The famous futurist Peter Schwartz calls it “the art of the long view”. Others refer to it as keeping your finger on the pulse. However you describe it, there’s no denying that the key to innovation in your company is understanding consumer trends.
As an insight professional, I’m always asked what trends are in, what trends are out and the hardest of all, what trends are on the way up. Our Millennial insight tracker (State of the Youth Nation) powers a lot of our insights, and I shared '50 of the biggest trends impacting Millennials' at Millennial 2020 last year, but I don’t claim to be a futurist like Peter. However I do believe that examining trends with your business in mind will identify opportunities for the future. Here are three tips to consider when introducing trends into your marketing toolkit.
1. The secret of effective advertising is to reinforce consumer trends rather than initiate them
Contrary to common wisdom, advertising does not set the agenda when it comes to what’s on trend. Advertising reinforces what we already know, creating an environment where we feel comfortable enough to create bonds with a brand. Don’t isolate consumers with a vision that does not relate to their world. Remember, you are the storyteller for your brand.
2. Imagine what your business would be like if the trend you plan to adopt is actually just a fad
Adopting a trend into your business at the right time can give you the upper hand on your competitors and position your organisation as a leader, not a follower. If you have identified a trend that offers your organisation new opportunities e.g. new product development, new pricing strategies, new positioning, and you’ve got your senior stakeholders on board – take a moment to pause. Before you jump in feet first, run through some scenarios whereby the trend you want to adopt suddenly stops. How will this impact your business and will you be prepared?
3. Be discerning with the trends you choose to embrace
Now that the dust has settled on Pepsigate, it is clear that Pepsi did two things wrong. They threw as many youth trends into the pot without thinking about the story they wanted to tell, and they didn’t test the ads with their target consumer as they were working with their in-house agency whose main KPI was to deliver content on a tight timeline. Looking at the ad through an insight lens, you can see at least three big youth trends Pepsi adopted to create the ad:
- Community and social action – Young people are desperate for a sense of belonging and purpose. The inclusive nature of the demonstration featured in the ad has adopted this trend and delivered a seemingly happy ending (albeit a poorly judged)
- Identity fluidity – At the start of the ad Kendall Jenner is working as a model, wearing a blonde wig. She later sheds the wig to reveal her dark hair to join the demonstration, illustrating that you can be a complex person with many sides to your personality. Young people do not want to be labelled or put in a box.
- The authenticity of music - The track used in the ad – Lion - was written and performed by Skip Marley, a grandson of legendary Bob Marley, and it calls for action make a difference and promotes strength and togetherness – “We are the movement, this generation / You better know who you are, who you are” the chorus rings. Using this song, the ad loudly adopts the political message and its authenticity as its own. A marketing trick that will never go out of fashion – just think of the annual John Lewis Christmas ads, the Levi ads from the 90s and the recent This Girl Can ad which featured Missy Elliot.
To conclude, trends have the power transform your business and you would be a fool to ignore them. Trends will not just tell you what’s happening now but help you reshape the future, give you a ‘heads up’ on any risks that might be around the corner and, when used well, they will give you the competitive edge. We'll be counting down 50 of the biggest trends impacting Millennials at Millennial 2020, and re-running the presentation in an exclusive webinar. Don't miss out!