, but the pandemic in many ways dumped a bunch of kerosene on a whole lot of fires. So prior to the pandemic, there was definitely fatigue with this idea of the macro influencer. If they didn’t have 10 million followers, they weren’t worth our time or trouble. So what started to shift was a number of things. There was fatigue with what we all knew, was sort of productized influence. Everyone knew there was a pay to play emphasis in place.

And that really negated the whole point of social media. Television, streaming cable, all that we understood what those ads were all about. But when it came through our personal network, which is the phone, right? This is the new network. It’s not the CW plus Discovery, Disney Plus plus Peacock. This is the network and we curate what’s on here. What we watch, what we learn, what we want to pay attention to. So we started to put some gates up around that. Part of it was the tipping point of the election in 2016, where there was a real hunger for trust, who do I trust and what do I trust? So that sort of shifted us into what I’m calling the trust economy, which is where we sit now. So if the recession brought us sharing economy, Airbnb, Lyft, and Uber, we’re now in the trust economy. Who do I trust? And therefore, what do I trust? That became a really important gate. Layer on top of that gen Z, who, when I’m always talking to my clients, I put up a big picture of Katniss from the hunger games. I’m like Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss.

This is all you need to know. These are kids that came up during the age of the recession. They saw Parkland, they saw 9/11. They saw Trump. I mean, this is their life, five, six and seven year old kids watching the recession, having to move their homes, having to leave private school, understanding that there’s no one waiting outside with a safety net for you. Those are the kids who are now the 20-somethings of today. And so what they learned was don’t trust a lot of people, keep your friends and family super close, and always have a quiver on your back with different arrows that you can use. And that’s why we’re seeing the hunger for knowledge, the hunger for skills. Do you know the number one reason people are leaving jobs today? The number one reason site. It’s not work from home. It’s not money. It’s not title, it’s I’m not being developed as a human being.

Danielle Wiley: I was going to say passion. I see that a lot with my own kids and with employees too, it’s no longer that you put in your dues and this is work, and it’s what I have to do. There’s just not that acceptance anymore for something that’s not moving the needle for you, helping you move the needle with culture and make a difference. And there’s just such a greater desire for feeling like you know what your place is in this world and being a part of that.

Lynn Casey: Learning and development, right? Learning and development. Don’t hire me for a job. Hire me be part of this team that’s moving forward in passion. That’s lending up to a purpose and with sort of a social contract that you’re going to continue to help me pick up, learn, acquire the skills and knowledge that I’m going to need as the job changes, as the industry changes, as the world changes. Anything I’m hired to do today is not going to be what it is in two years and three years and five years. So let’s learn and grow together. And let me keep putting new arrows in my quiver. That, by the way, I can take wherever I end up going.

Danielle Wiley: And we didn’t talk about this question in advance, but since we’re used to sitting and talking for three hours, is going on and on. How have you been advising just along the lines of gen Z and wanting to feel this passion and wanting to know that the companies that they work for and also buy from are kind of in line with who they are as people and what their beliefs are. What do those discussions look like that you’ve had with companies about speaking up about issues, whether it’s Roe V Wade or climate change or pick any one of the disasters going on right now, but how have you navigated those discussions and advised your clients?

Lynn Casey: It’s really interesting. I’ll give you a factual example to start with and then give you a more theoretical answer to that. So there was an article in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend about the new Victoria Secret. And I’ll let you roll your eyes here.

Danielle Wiley: No, I mean, I’ve written about it on LinkedIn. I’ve seen what they’re attempting to. I get what they’re trying to do.

Lynn Casey: It’s such a perfect example of all the things that you and I are talking about. We all know what they stood for. It was sort of buxom supermodels selling their sexy.

Danielle Wiley: Big wings.

Lynn Casey: Big wings, tiny bikinis. And somehow that was sold is female empowerment. Because that’s certainly how I want to walk down fifth avenue on my way to a meeting. So that was that sort of male gaze that was external. And this is who I need to be because this is who society tells me to be. And I think that’s a really good example of the early stages of social media. So it was this idea about I’m really looking for someone to show me aspirationally, how to live my life. And now we’re not looking for aspiration. We’re looking for inspiration, right? Because I’m going to build a really cool, interesting life. Inspire me, give me things to think about, but ultimately I’m going to build what that is. And so as Victoria’s Secret is now making this leap to their new model. They’ve put together this ambassador board with Megan Rapo and Hailey Bieber to kind of show that they’re very current, but again, it’s still top-down, right? It’s like here’s examples as opposed to, here’s a curated concept of how to live your life as a fully expressed female.

But I bring them up as an example because what they did and again, with this idea of showcasing themselves as a modern company, they took a poll on Roe V Wade with their employees and said, “How do you guys feel about this?” Overwhelmingly the employees said this is wrong. And we believe that a woman’s body is her property and she can make her own decisions. So they immediately enacted a policy like a lot of big companies saying we’ll pay for costs if travel’s involved, but we will guarantee this right for this medical procedure if necessary within our company’s policy. So I think that’s a kind of stunning example of the power of purpose and really understanding that if you don’t reflect the desires of current culture today, you are making a very, very bad decision. I used to joke that no one can be Switzerland anymore, but Switzerland isn’t even Switzerland when they took a stance on the Ukraine. I’m like, “Oh, what’s what example do we use now? There’s no Switzerland.”

Danielle Wiley: It’s so interesting to me that they kind of took the pulse of their employees and led from that. I’m sure you did not miss it, last week. Malcolm Gladwell spoke up and said, these people are crazy. They need to be in an office. It’s very important. And my reaction, I mean, we’ve been remote since day one. We are now piloting a four-day work week. It’s kind of what we have to do for our employees. It’s what they demand. It’s what they want. Interestingly, it’s not necessarily what I … I kind of did like going into, and I don’t know how I got anywhere by 9:00 AM and still got stuff done. But I liked going into an office and yes, I kind of got what he was saying, but the tone-deaf piece of it, wasn’t like the content of what he was saying. It was the notion that anyone other than the employees themselves is in charge now of those things.

Lynn Casey: My first thought actually was Malcolm Gladwell doesn’t go into an office.

Danielle Wiley: That was the other.

Lynn Casey: But okay, thanks for the tip. Yes, yes. However, what I am seeing is most corporations that I work with are moving to a suggested three day in an office. And one of those reasons, Danielle, is a trend that’s really leading in all areas of our lives. When you and I were talking about the splinter verse or subculture, we’re looking for community, it’s really what’s driving a lot of shifts and changes. When you think of core, norm core, [inaudible], cottage core grandma core. Core just means, oh, I get to warm my hands on that same fire. I’m sitting around that same campfire as you and we’re sharing something.

So there is a hunger for that level of connectivity and community. And I think companies are realizing that they have to make it as an offering, not a mandate, but an offering and then really work to make that offering compelling. I’m doing a lot of work with companies right now on how do we create an activated environment? So an environment that draws people in because it surfaces ideas, there’s built in tools for collaboration. There’s almost like a summer camp feeling to it where we’re going to create and come together and do robust meaningful things as opposed to here is the place where your other computer sits.

Danielle Wiley: So it’s not forcing people to come in and sit in the soulless cubicle and they just have to be there. It’s creating an environment where people want to be there because they feel that passion, they feel that community, they’re working well together and it’s not required. It’s a bonus. And it’s not all the time. It’s when it’s needed.

Lynn Casey: Think of it almost as if the office space becomes the kitchen, the kitchen of our work day. So I can sit and tap away at my laptop in the living room or in my home office or whatever, but I want to go in the kitchen when I want to be fed when I want to bump into somebody else, when I want to have that conversation.

Danielle Wiley: That’s such a great analogy.

Lynn Casey: That’s what it has to be. And that’s what some of these really sort smart, forward-thinking companies are starting to build out. It’s really cool.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah. That’s very cool. So you said a word and I wanted to hear a little bit more about you on that splinter verse. Yeah. So I know that you’ve been kind of defining that as the fragment. I’m going to read it so I don’t get it wrong, but the fragmentation of tribe and subculture. So talk a little bit more about that and how it’s affecting our marketing industry and what you’re seeing.

Lynn Casey: Oh, it’s really the core of everything that’s happening right now at that sort of cutting edge of current culture. So during the pandemic, we all spent a lot of time online, particularly young people, and we fell down lots of rabbit holes. And I’m not saying all of those are good, but two things happened that I think are amazing. And a question you had asked me, what is one of the big trends coming out of the pandemic? We learned so much about ourselves. When you have to look at a pixelated picture of yourself for 12 hours a day, whether you’re a student in a zoom class or a worker working remotely, you are looking at yourself, right? There’s no surprise that colored hair dye went through the roof. Because I don’t know. We all got tired of, like, oh yeah, pink would be a little fun.

We sort of were snails looking to change our shells because we couldn’t change this shell. So we spent a lot of time online and we started dropping into things that we might have been vaguely passionate about. Oh, that girl makes dollhouse furniture. That’s really cool. Wait, I could actually make dollhouse furniture. Right? Wait, there’s a person who makes dollhouse furniture and ice cream. Oh my God. That’s amazing. So we started to go down these really, really sort narrow rabbit holes down to finding people who were doing these things, not to gain a following, not to become brand ambassadors, but because it was something that they really loved and we’ve emerged as sort of the new multi-hyphenate. And this was something that we saw during the recession. So our beloved millennials came out of the recession as multi-hyphenates because they were going to be lawyers or doctors or bankers or whatever their plan was. And of course there were no jobs.

So as opposed to moving into an apartment and starting on some corporate track, they went into their parents’ back bedroom and started crafting or started making pickles or learned how to dry flowers. So they developed sort of this side hustle or this side business, this other expression of who they were. We’re seeing the same sort of thing with gen Z, but with all of us gen X, millennials, boomers, where we started to realize after two years that our sum total is more than I’m a banker. I’m an accountant, I’m a teacher.

Our sum total is our passions. Our loves what we make, how we express ourselves. If we sing, if we dance, if we paint, if we bake. We discovered so many other elements of ourselves and those are the elements that we want to bring to the forefront, how we define ourselves and how we describe ourselves. So the splinter verse has become all these little nooks and crannies, all these really narrow tributaries that take us to the people and places that do that work from an authentic, passionate place. And we’re sort of engaged in those very small splinter tribes that bring to life what makes us happy, what makes our heart of bloom and feel full. So it’s a much more internal journey as opposed to an externally fed journey.

Danielle Wiley: That’s so interesting. That, along with what you were talking about, this move away from aspirational to inspirational, both of those actually remind me of those super, super early days of the internet. Because my first community, I was a part of online was people who had Weimaraners. I mean, it was the weirdest group of people, some of whom I’m actually still in touch with, but I mean, it was this very passionate group and we found each other on AOL of all places.

Lynn Casey: Did you all watch Best In Show?

Danielle Wiley: Yes, of course, of course. And then the first mom blogs, I mean, there was nothing aspirational about them. It was I haven’t showered in four days, this kid won’t stop crying. I’m having trouble breastfeeding. I don’t want to go back to the office. My partner’s not helping me. It was just all real and people engaging and that authenticity created that engagement and those relationships. And then a lot of people, I think don’t remember that because it was so long ago, but social media kind of morphed into this more aspirational, everything’s perfect and white and gray and look at my beautiful baby and everything’s great. And you want to be like, I am. And it’s kind of been nice to seeing things come back around both to that authenticity. And then also to your point to that ability to deep dive and find those people who have those very specific interests, just like you do.

Lynn Casey: 100%. And it’s so much more heart led than head led. When I was listening to you talk about the mom groups. I absolutely remember that, where you have a baby with colic, might have been me and you’re like, what am I doing wrong? How am I failing so quickly? And to have some mom in Texas say, “Oh girl, I’ve had two kids like that.” And you’re like, really? Sort of cries in the night and we’re all holding up our little lighters, trying to find someone who’s going to make us feel so not alone. And how lovely then that this new path is less about cries of fear, but it’s really sort of helped me light my own fire, helped me learn more to keep this part of me that I didn’t even know existed, warming me, warming my heart and driving my days.

Danielle Wiley: I miss those old days. So I kind of enjoy that things are coming full circle.

Lynn Casey: Oh, it’s so fun. It’s just such a delicious time and to connect and to go deep with these authentic creators, the people who are up all night, because they’re so passionate about creating a piece of music or collaging.

Danielle Wiley: Did you see the woman who made, she crocheted a doll of Snoop Dog in his outfit from the super bowl? It was perfect. I mean, she got that outfit, the blue bandana outfit perfect. And was she crocheted it? And he posted, I actually found it because he posted it on Instagram, which is just lovely and full circle. But that’s so specific.

Lynn Casey: One of the questions you sort of asked me is how was it all working? And that woman will gain 100,000 followers because she was in pursuit of her own passion. She wasn’t looking for numbers. She wasn’t looking to drive engagement. She was sharing something that she truly loved and that’s what we want to be near. That’s what we want to connect with. And that’s what smart brands are seeking right now. Social media has morphed into this incredibly broad, broad, broad, broad, but shallow pool, right?

Danielle Wiley: Yeah.

Lynn Casey: What we’re seeing now is these very deep but narrow waters. And that’s what we want to plunge into, because that’s where the passion is. That’s where the energy is. That’s where the heat is. And so we’re all the way back to that authentic street culture. It’s not Supreme doing another drop with Balenciaga. Seen that a million times. It’s some cool streetwear designer who just showed his first collection at the Atlanta streetwear market. It sounds a lot fan than it is. It’s an un-air-conditioned warehouse in the outskirts of Atlanta, because I’ve been there. It’s amazing. But this kid has been sewing in his back bedroom for the last three months and showcased his own stuff with a hundred other authentic creators. And it was like a coming out party and that’s the energy I want to tap into.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah, love it. I love it. So we talked a lot about what’s going on now, but this one question that I ask everyone who’s a guest, I’m curious to know from your childhood, what commercial sticks with you that you still remember to this day?

Lynn Casey: It’s so funny that you said that because I just started laughing and for some odd reason it was a whole genre. It was all the cereal commercials. Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids.

Danielle Wiley: During Saturday morning cartoons, right?

Lynn Casey: Yes, yes.Lucky charms. They’re magically delicious. Let’s get Mikey. All the cereal commercials. It was like this whole Penelope of cereal commercial just washed over my consciousness.

Danielle Wiley: How much entertainment did we have to get from this … The amount of entertainment that we got from cereal, whether it was from the commercials or I was telling my kids the other day, you used to sit and eat breakfast and you would just read the back of the box. There was nothing else to read. There was nothing else to do. There was no phone to look at. You just read the back of the box. That’s all, that was the entertainment in the morning while you ate breakfast.

Lynn Casey: I did a lot of work with General Mills and they used to call the box, the cardboard castle.

Danielle Wiley: Love it.

Lynn Casey: Because exactly what you’re talking about. We plunked it on the kitchen table and we gazed at it and we did the anagrams and we looked at the pictures and pizza boxes were sort of that way at one point. Right?

Danielle Wiley: Yep.

Lynn Casey: Trivia and odd facts about cheese all over the box. Yeah. Different mediums.

Danielle Wiley: Well, thank you so much. This was so much fun and tell people where they can find you. You’re mostly on LinkedIn, right? That’s your social platform of choice.

Lynn Casey: I’m on LinkedIn. Not quite as much as you, and you do such an amazing job, Danielle.

Danielle Wiley: Thank you.

Lynn Casey: And let me take a moment and just say I love-

Danielle Wiley: Thank you. Thank you.

Lynn Casey: You share the good, the bad, the ugly. You are such a resource for me. So I hope everyone is following you on LinkedIn.

Danielle Wiley: Thank you. But how can they find you? Just search Lynn Casey?

Lynn Casey: Search Lynn Casey. Shinescout.com is our website. And then of course I have my biweekly trends newsletter www.thescoutlook.com. And you can jump on to our list and we send that out every two weeks with things that we’re watching or paying attention to.

Danielle Wiley: Perfect. Well, thank you so much and don’t forget to like, share, and follow The Art of Sway wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

Lynn Casey: Fantastic. Thank you so much for having me.

Danielle Wiley: Thank you, Lynn. Thank you for listening. Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. Please check back next Monday for a new episode featuring marketing conversations through the lens of influence. I am your host, Danielle Wiley, and this is The Art of Sway.

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