We all know that things are changing at an accelerated pace and we as marketers must stay as many steps ahead as possible or else our very survival will be challenged. Crystal ball gazing, forecasting techniques all help but the past is no more a good predictor of the future because change today is discontinuous. And at each of these discontinuities lies a trend that gives an insight into the shape of things to come. According to John Naisbitt, author of Mega Trends, trends start at the intersection of economic, technological, social and political changes. What this means is that shifts in demographics, incomes, technology and consumer values signal a paradigm shift. And this has implications for marketers in terms of product innovations, communication, distribution, packaging and price. A trend is not a fad, it has a significant consumer segment impact and lasts till the next change comes along or just stays. Let us look at some examples; as connectivity improves with technology, traffic navigation becomes an ordeal, and public spaces become places for terrorists and activists to hold countries and governments to ransom, people want to stay at home – a trend labeled cocooning. This gave birth to a whole host of products for entertainment and comfort at home; aromatherapy, home entertainment theatre, plasma and LCD television, gaining popularity of films on Television, proliferation of alternative channels, satellite television, Direct-to-home, VCRs and DVD players. What are some of the changes happening around you? See if you can spot the trend or trends behind this.

Most of us are aware of trends such as value for money (reflected in value packs, sachets and refills), leisure seeking (holiday packages), ready-to-try (ready-made-mixes for different cuisines, new restaurants). Some other interesting global trends that have been spotted are;
Masters of the Youniverse – Noticed how the young people today when asked about their role models almost always say that they want to be their own person. They admire and look up to different people but want to forge their own unique personality. Consumers want control over their destiny and today it is offered to them in many ways. Earlier the car was a symbol of coming of age as it offered freedom, mobility and independence. The cell phone is today’s car. The travel and hospitality industry is a good example of how to make the consumer feel he is in charge; no-frill airlines allow easy get-aways, budget hotels provide 5star comforts at affordable prices. All this makes for planned spontaneity-You can go where you want, when you want.

Gravinity – This is graffiti combined with vanity. Today everybody wants his 15 minutes of fame. More and more friends are sending personalized cards with pictures of family and holidays and homes during Christmas or New Year. Be-a-bag offers customers an opportunity to create a personalized bag with the picture of whosoever they want on the bag. It started as a charity drive with celebrities printing their pictures on bags and putting them up for auction. M&M offers to create personalized candy with whatever name and picture you want to put on the packaging. Eyetoy is a camera placed on the television set that plugs into PlayStation2. This allows the player to be the protagonist in any video game that is being played.

Generation C – Today the consumer is not a passive being. As CK Prahalad, in his book Co-creating the Future suggests manufacturers create products but value is created along with consumers. C stands for content, consumers want products that will allow them creative expression. Today there are camcorders that allow every consumer to be an amateur film- maker. There are sites that allow you to publish a book all for $10 and put it on the Net for instant reach. There are sites that allow you to make your own music album and market it on the Net.

Branded Brands – Brands are coming together to bring the best of their expertise. For example, Philips has launched a Senso Philips coffee maker that offers the best of coffee beans and coffee making. Swaroski has tied up with Nokia to offer a mobile studded with as many Swaroski crystals as your favourite songs. Branded brands help differentiate brands by raising their perception of performance by using the synergies of the best in class.
And if you thought this is happening only in the West, think again, because the world is becoming a global village. Furthermore, these trends may be manifesting themselves in other ways in your local enviroment.
Whichever industry you may be, it is time to check whether you are part of the trend.