In this guest post, Travis Bernard (pictured below), head of audience development from TechCrunch, shows you how to pick digital trends that won’t all have gone the way of the dodo in six months’ time…
Every smart marketer wants to pick the trends from the fads. They want to know where to direct their investment, what technology to develop on, where to spend limited time and how to avoid investing in the next flash in the pan which is short lived and has no long term strategic value.
But there is no magic formula to distinguish a trend from a fad. In fact, it could be argued that all fast growing new ideas, whether they be products, features, user behaviour or an app, start as a fad and only when they reach critical mass, do they become a viable trend.
The Role of fads
Importantly, fads can play a critical role, acting as a spring board for a future trend and being a stepping stone in the creation of the trend. As the technology gets tightened, usage increases and the price decreases. But fads are wrought with technical hiccups so although they can give a company short-lived publicity, they are generally a costly and temporary option.
Three ways to identify a trend
- Go with your gut: Does it feel right, will it clearly add value and does it make sense?
- Look at the information around the trend: Look at the data, usage and how technology is evolving. Also consider the relationship with other trends.
- Research and Test: Consider what has worked in the past and why and learn from failures. The trend needs to be a good fit for your product and audience and come along at the right time.
Case in Point
Using the method above, we can look at the increasing numbers of social video views, the uptake of live video and couple it with mobile usage stats to see that neither vertical or horizontal video are ticking all the boxes. Add to this the small percentage of videos watched with sound on and the success of trials with square video sharability and this trend ticks all the boxes and has important implications for digital marketers both for how videos are created, but also produced and published.
If you identify a new technology that you think will become a trend, you don’t need to sit back and wait. You need to “Start experimenting”.
Virtual reality is a great example of a technology that won’t completely take off this year, but other things like interactive ads will be a springboard for VR and companies that are playing in the space now will be leading the way.
But being first isn’t always the best. In the same way that being first with a startup doesn’t guarantee that you will succeed. There are a number of factors at play and ultimately the timing has to be right for a trend to take off.
We also know that a new trend won’t be the same as something else, it needs to be significantly better than what already exists.
Livel.ly is a good example of a popular app that looks to be turning into a trend amongst teenagers. It builds on other trend elements such as user generated content, live streaming and video sharing, whilst incorporating potential for other popular functionality to be added like selfie lenses and stickers.
The bottom line is that trends are not only hard to predict, they are hard to come by. Chances are that only once in a blue moon could you adopt a fad and ride it through to transition into a trend. More often, it’s not until a technology driven trend has hit critical mass that most businesses get involved. Business leaders need to be flexible and open to new opportunities that are a good fit for their business, and ultimately stay focused on what’s best for their customers.