As some of you may know, the team at Smoking Gun love a good trend. But forget some of our questionable fashion styles, I’m talking about consumer trends. Trends that lead to the clever insight driven creative we recommend to our clients week in, week out.
So when my MD, Rick, asked if I’d like to attend the latest Trendwatching seminar, it’s fair to say I was a little excited…
A quick read of the seminar guide and I was promised I’d leave with lots of compelling ideas, an overview of the big consumer trends trends happening right now, insights into how others are applying trends, a robust process for generating trend-inspired ideas and a greater understanding of how to think differently.
Wow, I thought – all that in one day??! With these seminars The Ambassador is surely spoiling us.
So off I went, down to London, to hone my trends and insight skills.
The session was packed with inspirational speakers from David Mattin, Head of Trends & Insights at trendwatching.com, to Julia Hobsbawm, co-founder of Editorial Intelligence.
So, what were the key takeouts from the day?
First of all, we determined what a consumer trend is –
‘A consumer trend is a new manifestation among people – in behaviour, attitude, or expectation – of a fundamental human need, want or desire.’
The secret to spotting these trends and being ready to act on the opportunities they present, lies in identifying points of tension between what people want and what is currently available.
But future vision doesn’t come from asking customers what they want, it comes from looking at game changing innovations in the world and the expectations they are cultivating.
From Apple’s iPad to 3D printing and driverless cars – all of these were game changing innovations that fulfilled different consumer desires – desires they probably never knew they even had.
So what are some of the key consumer trends happening right now we need to be aware of for our clients? Well, seen as you asked, I’m going to share with you my five favourite trends from the trendwatching.com seminar –
1. Traditional demographic segments are losing relevance in modern society – consumers are not behaving how they ‘should’. The result of access to an increasingly global culture, a more socially liberal society, the ability to access more experiences and a desire to be someone has driven this shift in behaviour. This has lead to innovations such as Apple’s ethnically diverse emoji characters and Selfridges’ ‘A-gender shop project’, to mention just two.
2. Another trend I found really interesting and rather funny was the notion of the ‘expectation economy’ trend, and how we are becoming increasingly accustomed to what we have and how quickly the extraordinary becomes ordinary… We all do it without realising!
Take taxi brand Uber for example – they shared global research from the brand’s HQ, showing a number of cities where Uber had a presence and the time people were willing to spend waiting for a taxi before the company launched in that city, and after. The results showed that since Uber came to the city, patience when it came to waiting for a taxi had declined significantly! The results were reflective across every city.
3. Two-way transparency trend – in a world where the power lies in the hands of the consumer many brands are now looking at ways to rate and reward good customers. From Art Series Hotel rating guests and rewarding the best with prizes, to Pret’s freebie allowance for employees to bestow on friendly guests – this trend is all about inciting positive desired behaviour from the audience. I bet if you go to Pret for a coffee knowing this, you’ll be friendlier to the staff because there’s a possibility you’ll get a free coffee!
4. We also heard about the maturing of the peer to peer economy and how forward-thinking brands are harnessing their network of connected peers to their advantage in what’s known as ‘Peer Armies’ trend. A great example of this is beer brand, Skol – during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, they recruited super fans to share a beer with a local who would act as a tour guide during the event. Those that took part were gifted t-shirts and beer.
5. Last but not least, one trend more and more brands are leaning towards is the notion of guilt-free consumption. It might be an idealised picture, but in a world where consumers are completely switched on to how their purchase decisions impact the environment, brands are increasingly looking for ways to create a positively legitimate indulgence.
Take eco-friendly spring water brand Treeson for example, not only does the brand plant a tree for every bottle purchased, but they’ve created a handy bottle that can be easily flattened and returned for free, which is then recycled. You can even track your own tree in the rainforest via the brand’s app.
What’s great about all of these trends, and the other eleven we heard about on the day, is that you can adapt them to any industry. Ultimately it’s about your organisation and where it wants to go.