A lot of people have asked me about my big, bold predictions for 2019. Well, maybe three people asked, but that’s not the point.

The point is that I really can’t stand most of these “Top Ten” lists the LinkedIn bloviators and Forbes guest bloggers broadcast every January. First of all, they always limp to number 10. Why does it have to be 10?

Second, nobody ever checks their work 12 months later. As long as one or two of their flaccid prophecies come true, they’ll gloat about them on Twitter and ignore the 8 they got wrong.

We don’t make flippant predictions here. The reason our customers pay us handsome (but entirely justifiable) money is because wereright nearly all of the time. If I start vomiting up a bunch of data-deficient predictions-gone-wrong – even in this little email – people could die.

Ok. Not really. But people could at least lose lots of money. And then they’ll fire us and we’ll lose lots of money and that just can’t happen.

When we prognosticate, it’s not “bold.” It’s cold, calculating and safe-as-hell. Because we’ve crunched big numbers with the smartest machines geeks can build. And because I have expensive tastes in golf equipment that I need to support when I retire.

So, I’ll give you three predictions. That’s it. And if you’re reading this early enough Saturday, you can take them straight to the bank. Or wait until Monday and lose two days of interest.

#1 Cord-cutting will accelerate more rapidly than expected as consumer confidence cools. I dive into this more below but the economic climate gives it critical context. With no tax refunds in the offing, a declining financial outlook, and the huge cost-differentials between corded and cordless TV, a widespread untethering is coming faster than anyone predicted. We dumped satellite in our house a few weeks ago and sliced our monthly bill from $318 to $64. That buys a lot of Titleist Pro V1s. The only programming trade-off is I now have to go to the bar to watch Penguins games. Win, win. Caveat: None

#2 Speaking of golf, Tiger Woods will be reestablished as an unmatched marketing juggernaut again. By the end of 2018, our data showed Woods’ net popularity fell into red numbers (that’s good in golf) for the first time since 2011. With no Olympiad or men’s World Cup – and baseball floundering – Tiger is going to rule the summer and make tsunami waves across the media and marketing landscape. People forget what it was like before. Caveat: He has to stay healthy.

#3 Trucks and SUVs are going to keep crushing the sedan market. This is a trend 6+ years in the making but the early signs in 2019 suggest a coming step-change. Beyond the obvious trendline below, we also see that 51% of current sedan owners plan to buy something other than a sedan with their next purchase. 1 in 4 sedan owners plan to buy a truck or SUV. This prediction is an absolute lock. Caveat: Fuel prices…

Enough fortune-telling. Here are a few things were seeing in the present:

Seemingly at odds with my point above, consumer confidence showed a small rebound the past two weeks. Don’t overreact to this. It just means the death spiral of the two prior readings was a bit exaggerated. We may see a new normal in economic sentiment in 2019 but it’s likely things have peaked, at best. People are watching…and waiting.

You may say I’m a streamer, but I’m not the only one. I did a quick write-up this week on tracking studies we started about cord-cutting. I was blown away by the data. Even as 28% of people have jumped ship from their cable/sat provider, an even larger number – 31% – are actively considering it right now. The biggest deterrent is that consumers believe they can’t get all of the channels they want via streaming – which I found to not be true. These kinds of misperceptions are easily solvable over time.

More and more people are turning to crowdfunding to pay their medical bills and that’s f***ed up. If you want a big neon sign that illustrates the cracks in our economy and healthcare system right now, here you go. The vast majority of Americans agree that crowdfunded medical treatments are a sad, sad state of affairs. Some people, particularly the healthy and wealthy, are more likely to call it “inspiring.” Ignore those people.   

Teeth-whitening is good for self-esteem. I do everything I can to keep my teeth white – from strips to high-octane toothpaste to a full-on procedure by my dentist. I never cared about it until I started doing the occasional TV gig. Have you ever seen TV people’s teeth? Also, I like red wine. And coffee. Lots of people whiten their teeth (either via the dentist or OTC products) – about 1/3rd of Americans do it and many more are considering it. It must make a difference for their self-image. People who whiten their teeth are 3X more likely than people who don’t to consider themselves much more attractive than average.

If you want to avoid Millennials this month, go to the bar. I have a few friends who do the whole ‘Dry January’ thing. I’ve actually contemplated it myself. The problem is, Tara and I love New Year’s Day mimosas. Then there’s playoff football. Plus the weather sucks in Pittsburgh in January, so there’s not much else to do. Anyway, some people don’t care about all of that. 18% of drinkers are planning to observe Dry January this year. They’re more likely to be women and – of course – health-conscious. Millennials are a whopping 2X more likely than my GenX sisters and brothers to be resting their livers right now. In other words, if you own a bar, expect your sales of avocado toast to plummet until February.

We did a study comparing consumer sentiment toward cosmetics retailers, Ulta and Sephora, and I have absolutely zero ability to say anything smart about it. All I know is that teenagers have a differing opinion from everyone else.  If that’s a topic that interests you, go here and read someone with far more expertise in that area.

By the way, we do study everything. I only write about a sliver of it.


Hoping you’re well.