How to stay on top of trends

Are you a hype rider or a farsighted visioner?

The first question that you should ask yourself is why do you even care about trends? How will you use it? We will definitely touch planning horizons in upcoming emails. For now, let’s say different shifts could have different applications, depending on your objectives.

Are you after hype marketing or does the outcome of your project depend on the speed of reaction? Trends are your fuel, your success factor. You should be the first to catch, understand and apply them.

Are you thinking about the future only in the context of strategic reviews and long-term shifts? It should be enough for you to deep dive into a topic couple of times a year. There will be different tools and different sources of information for you to use.

There is 97.5% chance you are not the innovator. But it’s actually a good thing

The future is now. It’s already there, just the distribution is uneven.

I’m sure you’ve heard about Innovation Adoption Cycle. A tiny group of innovators is the first to try everything new. Early adopters are here to catch up. In case it’s good enough, you can see mass followers join the hype, and the next big thing is born. Innovators are already living in the future. They are meeting in VR instead of phone calls and sitting on a diet of superfood spiced with your school chemistry lab favorites. Skeptics are still on the future phones. I know it’s ridiculous, just imagine, they still go to visit each other in person!

So, nope, you are not the innovator. Bringing AR into the store could be a breakthrough for your company, but it will not make headlines anymore. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing. For the majority of us and the roles we play in our companies, real never-been-done innovations are not intended. It just works better for those who are second in line. Don’t reinvent the future, just chase someone who is already there: notice, understand, copy, improve, scale.

There is no need for you to become a trendwatcher. Being a trendwatcherswatcher is definitely good enough.

Trendwatcherswatcher’s yellow pages

Consulting and research agencies

It’s impossible to provide strategic advice without being an expert in potential future scenarios. No surprise, a lot of big companies are building and publishing regular trends reports, using this as PR for their services. Some of the most trustable names here are:

  • Forrester
  • Deloitte
  • Accenture

Industry consultants

Are you looking for some specific knowledge? Check marketing trends from an international advertising agency or food trends from the biggest industry website writing about restaurants business. Some good reports on consumers, media, and trends are usually coming from those agencies (but there are much more).

  • Dentsu
  • Publicis
  • Hootsuite
  • Pinterest

Trendwatching agencies

Trendwatching became a thing a while ago already, so some companies are choosing to focus just on this topic. They are following closely every trend around, creating new methodologies, tools, and education programs. Some of the tops of mind organizations in this area are:

Solo futurists

There are people who build their personal brand around future predictions. It’s hard for one man to compete with the biggest consulting companies. It’s sure is, but there are dozen of experts who are succeeding in this for sure. Just check Bernard Marr. His Forbes articles are often more valuable than the whole 100-pages reports coming from a corporate side.

Signal-focused agencies

While consulting and trend watching agencies are starting from the classic research and statistics approach, there is a different kind of agencies that are answering the call of the modern age. The Internet has already become almost a perfect reflection of the real world. You can judge demand in razors based on Google searches or identify an ideology crisis based on the rising number of tweets with critique. So, new companies are using modern tools and going after big data to highlight something that is happening right here and right now. They could lack on bigger shifts but will be the first to see the tremendous interest in Squid games or track the most popular gifts for upcoming holidays.

This is my recipe for staying on top of trends

Pick the right mix of evergreen content sources

Chop heads and tales. You are only here for trends and trend reports. Make sure the accounts you are following are not posting too much or cover too wide topics (which is usually an issue with consulting and marketing agencies). LinkedIn and Twitter are your best friends here.

Blend in a deep-dive couple of times a year

Follow the trend-report season…

Trend report season is a thing

While trends don’t have attachments to imaginary things like calendars, humans do. So, while trends are not appearing on January 1st, most interest in trend reports is focused around the New Year. Probably, this is the time when most of the companies are reviewing their strategy, reflecting on one year and planning the next one. Trendwatchers watch trends, so they know about this one. No surprise, most of the trend reports are being published starting late October and finishing in late January.

With every rule, there are some exceptions. I would definitely not miss trends from Future Today Institute in March and the most influential trend report on the web by Marie Micker in June.

My secret ingredient: a pinch of thoughts

The future is boiling, and the trends are cracking on the heat of your curiosity. But the result is still bland. Well, there is a final step that you should take. Think! Nope, reading is not the same as thinking. We are consuming so much info, that swallowing content without chewing. Learn to process knowledge, not absorb it for general awareness. My approach to this: read with a list of prepared questions on your side.

1. Ask general trend-related questions. Why is it happening? What does it mean? What will happen next?

2. Make your personal list of the questions that are important to you and what you are doing: What does it mean for me or my business? How this will change my playground? How can I use it to get an advantage? What should I prep to avoid?

3. Turn reading into the system. Don’t rush into content between zoom calls. Write your own study plan and build your learning habits. Dedicate specific time to get through the info, do extra research on the topics you found interesting.

4. Do. Just try stuff. The best way to understand something is to apply it in real life. Join the discussion club, run a pilot, describe your potential startup, write a blog. This will show your real level of knowledge, as well as will raise more questions to research.

With those series of emails, sharing answers was never my first intention. Everything I do is to make you curious and provoke thinking.

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