The Art of Trendspotting

Spot and capitalize on opportunities others might miss by better understanding the nature of trends.

The easiest types of trends for business leaders to mistakenly dismiss are "the ones on the opposite end of the spectrum of what they're looking for," according to Robyn Waters, author of The Hummer and the Mini and a former trendspotter for Target and other major clients.

"Let's say you're in the beverage business, and there's a huge trend toward bigger bottles and mass packaging. Too often, people ignore the opposite end, like the mini cans," Waters says. "If you're going after a trend, don't discount a trend that's just as valid but to a different consumer. There's interesting insight in that middle ground between awareness of opposing trends."

Waters warns that a trend has no standard timeframe before it becomes the "new normal," just a bell curve that can be followed from pre-peak to peak, post-peak, and outgoing.

"Sometimes that peak is really sharp, which indicates a fad that peaks fast and disappears," she says, "while the bigger cultural trends are like big plateaus that go on forever, although they can have some spikes as well." She urges associations to spend time understanding where they are in a particular trend's bell curve and use that information to make decisions about such issues as pricing and inventory.

What do trends that come and go teach us about which trends are up and coming? "Trends are signposts pointing to what's going on in the hearts of customers," Waters says. "Even though a trend is done, it's an indicator of the mindset of the customer, and to understand that is to know in what direction to go and how fast to move to the next stage of your business development."

Kristin Clarke is a writer, editor, and researcher for ASAE. Email: [email protected]