Yogi Berra once said that you can observe a lot just by watching. That might explain why there’s an entire industry dedicated to the practice of spotting trends. Ira Matathia, co-author of NextNow, offers a few guidelines on the art and science of it all:
Go global: Make sure you have a good set of antenna to monitor trends and make sure that your monitor is global. The United States is not the center of the trends world.
Look to other categories: “Influence comes from any number of directions. I don’t think there are hard lines between what is relevant to a marketer in one category versus another these days,” says Matathia. “Consumers tune in to what’s relevant, and what’s served up in a unique way, and tune out the rest. They don’t ‘consume’ marketing by category.”
Identify trends vs. fads: Beware a rapid rise in popularity (i.e., low-carb).
“A trend has an identifiable lifecycle: it’s born, it goes through adolescence, adulthood and old age. Durable trends, rather than dying, often morph/mutate, adapting to the culture,” says Matathia. “A fad has a ‘moment,’ and then it’s gone—which is why fads aren’t very useful to brands and marketers, who generally can’t move fast enough to capitalize.”
Embrace contradictions: Don’t get stymied by contradictions in your trend research. “Many trends do have a natural ‘yin and yang’ and opportunities often present themselves in that contradiction,” says Matathia. “Think about the tension of ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’, to understand how design may look ‘retro’, but [require] ‘innards’ [that are] state of the art.”
Look for meaning: Don’t be trendy for the sake of trend. You want “applied trend-watching,” where you’re turning a sighting into actionable intelligence. Matathia says, “You need to steer a trend in the direction that is most meaningful for your customer.”