Every December my inbox gets swamped with newsletters stating what will be the hottest trends next year. Captions like ‘The top 5 food trends for the coming year’, ‘the 10 biggest not-to-miss innovations for [include random year]’, and so on. Sounds familiar? Want to know what to do with these trend lists? Read on....
ZOOMING IN ON TREND CHARTS
The trend charts at the turn of each year might get you to wonder: do trends change on the 31st of December worldwide? Mmmm, that would be quite weird, right? So let’s dissect these trend rankings.
When you look at the lists of trend predictions closer, most show specific trend manifestations, such as products, services, styles and so on. They state what will become ‘hot or not’ for the coming year.
These trend lists are often made for promotional reasons. The trend watcher, trend agency, or whoever the messenger is, wants to trigger you to take a look at their content and that it will be picked up by mass media and hyped.
I know, because I’ve been in this game too. :) I’ve worked at several agencies where we would draft trend lists to publish and send them out to media people. Here you can see one in Dutch I made while working at communication agency YoungWorks in 2008 about THE trends for youngsters in 2009 and which appeared in Metro. Yes people, the future of 2009 will be all about punk, Primark and mixtapes. :P
WHAT DON’T THESE LISTS TELL ABOUT TRENDS?
Note that one manifestation of change is not yet a trend. Detecting manifestations of change is one task of a trend researcher. The next is to give meaning to these observations and try to understand what they reveal about the future.
Most lists do not touch upon WHY people would want to adopt the listed innovations. Why do people want to use, buy or embrace a certain innovation? What does it add to their quality of life? Which values does it link to and which needs does it meet?
Trend pro's I've interviewed for my book 'How to Research Trends' are also keen on this part of the trend research process, like Kelly and Pernille's quotes show.
Solid trend researchers get to the core of this WHY and provide context to these manifestations. They analyse all kinds of signs of change, as mentioned in the trend lists, and look for underlying changing values and needs. Because these define people’s changing attitudes, expectations and mentalities.
Analysing trends is like piecing a puzzle to connect the dots and find patterns of change. You need to find these underlying values to be able to apply trends because these values form the basis to innovate on.
Trend analysis helps you to move beyond the outer layers of products, services or styles and explain why people want to adopt a new kind of behaviour, buy a new product or use a new service. It also helps you in discerning between hypes, fads and trends too (more on that in this blog).
TREND TIPS: WHAT TO DO WITH TREND LISTS
Most trend showcases of what is hot or not the upcoming year are volatile, scratching the surface and do not give insight into bigger value-driven trends, which by the way do not appear or disappear yearly on the 31st of December. ;)
Here are two tips on how to use these lists:
HAPPY TRENDY HOLIDAYS!