Be a Trend Spotter
Estimated Lesson Time: 5 minutes
In the movie, You’ve Got Mail, Meg Ryan plays Kathleen Kelly, the owner of a small, children’s bookstore in a big city. Tom Hanks plays Joe Fox, an executive and heir to the Fox Books superstore empire, who opens one of his superstores in the same neighborhood. After months of fighting, picketing and protesting, Kathleen is forced to close the business that served the neighborhood for over 40 years. Joe was profiting from the book superstore trend while Kathleen was living in denial. Joe was a trend spotter, and Kathleen was a trend fighter.
In marketing, there are trends and there are fads. A trend is the general direction in which the market tends to move. This move is characterized by a new way of doing business, the changing needs of customers and/or a new product or style that makes an older product or style obsolete or near obsolete. A fad is a specific change in the market characterized by great enthusiasm and lasting only a short period. A trend usually does not generate as much enthusiasm and lasts significantly longer than a fad. The “Tickle Me Elmo”™ doll many years back was a fad. It was almost impossible to find one in the weeks before the 1996 holiday season; then sure enough, after the holiday rush, toy store shelves were overstocked with these annoying, overpriced false icons. Barbie®, on the other hand, is a trend that started in the 1960’s and is still going strong today.
Become a trend spotter, not a trend fighter. In business, you must adapt and work with trends to be successful. Knowing how to spot trends can give you an advantage over your competition, help you to save your business, or help you to become a millionaire. It is equally important to be able to spot the fads and know the difference between a fad and a trend. You can profit from fads providing you have a short-term strategy in mind or choose to ignore fads and choose not to sweat over the temporary impact they may have on your industry or business.
How to spot a trend, how to spot a fad, and how to tell the difference. Back in 1995, I was one of the fortunate people who immediately saw the Internet, not for what it was, but what it was going to be. The Internet is a trend that significantly changed the way we live. Although, at the time, there were some who called the Internet a fad and saw us moving back more toward a paper-dependent society. Since the future is unknown, I did consider the possibility that I could have been one of the many delusional people in business who refuse to recognize trends as fads, fads as trends, or accept trends or fads altogether, simply because they do not want to believe it. However, reflecting on this in 2015, I am pretty sure I was right. :)
Here are some suggestions to help you spot trends and fads and be able to tell the difference.
- Use your intuition. What does your “gut” tell you? You may not be able to verbalize a good reason why you feel the way you do, but you just have a feeling.
- Be a visionary. Look beyond today to the future. Play life out in your mind six months, six years or 60 years. How do you see this influence in the marketplace?
- Use your common and business sense. Common sense could have told most of us that the Pet Rock was going to be an item the world could live without. Our business sense could have told us that people would pay $3.95 for an average rock for only so long.
- Do not fall victim to industry hype. Trade magazines are full of articles and ads boasting the next greatest thing since perforated toilet paper. Those with the most money can usually generate the greatest buzz, but it takes a good idea to really catch on and become a fad or a trend.
- Put yourself in the customers’ shoes. As a customer in the marketplace, how do you see this new market influence? Is this something you feel you will need? Your children will need? Your grandchildren? Is your desire for this due mostly to “market buzz”?
Spotting trends and fads in the marketplace, especially before others, can put your business ahead of the competition by putting you first in the minds of the consumers. By spotting trends and fads as an individual, you can act on new opportunities that can bring you success beyond your wildest dreams.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)