The death of trends: the revolution will not be televised

Trends aren’t just about what a section of the cultural elite think is cool. Trends are real, evolving social movements. They don’t obey rules or ask permission. They just are.

Brands need to start listening to real people not just trend agencies

The last year has been one of confounded expectations. A year when pollsters got it wrong and we realised that the stories we tell ourselves aren’t always the truth that many people live.

We’re living in a time when unpredictability is the rule because few organisations ask real people what they think and why. They take sample polls; they make predictions based on past data, but dismiss everyday people when they tell them what they don’t want to hear. This is something that, as marketers, we’d do well to be reminded of. While the beating heart of the industry might reside in the sprawling metropolis of London, the people who buy the products do not. When head trend spotter at a London firm was asked if he’d predicted Brexit, his apparently-un-ironic reasoning for the failure was that he hadn’t asked any Brexit voters, "Brexit voters don’t set trends, they tend to be older. They’re less experimental and don’t live in London" (great article exploring that further, here Brands take note: trends aren't trendy any more). We need to change this. We need to start listening to real people.

Being on trend

We’re used to marketing being about spotting, or being able to forecast the next big thing. Predicting trends acts as a way for brands to bring consumers into what they think they should want, and giving it to them. But do we ever pay consideration to the trends that we as marketers are being influenced by, and how this influences our perception of what our consumers ‘want’? Be it the meteoric rise of the Influencer, the rampant use of ad-blockers or the game changing theories of Byron Sharpe to the increase (and now apparent decrease) of user generated content… it can be excruciatingly hard to keep up with. Almost to the point where I ask… do we need to?

Why trust trumps trends

Let’s take it back for a minute. To a world before Facebook, Video and TV… brands were built based on trust, awareness driven by word of mouth and recommendations from those that held influence. Today, the only update is the scale at which that influence is spread and the channels through which it is broadcast. To succeed in an era where authenticity rules (not a trend – a human trait), marketers need to shift their focus away from trend spotting and towards connecting with, and actually listening to, their consumers – finding out not just how they shop or behave, but what they think.

It’s time to ask ‘ordinary’ people how they feel about ordinary things. The answer won’t always be what you expect or want, but it will be authentic. People define their own reality, and it’s one that brands and agencies cannot ignore. Trends are formed and spread behind closed doors, at the dining tables and every other trusted environment of real, everyday households across the world. The darkest of dark social.

Could the real trend of today (or at the least the real way to identify the relevance of a trend to your audience) be to place an iteration of that trend into the hands of your consumers, the hearts of households across the country, and see what they do with it?

Now, that’s a trend that we could all get behind.

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