what we're watching


noun, [ˈætməˌsfɪr]

1: Polluted air, contaminated water, and tainted food stir up a storm of consumer doubt and uncertainty.

2: One of 17 known cultural and societal undercurrents, first identified by Faith Popcorn, whose shifting dimensions reflect the human experience as it evolves to define future consumer behavior.


In the 1990s, Faith Popcorn and her team noticed growing global indicators of environmental issues: Climate change was an urgent topic at United Nations meetings; acid rain and oil spills polluting our oceans made headlines. People around the globe learned the terms salmonella, E.coli, mad cow disease, listeria, and anthrax. Bottled water sales in U.S. rose 144% in a decade; 73% of Americans were using antibacterial liquid soap. Acute water shortages set in.

Beyond that, the team at Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve detected how this was impacting the consumer mindset—stress, anxiety and uncertainty about tomorrow were stirring, and to new levels. Consumers craved reassurances about the purity and cleanliness of their resources and the products they consumed; contamination—like the Chipotle E. coli outbreak —or additives, like the possibly carcinogenic triclosan in toothpaste—could send a company’s stock into a downward spiral. Look at how Johnson and Johnson shares slipped after a jury awarded $29 million in the talcum-powder and cancer trial.

Practical Application

Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve worked closely with brands to ensure they stayed ahead of emerging issues. For example, when partnering with SC Johnson, the team mapped out how to transition from a “Family Company” to a “Company for Families” that elevated the issues that mattered most. The vision was centered on embracing transparency, environmental sustainability and advocacy, including a zero-waste philosophy.


AtmosFear is ratcheting up as environmental decline accelerates. An apocalyptic worldview comes home to roost as consumers see the devastation (and required respirators) in the wake of wildfires; learn about the micro-particles of plastic polluting our water sources, our fish and our bodies; and live through ongoing listeria, Ebola and other medical crises. As glaciers melt and icebergs twice the size of NYC break off Antarctica, a sense of doom intensifies.


An era is emerging in which companies must step in and shoulder the load of improving these pillars of our culture. Transparency allows for corporate “report cards” sharing cleanliness practices . Apps and new technology reveal when and how products are processed, their purity and what environmental impact their manufacturing triggered. Sensors on packaging will increasingly communicate freshness status, along with health risks; digital ledgers and genome sequencing will accelerate the consumer’s enlightenment of how to safeguard their health.

Lab-made food will be revered as the safest food, without the risk of impurities, pathogens and contagion. And as consumers move through the world, purified water and air will be the new commodities. Who would think of getting into their overnight driverless Uber without knowing how the resources—the air inhaled, the water sipped—will be managed and monitored down to the last milligram?

As the warnings about our wellness and our world become ever more dire, companies must adopt a strategic stewardship role.

But which road will engage your consumers? We can help.Find Out How

Trend Pairings

Atmosfear is closely linked with FutureTense, the Trend that describes the near-panic that people feel as change and risk escalate at ever faster rates. Anxiety about our environment and resources merges with the more all-encompassing worries of FutureTense, making stress relief a continually growing opportunity in our culture.

Save Our Society (the Trend describing a consumer’s urge to reclaim and uplift our culture and our planet) and AtmosFear also couple up. The worry of AtmosFear becomes channeled into demands and/or action with the Save Our Society Trend. Consumers take steps to improve their condition—and hold governments and corporations accountable for doing their part as well.


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