What is it about trends that send us all into paroxysms of frantic activity? What’s worse is that the activity is usually of the catch-up variety, because once something has been identified as a trend, the train has already left the station. The best we can do is join the general bandwagon!

Think about it. Read the Wall Street Analyst reports. Check out the business section of your local newspaper or journal. Watch CNN Business. It’s almost frightening that the same people who brought us the “dotbomb” bubble are at it again – predicting, pontificating, forecasting and prophesising – graphing trends and hoping they’re not mere fads whilst ignoring the lowly users and buyers who scratch their heads in wonderment at it all.

Trends are funny things. When and where do they begin and when and where do they end? What makes something a trend versus a fad or a market force versus just the way things are? And if trends are how you make money, how do you get in early enough and out before it all falls off of the cliff?

I find it amusing that Retail is being treated like a trend; so is listening to music and watching movies. I am being a bit facetious here, but the point is clear. New channels don’t change the essential human needs, desires, or actions. They add new opportunities and rarely kill off the old.

For example, had you believed the mega-multi million dollar a year analysts of 10 years ago, there would be no retail stores left in the world today. The “trend” was taking all transactional business to the Internet. Yet as of Christmas 2005, only 6% of total retail is being conducted via the web. By the way, I don’t mean “only” as a negative. I think that’s amazing and it’s growing, but brick and mortar outlets are growing as well; and online, brick and click is still the accepted norm.

Music is no different. I-Pods are just the latest tool in our desire to have music at our fingertips, and the success of Harry Potter proves once again that content is the channel driver and that personal need or preference trumps tech fads any day.

Back to my quandary – how do we manage trends? How do we monetize them? How do we not lose money on them?

Seems to me that trends run their course, or not, depending on the human condition and need. We have to separate all of the strands that go into the making of trends. What is the motivation? What is the channel? What is the technology? What is the need?

The following kind of sums it up:

“An extrapolation of the trends of the 1880’s would show today’s cities buried under horse manure.”
Norman Macrae

So what was the trend? It was exploding populations, expanding geographies, the need to transport more and more goods, better roads, better technology for wagons; but the trend was not horses – make sense?

Pull apart a trend. Explicate it. Hold it up to the critical light of what it really means. Then, as you examine its key components, see where you/we can add value and drive business. My bet? – It ain’t where you might think!

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