Following Trends is Underrated
Forecasting and future-proofing are used in almost every area of business today. ‘What’s next?’ is the holy grail question in everything from fashion to finance. Yet when it comes to advertising, lots of us are more comfortable with what consumers are doing and saying now, rather than creating what’s possible for them tomorrow. The comfort zone of research can lead to innovation being stifled if consumers reject what they’re not yet familiar with.
Trend forecasting is more art than science. While research can play a vital role, asking people to respond to new trends will inevitably lead to a rejection of the new or different. Ironically, the people least qualified to comment on how the world is evolving and how their lives will change, are the very people who will be most affected by that change.
Enter the trend forecaster.
When it comes to advertising, trends can often be incorrectly reduced to what’s cool or what’s next. In reality, the job of the trend-hunter is to analyse the market, to look at people’s behaviour- before we consider them consumers, and to weave all the disparate data points into a coherent story. It is one of the most puzzling and interesting parts of human insight – how do trends and changes in taste happen?
Having an interest in multiple facets of culture from travel to music and the arts, has become an expectation for people in agencies, particularly in planning; However, this information is often treated as implicit rather than organised and implemented to help clients business. Trend forecasting is a specific role within the strategy remit that requires the magical blend of data and creativity. This, combined with an ability to paint the future for brands, equips marketers to seize opportunities.
Trends require a leap of faith from clients too. When a trend is identified it can be charted from its early adoption to maturation. Too often brands wait to jump on the bandwagon, resulting in a convergence of creative ideas all talking about the same thing.
Another big pitfall is the supply and demand of trends. As the pace of communications increases and everyone is looking for the next ‘first’, the desire for new trend information is increasing at a pace that outstrips the change in consumer behaviour.
The Future is Female is a trend that is well established. Numerous brands have thrown communications spend behind it with some standout examples, P&G’s (Run Like a Girl?) and Fearless Girl being two notable ones.
Tesco UK are a brand that really hit the mark responding to this trend, one that closely met their values. Tesco UK found an angle on the trend that was relevant to them and had the conviction to follow through. They recently announced that they will not pass on the tax on female sanitary products, resulting in cutting the price of nearly 100 women’s sanitary products by 5%.
Slavishly responding to trends won’t work for every brand. The trap many brands fall into is finding the trend that is relevant to their consumers but doesn’t naturally sit with what they are about. It is vital that brands and agencies identify elements of trends that are relevant to their values or ethos and have the courage to create something that is unexpected.
Kathy Troy is Senior Planner, ROTHCO