One of the most ubiquitous terms in all of marketing today is “trend.” Everyone is interested in what’s trending, as in what’s popular and growing in popularity; or conversely what’s trending downward or decreasing in size or popularity.
The interest in trends to the brand marketer is obvious, because as the old expression goes, “you fish where the fish are.” And studying economic, demographic or cultural trends are usually a good indicator of where the fish are gathering in greater numbers.
Although the word “trend” has been around forever and means “an inclination in a general direction,” many surmise that the current “trend in trends” has been driven by social media as a general metric of performance of topics or issues. So roughly since 2005 with the advent of Facebook, we’ve been in full-fledged trend-mode. Researchers have also been quick to adopt the trend mindset as a means of articulating forecasted outcomes for the brands that employ them that are either going up or down.
Brands are indeed viewed in the context of their surroundings. And we are all surrounded by huge, over-arching mega-trends in the marketplace. Brands that ignore these in how they operate, manufacture, distribute, package or communicate do so at their peril, or at the very least, at the sacrifice of their own growth.
However, brands that fail to ask the hard questions “before boarding a trend bandwagon” are equally at risk. Depending on the part of the world your brand is marketed, these may vary in intensity. However, here are some noteworthy mega-trends every brand marketer should be cognizant of:
- Concern about climate change: This affects virtually every decision from sustainable manufacturing practices, responsible resource use, recycling and ingredient transparency, to name a few.
- Quest for social responsibility: This includes gender, race and sexual preference equality, corporate responsibility for social causes, freedom from injustice, and others.
- Connectedness with the world: Enabled by digital technology, the “Internet of Things,” data-monitoring technology you wear, smart communication devices, social media, etc.
- Personal health responsibility: This includes dietary choices, desire for fitness, to home environment quality, to health care.
Mega-trends are driven by demographic groups (such as LOHAS–Lifestyles Of Health and Sustainability), by media-driven public opinion, or by scientific and technological advancements, among other conditions.
Each one of these mega-trends precipitates other sub-trends within various categories or industries where brands can take a leadership, trend-setting role. For example:
- Epson trend setting computer printing.
- Amazon trend setting online shopping.
- Wholefoods trend setting organic produce and products as superior to GMO’s.
- Interface trend setting sustainable manufacturing in flooring.
- Nike trend setting fitness.
- Anytime Fitness trend setting fitness centers.
- The Home Depot trend setting do-it-yourself home improvement.
- Match.com trend setting online dating.
- Tesla trend setting electric automobiles.
These are all great brands because they practice solid brand strategy. And because of that, they became known as trendsetters. Would the world have gravitated toward personal computing, online shopping, healthier eating habits or sustainable manufacturing practices anyway, without these brands? Yes, probably. But these brands didn’t just ride the wave of change; they made the waves by being strong brands that exhibit purpose, innovation and differentiation. And because of their ensuing success at becoming trendsetters through category disruption, others have followed their lead or attempted to follow.
But the challenge for trendsetters is to remain that way, lest they disappoint their brand loyal consumers, opinion makers and shareholders. Some trendsetting brands have set the bar so high that introducing anything less than the next “breakthrough” product is met with ho-hum enthusiasm, as in the case of Apple. Brands must always remember that trend setting, just as success, is a journey, not a destination.
Just as the goal of a social media platform is not a million followers; it is the result of being a helpful, interesting and content-rich platform. Likewise, being a trend-setting brand is not the goal of a brand; it is the outcome of being a great brand.
And the marketplace rewards great, trend-setting brands with a trend of its own … trend-setting growth.
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Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education