How To Spot A Trend Versus A Fad

How To Spot A Trend Versus A Fad

Nils Vesk (pictured below) is an innovation architect who’s delivered programs for some of the most prestigious organisations in the world, including Microsoft, IBM, Commonwealth Bank and Nestle. In this guest post for B&T, he shows you how to spot a lasting trend that’s not merely just another passing fad…

The importance behind learning to differentiate a trend from a fad is that no business wants to waste time and energy developing a new product, just for it to reveal itself further down the line as a short-lived fad. As such, a key skill any innovator must learn is how to identify the difference between the two early on.

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First things first, a fad can be defined as something that people believed would be a long-term trend, but that then disappeared as people quickly lost interest.

So, what is a trend? And why are they so important in business? Often when people hear of trends, they think of a something that appears overnight, becoming instantly popular, before disappearing in the same manner. In actual fact, trends can be longer-term, in some cases sticking around for many years.

In business in particular, it’s crucial to be able to identify trends that will disrupt your industry and capitalise on them before your competition. The ability to do this will give you the head start, allowing you the opportunity to create new products and services and even create a new market by spotting a gap before others.

When it comes to trends, we can break them down into three compartments: uncertainties, disruptors and trends. In business, it’s important to identify the key uncertainties that could impact our customers and industries as a whole. Following this, it is key to then be able to identify is what disruptors are arising, the impacts that they might have and then finally the specific trends that are emerging around or from these drivers and uncertainties.

Here are the five phases of a trend:

  1. Dawning – an emerging trend
  2. Developing – a trend that is gaining momentum and is being developed by various parties
  3. Developed – a trend that is fully fledged and has hit mainstream interest
  4. Decaying – a trend that has done it’s time and is becoming ‘old’ in the mind of users or customers
  5. Discarded – a trend that is no longer in demand and has been superseded by something more exciting, superior, different or by adding new value

Clearly, it makes no sense to begin working on a developed, decaying or discarded trend, but instead to succeed it’s imperative to jump on a dawning or even early stage developing trends. To become an innovator, we must learn how to scan the business world to discover these dawning trends and potential disruptors.

A number of determinants can affect a trend’s duration, including:

  • Differentiation – This refers to how unique and memorable the new trending product or service may be. Differentiation is more important for some industries than others, and can be critical to their success. Essentially, when assessing an emerging trend ask yourself “Is this unique or really different to what currently exists?” as well as “Is this product/ service remarkable i.e. does it give me something to remark about?”
  • Superiority – How well does the product or service compare to its competitors? It’s important to understand how effective and efficient a product is, whether it could be of more value to your audience, and whether it is more affordable than other similar products on the market.
  • Newness – How long has the product or service been on the market? Do your research and see if there are existing similar products on the market. If similar products do exist, when did they first come onto the scene?
  • Performance – How well does the product perform in relation to customer expectations? Does it do what it is advertised to do? Does this satisfy customer needs or desires?
  • Customer community – How does the user or customer community interact with and use the new product or service? How large is the potential audience of this trend? Communities can play a big part in the success of a product or service, and part of this can sometimes be made up by the ‘why’ of the product. Having a cause creates bigger community participation and trend duration and creates purpose for the product. Also ask yourself “Does the trend exclude a crowd?” Some trends are successful simply because they exclude people and therefore appeals a nice/specific customer group and caters to their specific needs/wants which in turn increases the loyalty of the trending product or service.
  • Aesthetics – This refers to how timeless the design of the product or service experience may be. Will the service and its design still be relevant in a few years?
  • Ground-breaking – Does the product cause a total revolution or a simple evolution? Does it solve/alleviate a problem? Will it change peoples’ life in some way? Will this signal the end of an era or create a new one?
  • Market category – Does the trend, product or service create a new market category? Does it extend on current products and services and take a portion of market share, or does it create an entirely new category?

Once you’ve assessed the trend according to the above criteria, you can use a polar chart to map out the impact that a certain trend may have, which is crucial for businesses when deciding whether a trend is worth pursuing.

Vesk will be hosting ‘The Next Big Thing’ Masterclasses throughout May and June in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane where business leaders will discover the trends that will impact their industry, their team and their customers, and how they can capitalise on them.

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Nils Vesk

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