Would you consider yourself a trendy person?
What is a trend? Definitions first:
„A pattern of gradual change in a condition, output, or process, or an average or general tendency of a series of data points to move in a certain direction over time, represented by a line or curve on a graph.“ (The Business dictionary)
“A general direction in which something is developing or changing“ (The Oxford Dictionaries)
White sneakers, sharing your meal on Instagram, yogalates (yoga & pilates at once), hashtags, green smoothies, virtual reality, reading wired magazine, watching TED(x) talks, prequels and sequels of popular movies, i-everything…to name but a few commonly known ones, but what exactly is a trend?
We are confronted with trends, or with being “on trend” in nearly every aspect of our lives. Technological trends, fashion trends, social and/or cultural trends, trends concerning science, arts or even spiritual trends. Not only come trends in different areas of our lives, but furthermore in various sizes. They might happen on a global scale, there are national and regional trends and some smaller trends that apply only to a few people in a certain context.
But how are trends made? Can they even be generated?
In her TEDxJerusalem talk “Different like everyone else: the story of trends” Dr. Liraz Lasry defines the following four key factors that are common for successfull trend creation:
- You need to provide a practical benefit:
Your product or idea must provide a real value, which must serve (at best) a simple need and is easily detectable (e.g.: Instagram: I need an app to take and edit pictures and share them)
- There must be an identity benefit:
Your idea/product must be appealing and enable the user/customer to express her/his identity and serve the need to “belong to a certain group OR (mind you: paradox ahead) underline his/her individualism. (e.g.: Who am I, how do others perceive me? What does it say about me, when I use the new iPhone, How does it look on my timeline when I post a TED talk?)
- There must be a STORY:
Only a simple and short story that grabs people’s attention goes viral. (e.g.: “Ideas worth spreading”)
- It must be socially distributed:
The “story” must be distributed to trend setters (5 % of all people, in ancient times these where royals and clergy and merchants) and trend followers (10 %) to make everybody adapt the trend.
So it is crucial to reach consumers, customers, users, whole communities or private circles through opinion makers and multipliers, they are responsible for the different perceptions of “uniqueness and belonging”.
Clusters of innovation – trendspotting
Trends are of course also of economic interest as far as consumer trends are concerned.
“Habits or behaviors currently prevalent among consumers of goods or services. Consumer trends track more than simply what people buy and how much they spend. Data collected on trends may also include information such as how consumers use a product and how they communicate about a brand with their social network.”
But how can consumer trends be identified? Here trend watching comes in. It can provide useful insights into customer’s needs. But how exactly does it work?
David Mattin is the “head of trends and insights” at trendwatching.com, one of the world’s leading companies, which scans the globe for emerging trends.
Mattin defines consumer trends as follows: “We say that new consumer trends come about when external change – that could be technological change, social, attitudinal – unlocks a new way of serving a basic human need.“
Furthermore, he explains how trendspotting works in the company’s context, using a network of spotters in more than 90 countries worldwide. „Crucially, our trend spotting methodology is all about watching consumer-facing innovations: new products, services, campaigns and more. So when we have a number of innovations that all leverage some external change (say, artificial intelligence) to serve a basic human need (say, the need for information and convenience) in a new way, then we know we’re seeing a new trend. “
“We’re constantly looking for clusters of innovations that create new customer expectations. When we spot such a cluster, we have a trend! Then we’ll ask: what is the core of the new customer expectations being created by these innovations? What will these expectations look like as they spread?“
But can consumer trends also be predicted by trend spotting?
David Mattin explains: “When we talk about trends, people often think in terms of ‘prediction’ or ‘knowing the future’. But really, that’s not what spotting consumer trends is about. Rather, it’s about being very observant about what’s happening now. All the trends we spot are grounded in innovations that have recently been launched around the world. Perhaps those innovations will succeed, perhaps they will fail; no one can know. But what we can know is that these innovations – and others like them – are helping to create new customer expectations that will spread. “
Are we consumed by consuming?
Being “on trend” is often understood as “owning new and/or trendy things”? But how about our individualism? We should ask ourselves, if buying and owning the latest trends really makes us more “valuable”. By advertising big brands are manipulating us to think that this is the case.
Even as hyper-informed and environmental savvy customers, we can never be too cautious about the products we buy. Here, it is on us to try to spot or even to expose strategies such as the momentarily super-present trend of green washing. Something is labeled as green washing, when a company or an organization spends more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact. “It’s whitewashing, but with a green brush”.
Whats next? What to do now?
Now we have given you definitions, key success factors as well as information on how trend spotting might work. So feel inspired to spot, evaluate, question or even start your own trend!
David Mattin: private