You’ve heard from me in the past nine months working at GrowthWorks through certain blog pieces, but I’d like to officially introduce myself: I’m Jed, GrowthWorks’ “trend guy,” and this marks the first blog in a series of monthly posts where I’ll fill you in on the newest consumer and industry trends! I play an important role in our team here keeping us up to date on the latest happenings in everything from boutique fitness to kombucha to Uberization. In any industry, it’s important to stay on top of trends to inform new ventures and directions, but even more so in strategy and innovation consulting, where we are in the business helping our clients grow through an understanding of where the future is headed.
Being knowledgeable about consumer and industry trends isn’t something you’re born with, and it has nothing to do with me being a digitally-savvy 22-year-old with a good fashion sense (one exception to this rule is that I’m uniquely qualified to explain “adulting”). Trend-tracking is a skill anyone at any age can learn, in or out of consulting. What does it take to be a good trend-tracker then? It comes down to a few key qualities and skills, all of which can be cultivated through practice:
Be Open: if you’re not open to new ideas, chances you will stick to what’s familiar and won’t be paying attention to changes going on in the world. Trend-tracking is all about being future-forward, which means you have to be open to accept the new and unfamiliar things that are changing the world, even if they go against your worldview.
Be Creative: In order to be compelling and relevant, trends have to encompass more than what is immediately obvious. Anybody can learn about a new trend from a newspaper article, but creating valuable and engaging trend reports is an art that involves bringing many disparate trends together into a concise and compelling presentation. Above all, it’s important to communicate trends in a way that is relevant for to those involved, because it usually takes a great deal of imagination to explain how gamification, flexitarianism, or mid-century design resurgence is relevant to whatever problem needs to be solved. When trends are communicated in an inspirational and curated way, it can mean the difference between being unable to solve the problem at hand versus developing winning innovation.
Be Observant: Being on top of trends means looking for them everywhere, all the time. This includes paying attention to things you may not necessarily care about or even dislike. Personally speaking, I have a hard time watching commercials (the after-effects of growing up in a family without cable TV). However, one of the ways I learn about new product launches and the way they’re communicated is by watching commercials at the gym. Keeping a pulse on all parts of the media environment, which is ever more difficult in an age of filtered and customized content on social media, is vital to moving beyond my comfort zone and getting a grasp on what’s really going on in the world of consumer behavior.
We live in an age of accelerated change. Companies that rose precipitously through alignment with a trend face an even more precipitous fall if they fail to innovate. Even the most seemingly solid sectors are being upended. Ten years ago, who would have thought the hotel industry would so suddenly be disrupted by Airbnb? Or that the automobile insurance industry could soon be rendered obsolete because of driverless cars? These examples have shown us that no industry, no matter how large and prominent, is immune to disruption.
Before disruption occurs it manifests as a trend, indicating potential gravitational shifts in the consumer market is changing for those who read them correctly. It’s important to distinguish between a trend and a fad, and I usually go about this in one of two ways. Firstly, fads are released to huge fanfare, which has a correspondingly huge response, right at the outset, whereas trends slowly but steadily gather steam. Though some might think that fads are worthy of our attention, the truth is that as quickly as they become popular they diminish even faster. This is because a fad is set up to disappoint when its growth is no longer sustainable. However, fads can contribute to trends in a very big way.
For example, Pokémon Go (for those of you who missed the mania, Pokémon Go is a mobile app with an innovative Augmented Reality (AR)) was a huge hit in July, 2016 with millions of players swarming parks and streets across the country. Two months later, daily users dropped precipitously for Pokémon Go and its popularity could not be sustained. Despite Pokémon Go’s brief time in the spotlight, it has allowed for millions of people to experience what AR is capable of, potentially driving many new innovations in this area in years to come.
Our trend-tracking is presented to our clients as Future Cast™, which is GrowthWorks’ proprietary offering. Though much of our work at GrowthWorks has always included trends, Future Cast takes the trends most relevant to a client and synthesizes it into a compelling report that can be a guidepost for future strategy and innovation. Future Cast is powered by our powerful trend database, which organizes hundreds of consumer trends, both established and emerging, across industries and around the world.
If you’re ever interested in learning more about Future Cast, please contact us at GrowthWorks. We’d love to hear from you.