I Can See Into The Future

November 27, 2012



I can see into the future

Not really. But as a marketer, you have to stay ahead of the curve. Or topically right on it. Or uniquely left of it.

Let’s just say you have to at least know where the curve actually is, so as to position yourself and your brand appropriately in relation to it.

An increasingly effective way to achieve this is to employ trend forecasting. G&C’s client Mindshare offers just that. Their global Scout Network keeps a constant vigil on trends within all aspects of culture including music, design, food and technology.

Innovations that are happening in little coffee shops in Seattle … in the small fashion boutiques of Barcelona’s laneways … on the turntables of Tokyo nightclubs – Mindshare takes all of this and serves it up in bite size chunks for marketers to digest and repurpose for their own brands. The result is Mindshare’s Culture Vulture – a data-rich survey collated and then disseminated via an app.

As any marketer who ever took their eye off the ‘trending’ road for a moment knows, when something hits, it hits big. The trick is to get in first. Nobody wants to be ‘so last year.’ Mindshare’s clients benefit from Culture Vulture’s in-depth global snapshot of all that’s sparking interest across every territory. Their scouts are watching thousands of YouTube clips, attending underground gigs, noshing on new flavour combinations and trawling the internet, all with the aim of finding little ‘difference gems’.

Trend forecasting is particularly useful to help marketers borrow innovation from one channel and use that knowledge to inspire innovation in another. Insights into fashion’s current ‘grunge’ resurgence in Toronto may help drive retro product design for brands in Melbourne, for example.

In some regards, trend forecasts are as much about influencing the future as passively reflecting it. Inform the design industry that custom crafted fonts will be the ‘in thing’ next year, and before Museo Light can cry for help every studio from London to Louisville will be downloading Fontlab Studio. A focus is created. Then demand dictates supply.

Or, to ‘science’ this article up for a second, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states that you cannot objectively observe something without affecting it in the process. In much the same way, observing and reporting on global trends can change and shape them.

Using these forecasts doesn’t necessarily help build a stronger relationship with consumers. Especially if lazy brands do the bare minimum when following the same trends. Ultimately this can only lead to homogenisation and a parting of ways with a bored public. The power of trend forecasting is in its ability to illuminate the sweet spot before something goes mainstream. It’s that particular part of the curve I mentioned.

Likewise, it’s important to point out the difference in marketing influence between a Trend and a Meme. Trends are mid to long term. Memes? Undeniably short term. Take the recent Hurricane Sandy. In a daily forecast Meteorologist James Cisco dubs it Frankenstorm and before a soaked New York knew what was happening, everything was being ‘Franken-ized’. Of course, memes can also provide fruitful jumping off points for short bursts of creativity. But not long term strategies.

So, in the hands of smart marketers, trend forecasting can lead to the continuous pushing of creative boundaries, cross-discipline fertilisation and a collaboration between global markets that bring ideas to channels and consumers that wouldn’t usually see them for a while.

What publications like Culture Vulture offer is truly insightful, with the power lying in smart extensions of its collected ideas. It’s up to the marketer to turn over these stones and discover something new, adding their own twist. That’s where the true creativity happens. You can’t see me, but I’m pointing to it on the curve.