Reality, sex and wealth to dominate 2022 cultural shifts, says TBWA’s Backslash

Liquid reality, sexual liberation and wealth hacking are the cultural shifts set to dominate the next year, according to the latest annual glossary of  ‘edges’ published TBWA’s cultural intelligence unit Backslash.

These are three of 36 edges highlighted in the report, which is organised into three chapters: hindsight in action, covering the ways the past is being used to inform our future; hacking the matrix, looking at how individuals are freeing themselves from institutions that no longer serve them; and hidden futures, exploring ‘the great unknown’.

An edge, according to the report, is defined as ‘a meaningful cultural shift that has the scale and longevity to propel a brand toward a greater share of the future’. An edge must also ‘be rooted in human values, be recognisable through consumer behaviours’ with ‘clear business implications’; have ‘sustained relevance’ for at least a year and be relevant globally.

Backslash describes liquid reality as an increased fluidity between physical and virtual realities as the metaverse takes off; sexual liberation refers to a healing culture that is able to move beyond the complicated blurred lines of between empowerment and exploitation; and wealth hacking speaks to the rise of unconventional sources of income and investment like cryptocurrency, equity crowd funding and gaming.

The glossary also explores on an overarching cultural redefinition of progress, asking the question, ‘what does progress look like’ in 2022?

Many of the edges catalogued in the report focus on sustainable progress for both people and the planet, including ‘conscience convenience’, ‘circular aftermarkets’, ‘travel right’ and ‘activist awakening’. There is also a large emphasis on new technologies and changing divisions of money and influence.

“We spent 2020 talking about the New Normal, and 2021 worrying about new variants. In 2022, we’re taking stock of what two years of pandemic have taught us about ourselves and the world, and readying for action. As we start to make the choices and changes that will define the future we want, brands have a role to play in helping to make this new-ish world, a better world,” said Agathe Guerrier, chief strategy officer, TBWA\Worldwide.

“In 2022, progress will bring a really interesting mix of the familiar and totally unfamiliar. Businesses should be asking themselves how they can use the lessons from our past to balance out the areas where advancement has gone too far,” added Backslash’s senior cultural strategist, Skyler Hubler.

The full report can be downloaded at


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