Science fiction story telling and the future of brands (1)

The World Future Trends Summit arrives next week, and global visionaries will gather to uncover the trends that will have the most impact on the future of business. The Futures Company is proud to be a Summit media partner: covering, translating and synthesizing the Summit’s highlights and takeaways in real-time, producing the official executive summary of the event for all attendees.

As part of a preview of some of the most interesting sessions, we’re sharing here the first part of a quick Q&A with Manoj Fenelon, Director of Foresight for Pepsico who will lead ‘Creating the Future of Brands with the Power of Science Fiction Storytelling’ on Monday 15 October.

How does PepsiCo define foresight, and what are some of the key ways that your insights are used within the organization?

For PepsiCo, foresight is a rigorous and systematic approach to imagining future scenarios that will play out over the course of this decade. This is a step-up from what trends departments and groups are typically tasked with. If discerning and reacting to trends is a bit like throwing a few seeds out the window onto the lawn on a rainy day, then foresight is like getting trained to be a horticulturist. As the world’s second-largest food and beverage company, we ought to be taking a more active role in creating the futures to come, responding to some of the big challenges therein, and trying to turn them into sustainable business opportunities.

The foresight practice is fairly nascent within PepsiCo. I collaborate with other PepsiCo people who are looking at the future to ensure that we are all communicating a common context for planning to senior management and working consultatively within major innovation teams. I help future-proof their thinking to make sure the main thrusts of their efforts are “on code”; and lead special projects that help build capabilities while answering important growth questions, like “in which ‘next’ categories of consumer demand can new beverage offerings play a role?”

Your panel has a science fiction theme. Are you a science fiction fan?

I want to say “yes,” but I’m afraid I’ll get an earful from some of my friends who are more avid devotees of the genre, so how’s “sort of”? Terry Gilliam’s films Brazil and The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus are enduring favorites. Tarkovsky’s Solaris is the most haunting narrative I’ve ever seen. The Handmaid’s Tale and Dune (which could very easily be an ethnography of the Saharan tribes) also left an impression.

What are some predictions that SF has got right?

Well, Minority Report and today’s surveillance society (Total Information Awareness, anyone?) is the obvious example, although it is hard to speak of that as something having gone “right”! Then there’s Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, of course, call it sci-fi or not. And I’m always tickled when I re-read Marshall McLuhan going on about “someday, ads will give people all the things that things used to … advertising will become the product and the product itself will merely be a number in a file, locked away somewhere in a vault.”

More tomorrow.

Catch Manoj’s panel at the World Future Trends Summit in Miami, October 15-17. We’ll be there, and we hope you will be too. Save 20% on your registration with code FT12TFC

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  1. [...] we’re continuing our interview with Manoj Fenelon, the Director of Foresight at Pepsi, which we started yesterday. Manoj is leading a session called, intriguingly, ‘Creating The Future of Brands with the [...]

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