One day, this could be you 😉
That’s right: every company should have its own Trend Group. Even if that ‘group’ is just you. The Trend Group is not some multi-million dollar/euro/pound affair. It doesn’t have to employ a dozen staff (though that would be nice ;-). It’s more a state of mind. It can be low-cost, unauthorized and grass roots if need be. Don’t wait for permission, make the Trend Group a fait accompli.
Then tackle the support issue. Without backing from at least one senior member of the management team, your Trend Group may steadily grow, but results—innovations, that is— won’t make it off the drawing board.
We know, we know: it isn’t always easy to get everyone excited about the latest trends…
Consider this (if you’re not the CEO):
Sometimes, it’s a language and perception issue. The word ‘trends’ may still evoke images of flamboyant fashion designers caressing delicate fabrics, or crazed teens in Japanese parks dressed in full Louis XIV garb. So try talking about the Future of Business, instead. Or the Future of Consumerism. Or Drivers of Change. Or Patterns. Or Currents. (From Ian David, McKinsey & Company: “Companies that ride the currents succeed; those that swim against them usually struggle. Identifying these currents and developing strategies to navigate them is vital.”)
Make sure the trends you’re trying to explain are not just about YOU or your ideas and scenarios. Don’t make it a one (wo)man show. Everyone hates that, mainly for competitive reasons. Instead, be the messenger, the humble reporter. Show real-world examples of how other firms are already cashing in on a specific trend. Point out what respected brands are doing, including as many direct competitors as possible. (Even though we’ve argued against too much industry focus in Tip 2 when it comes to your mindset, showing what the competition is doing is great wake-up call material). So… never let it be just about you. In fact, if you can appeal to the dreams and desires of the others (read: anything that includes more money, more prestige, more status ;-), the more support you’ll get.
Don’t present them, but do have numbers ready at all times. In the end, we don’t believe trend watching is about numbers, but sometimes you need to give your audience what they want, to overcome resistance.
Make it visual. Pictures. Videos.
Or, better yet: let people try stuff out. Conceptualize and demonstrate. If you’re raving about new products, let people fiddle with them. Or taste them. Or sit in them. Sure, it will take you more time to prepare, but we never said trend watching is for the lazy, did we? For more tips on presenting, check out Presentation Zen.
Our spotters are everywhere. Are yours?
Once senior support has been secured, it’s time to move on to the fun stuff. Every self-respecting Trend Group will of course want to be able to tap into a network of spotters around the world, one’s eyes and ears in the streets of Tokyo, lanes of London, steegjes of Amsterdam, avenues of New York and Paris, avenidas of São Paulo. Too expensive? Hey, if we can do it, so can any other small, mid-sized or big firm. Take a look at our Springspotter Network, which rewards spotters with points that can be redeemed for gifts. On the site, you’ll find a description of what we do with the network, and how we’ve been running it for the past five years.
So, tap into the GLOBAL BRAIN. Enlist your colleagues, your friends, your family, your fans, your lead users, your mainstream customers, your suppliers, and reward them with presents, your goods or services, credits on your website or something they can put on their resume. Announce and promote your network on your website and in your stores. Oh, and don’t you dare complain that this is hard to do if you’re with an international firm. Since you have offices and colleagues around the world, your network is already in place and you just need to start exploiting it more effectively.
Last one on the spotters network: SHARE. Don’t just stuff yourself with the insights and knowledge from the ‘crowds’, contribute to the collective wisdom, too. If not for altruistic reasons, then for creativity’s sake: “If you give away everything you have, you are left with nothing. This forces you to look, to be aware, to replenish.” (Paul Arden)
Needless to say, the Trend Group* is an ongoing affair. First and foremost you will have to:
Weave your Trend Group’s web of resources (Tip 3)
Build your Trend Framework (Tip 4)
Set up weekly or monthly sessions
Distribute your findings as widely as possible
About weekly or monthly sessions: assemble a motley crew of people who are interested in discussing your group’s findings and trends. One easy way to do this is to pick, present, discuss and brainstorm just one trend. Assign one person to do a 20 minute presentation, spend 30 minutes discussing what’s driving this trend from a consumer-need perspective. Spend another 30 minutes relating these findings to your industry and brand: what will the impact be? Last but not least, ask all participants to dedicate 30 minutes to coming up with new ideas for your brand.
About distributing your findings: for extended inter-company distribution of your work, set up a semi-official Trend Group website or intranet presence, explaining what you do, which trends you’re tracking, including the implications for your product or company. Use a corporate wiki to invite people to contribute. Send out newsletters, feeds, anything that will get your co-workers hooked on your output. Hell, you can even forward them our monthly Trend Briefings with your group’s findings and opinions added to each one.
No time? Be honest: how many meetings can you afford to skip each week? How many hours of mindless television watching can you forego? Spend those hours tracking trends and building your framework instead, and you’re already doing more than your competition.
* If you’re in a big organization, you will want to figure out the best way to integrate your work with your company’s innovation team or strategy department or research desk, as they too will have integrated elements of trend watching into their activities. Here too, if you manage to be a welcome source of much needed insights instead of a threat, you will be able to focus on trends instead of corporate in-fighting.
Truly new products often capitalize on consumer trends.
Ah, the holy grail of trend spotting. Now that you’ve honed your trend spotting skills, pimped your Trend Framework, launched your Trend Group and Trend Network, even got your co-workers on board, how the hell do you actually apply your trend findings? How do you turn your insights into innovations? The simple list below is crucial:
Ask yourself if the trend you’re discussing has the potential to:
Influence or shape your company’s vision — Vision
Come up with a new business concept, an entirely new venture, a new brand — New business concepts
Add ‘something’ new for a certain customer segment — New products, services, experiences
Speak the language of those consumers already ‘living’ the trend: show them you get it, show them you know what they’re excited about — Marketing, advertising, PR
So: a few hands-on examples from the real world:
Starbucks founder and chairman Howard Schultz getting nervous about trends like UPGRADE EVERYTHING and the growing appeal of all things authentic and local (something we highlighted in our STILL MADE HERE trend), pointing out threats and possible solutions to his CEO in a memo that’s now everywhere.
2. New business concepts
What do you do when you read about a trend like CROWD CLOUT? Why, you start a new business that capitalizes on the power of grouped consumers, or you set up a new venture that helps consumers list their buying intentions, inviting suppliers to bid for their business. From Finnish Igglo to Australian Auto Group Buy.
And if you’re British easyGroup, studying (if not creating) TRANSUMERS, you will continue to spot new sectors that are ripe for commoditization, flexibility and much lower cost structures. Which means that after no-frills airlines, cruises and hotels, you will take on office space, too, introducing easyOffice for mobile workers. Easy, huh? 😉
3. New products, services, experiences
This is of course what we (over) feed you with in these monthly trend briefings and our annual trend reports. For an overload of new products, services and experiences, in this case for three specific demographics that are enjoying a boom in purchasing power (and thus constitute a ‘trend’ of some sorts), check out our FEMALE FEVER – BOOMING BUSINESS – PINK PROFITS briefing, published in August 2007. Most of the companies and innovators mentioned in this briefing asked themselves how to adapt existing products to make them more appealing to specific audiences.
4. Marketing, advertising, PR
Dole not only rides the organic/eco/STILL MADE HERE trend by offering Dole Certified Organic (which we classify as a new product/service. If Dole would only sell organic from now on, it would fall under the vision category), but also applies the INFOLUST trend by incorporating very detailed product information into their marketing and advertising efforts. So what does their trend blend entail? Dole lets consumers ‘travel to the origin of each organic product’ by typing in a fruit sticker’s three-digit Farm Code on a dedicated website. Customers can read background info, view photos of the farm and workers and learn more about the origin of Dole products. Very… zeitgeist.
That’s all there is to applying trends. Really 😉
Now, marketers and entrepreneurs often tell us they use our trends as conversation starters. And while that may sound wishy-washy, if that conversation includes:
A quick presentation: trend definition, insights and some hands-on examples of how other companies and industries already capitalize on these trends…
A discussion of how the trend may impact your industry, your business…
Any innovations you can come up with using the ‘apply’ checklist above…
…then we’re more than happy to serve as a conversation starter!
Last but not least, please make sure your ideation and application sessions take place in an inspiring environment. Ditch the depressing windowless conference room. Bring in good wine, good coffee, good food. Don’t be too earnest about the quest at hand: it’s about coming up with exciting new products and services for your customers, nothing more, nothing less. And have some guts. No guts, no glory!
Hey, we know. YOU DO NOT HAVE TIME TO DO ALL OF THIS YOURSELF. So to clarify: we’re not saying you should spend 12 hours a day on trend watching. You just need to do more of it than you do now. Which brings us to our bonus tip: let other trendsters do part of the work for you, even if it’s just to hit the ground running.
But also spend a few days on trend sites like PFSK, Springwise New Business Ideas, Iconoculture, Influx Insights, and Agenda Inc. Sign up for their newsletters and feeds. They will yield enough material to start building your Trend Framework.
Happy spotting! We look forward to seeing your findings and innovations in the marketplace.