So you have opened your mind, you have woven your web of resources, and you’re jotting down as many trends and trend manifestations as you can. Now what? How to make sense of all of this material, and especially the impact and context of various trends? What works for us is to have a Trend Framework: basically a long list of all the trends we’ve spotted over the years.
There’s a bit more to it, of course. trendwatching.com may be all about consumer trends, but that leaves two other main trend categories unaddressed. In general, switched-on companies and individuals track at least three trend levels:
|Macro trends — the STEEP approach below is a good start if you want to categorize macro trends:
Most management consulting firms will be able to help you with macro trends. For a DIY approach, check out the STEEP section on MindTools. And as far as industry trends are concerned, you no doubt already have someone tracking those within your organization (you?), whether it’s in the form of competitive analysis, clippings from trade magazines or industry reports from market research firms.
Needless to say, all three levels of trends constantly converge, impacting each other, if not overlapping. Just remember that industry trends, which firms are so keen on understanding, are at the mercy of macro and consumer trends, not the other way round. We could go on about this for another 300 pages but we won’t. There’s enough material to be found online for those of you who want to become macro-trend watchers. Meanwhile, let’s return to building your CONSUMER Trend Framework.
The easiest way to start building your own Trend Framework is to copy consumer trends from existing trend curators. You can find our free trends at www.trendwatching.com/trends, and our not-free but not-breaking-the-bank-either 2008 Trend Report at www.trendwatching.com/trendreport. Then add your own findings. Your framework will expand quickly, meaning fewer surprises every time you spot something of interest: the bigger the framework, the easier it is to categorize your findings.
Recurring question: how do all of the trends in your Trend Framework relate to one another? What’s the context? We normally find that consumer trends can be grouped by the core need they newly address or unlock (see our definition at the beginning of this document), but that won’t show you how certain individual trends are connected. A hands-on, if time consuming, approach to finding the connections: construct a matrix featuring all the trends you track, both vertically and horizontally, and do a trend-by-trend ‘relationship check’.
You will be able to see and figure out how our CUSTOMER MADE trend links to GENERATION CASH (if you want to co-create with clever consumers, you will have to pay up), or how TRANSPARENCY TYRANNY links to HYGIENIA (no, we’re not going to explain every single trend-match ;-).
Looking for connections also emphasizes that this is trend tracking as much as it is trend spotting. Trends evolve, new insights and examples will emerge… Only by tending to your framework, keeping it fresh and up to date, will you be able to maintain an overview.
Last but not least, by keeping a complete-as-humanly-doable Trend Framework, the majority of your observations will easily fit with one of the existing trends. Which means that if a handful of them don’t, you may be onto something genuinely new.So the more trends you track, the easier it will be to spot a truly new trend.
A quick thought on naming trends: we feel it’s crucial to describe trends as imaginatively as possible. Sure, we regularly take flak about our names (TRYVERTISING anyone?), but here’s why we do it:
Arouse curiosity. Strange names invoke interest, make people sit up and listen, make them want to know more. A well-chosen name radiates the promise of a story, of something important. And if that name is unlike anything else (even if it’s stupid unlike anything else), who can resist the desire to find out and not miss out?
Create a common language. You will find that groups and teams will rally behind a named concept more easily than behind something generic. Trend names often tell a story. Speaking a common language saves team members heaps of time—they’re able to refer to a project or trend name and instantly be on the same page.
Coin, own and track. Coming up with an as yet unknown name means it’s easier to coin something. Now coining isn’t about ownership, or claiming you’re the first one to come up with an idea: everything is already out there anyway. But it’s convenient to coin a new name, because you get to (temporarily) lead the discussion. It also facilitates tracking: googling your unique trend name will instantly lead you to other experts’ take on ‘your’ trend. Which often means more insights, more examples. Tracking TRYSUMERS for example is a breeze; tracking a statement like ‘consumers are more interested in trying out new goods before they buy, due to 13 socio-economic factors,’ isn’t.
Oh, and just how do we come up with our names? Early on, we were inspired by Faith Popcorn’s approach: mix and match two or three words that define the trend, creating a new word that preferably hasn’t been used by anyone else (a quick Google search will usually reveal just how unique a made-up word is). When studying the trend of affordable luxury, key words that jumped out at us were ‘masses’ and ‘exclusivity’, which then led to MASSCLUSIVITY. And when looking at the trend of consumers making the most of price comparison and other consumers’ product recommendations, we worked with keywords (and synonyms!) like transparency, power, nakedness, and tyranny (for merchants), which resulted in TRANSPARENCY TYRANNY. So don’t be shy, and go all out when naming your own trends.