Latest trend in angst Forecast: Pop-culture prognosticator sees AtmosFear, terror of food, air, water, etc., in consumers' eyes.

March 16, 1998|By Los Angeles Times

The unsettling recent headlines -- that Los Angeles tap water may be linked to miscarriages -- alarmed consumers but was no surprise to trend forecaster Faith Popcorn.

It further verified a key emerging trend that she's been tracking. Although not fully developed yet ("It's still at the 'drift' stage," she said), it is important enough to be given a Popcorn-esque label: AtmosFear.

"It's about people being scared of basic things that used to nurture them, like food, air and water," she explains. "You know, the chickens, the salmonella, the E. coli, the mad cow disease organic sales are soaring. But even that isn't safe, because people are confused about the standards."

Is anything safe?

"When you start worrying about the basic things, like apple juice, or a fast-food hamburger or a salad It seems like every day there is something else, and nobody has put the whole package together," Popcorn said.

Popcorn (nee Plotkin), a market consultant with an advertising background and a shrewd knack for prediction, specializes in putting things together. As chairwoman of BrainReserve, the consulting firm she founded in Manhattan almost 25 years ago, she commands hefty fees for business seminars and counsels such Fortune 500 clients as Bell Atlantic, IBM and PepsiCo on what's happening and what they should do about it.

Popcorn and co-author Lys Marigold added AtmosFear to their updated paperback version of 1996's "Clicking" (HarperBusiness).

"It is so pervasive that canny marketers are already seizing on the opportunities it presents," she wrote, noting the appearance of elaborate home air purification systems, new anti-bacterial lotions and creams and germ-fighting toys.

The very pressure of such worries has led to another major Popcorn trend: Pleasure Revenge -- the rebellion of breaking all the health rules and reveling in such unhealthy joys as eating steak, drinking martinis and smoking cigars.

Pub Date: 3/16/98

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