The role of a trend watcher is not only to identify, interpret and wrap trends in a beautiful story that fascinates and inspires listeners. When I give lectures at home and abroad, I make sure that I use my trend stories to inform, entertain and, sometimes, shock those present to provoke reactions. But above all I want to stimulate the audience to think deeply about all the changes that are coming their way and how they can approach the future in a realistic and hopefully positive way.
After all, trends are about processes of change that ultimately result in innovations that should make our lives a little bit easier. This also means that the role of the 21st century trendwatcher is shifting. Not only is he a good storyteller and inspirer, but his role is evolving in the direction of a guide and coach who helps companies to make trend analysis. This allows the CEO, marketeer, product manager, innovation specialist or product designer to shape new valuable trend implementations or innovations with specialized teams.
Which trend to choose?
The question, of course, is how to approach such a trend analysis? You start from a current consumer trend that is in line with your current business operations, your vision, mission and values. From this trend you can develop an innovative idea, product, service or even business model and vision. Currently there are about 12 consumer trends that we distinguish worldwide in all cultures and economies, ranging from the search for new status symbols, our universal quest for self-improvement, the increasingly prominent role of technology in all layers of the economy, our love for the local, but also the importance of safety in our personal lives, our food and our offline and online identity, and so on.
You must choose one of these 12 consumertrends and that consumer trends has an average lifespan of 5 to 10 years. After that the trend shifts and you either get a countertrend or this trend will become less important and another trend will become more dominant. Once you have chosen the trend, you formulate in a clear and unambiguous way, which are the basic human needs, which are at the basis of this trend development. Do not only take into account the basic needs and consumer desires, but also the changing basic values and standards, which are at the basis of this trend. Milton Rokeach’s book The Nature of Human Values is still a strong guide for discovering the basic values.
In the next phase, I challenge you to find out what the drivers of change are. We will split these drivers of change into long-term changes and short-term triggers. The long term change factors refer to the deeper societal trends, which we catalogue as DESTEP (demography, economy, social and cultural factors, technology, ecology and political-institutional components)
In this way we can very clearly distinguish demographic trends, such as the growth of the world population, urbanisation, the ageing population, the multicultural society, the emancipation of women, generational differences, and so on.
These trend factors influence each other. Globalization, for example, affects demography, but also the economy, ecology and politics.
So we do catalogue, but we take into account the interaction between these trend factors. In the trend analysis, it is essential to determine the trend factors that influence your chosen consumer trend. You describe and document this process in a clear way.
In addition, there are the short-term triggers. This is what’s currently happening with your trend. In order to know this and to map it out, you have to use various sources, such as f.e. mainstream news media and specialist trade media. You activate Google Alerts with keywords, but you also look at the development of certain patents, you study or order market research studies and you also activate your field research.
Inspiration and growing consumer expectations
A thorough trend analysis also takes growing consumer expectations into account. The question you have to ask here is what consumers/customers expect from the innovations within your trend choice. And keep in mind that consumers and customers are continuously raising the bar in their expectations, because they can easily compare in an oversupply of products and services that might give just that little extra. Today, the market has become hypertransparent and is evolving at the speed of light. Consumers are sometimes apathetic, sometimes demanding, but above all ruthless if their expectations are not met.
A strong trend analysis is also creative and therefore looks for inspiration. Inspiration are examples of best practices from competitors, but inspiration can easily come from other sectors or from other countries and continents. Study these examples, possibly order these products, make use of these services, analyse their strengths and weaknesses and select the take aways for your new trend implementation.