Predicting Trends Like A Pro

Predicting Trends Like A Pro

I was walking around New York City the other day with a friend who was visiting from out of town. As we walked into a chic Soho coffee shop, my friend squealed and whispered “So trendy!” Later, while we were browsing an antique shop, she again noted the “trendy” nature of not only the shop, but also of the humans inhabiting the shop. She pointed to a woman’s scarf, saying “What a trendy scarf!” Later that evening, after commenting yet again on the trendy nature of a random New Yorker, I jokingly asked her, “What’s up with you and the word ‘trendy’?” We had a chuckle and went on with our night. But I think there is a valuable marketing lesson to be learned from my friend’s repetitive observation of seemingly trendy people, places, and things: Trends are everywhere.

When it comes to the marketing world, it is generally understood that there are two main ways in which a company can spot trends in their field. The first option is to hire a professional familiar with the sociological and psychological aspects of consumer experience to track all of the trends relevant to one’s business. The second option is far cheaper and simpler than the first: track trends by encouraging your employees to observe weak signals. Weak signals are elements of popular culture that can be observed but are not yet strong enough to be considered proper trends.

If you think of a trend in popular culture as a gorgeous palm tree, then it makes sense that you’d be able to spot this trend before it is in full bloom. You’d surely first see its budding sprouts, its elongating trunk, its first leaves. The same goes for cultural trends. Before it is a full-fledged phenomenon, its weak signals can still be observed if you look in the right places.

So what does a trend hunter look like in action? To start, a trend hunter is extremely social. They’re out in the park taking a walk, talking to strangers at bars, strolling through new shops and cafes, and engaging in interesting conversations on Twitter and Instagram. They are doing what we all do, but they are also observing on a deep level. They are making notes and taking photos as they go about their days.

And here is the great thing: The best trend hunters are already working for you! They are your employees. Employees of a brand or company know the ins and outs of their industry and will pick up on these weak signals if they are observant throughout their daily life. And when you combine the discoveries of your employees and colleagues with the knowledge and data of the professionals, that is when you will not only define a weak signal, but will also predict the next major trend.

Take L’Oreal for example. Employees at L’Oreal noticed the weak signals that would become the huge trend that is festival style. L’Oreal employees observed a plethora of photos and posts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook related to young people enjoying the festivities at music festivals. The observation of this weak signal led the beauty brand to produce the Mega Volume Miss Hippie Mascara whose campaign promised that the product’s mega fuzzy brush with kaleidoscopic bristles coat lashes layer by layer for feathery mega volume and festival-ready lashes. This product was entirely the product of L’Oreal’s ability to predict a trend based on its employee’s observations of the weak signals that would become the festival trend.

Does mascara really have anything to do with festivals? Not really. Do I want to buy this mascara before I go to a festival? Definitely.