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10-point guide to becoming a trend expert

Are trend gurus drowning in an ocean of their own opinion? Has the word trend become oversubscribed? Here's how to tell a real trend expert from a fake to achieve instant trend cred in 2014.
© duron123 via FreeDigitalPhotos
As a rule I don't read anything on Linkedin, but a recent post by someone called Bec O'Brien, insight director at UK brand consultants Haines McGregor posing the question "Are trends becoming redundant?" intrigued me enough to flag the email before deleting it. In her post O'Brien questions whether trends have become redundant due to the fact that the "proliferation of data, blogs and relevant sites on the net means that people attach less worth to them".

At the time, her query elicited 45 responses from like-minded consultants, strategists, and trend analysts, all agreeing to varying degrees that speed, data overload, and the fact that unless you can explain to clients how to monetise a trend it will probably not meet with much favour, as having led to this state of affairs.

Noteworthy response came from a management consultant, Peter Johnston, who cites what he calls "The decline of the expert" claiming the fact that "people can now multi-source information" as the reason why any single expert is given less credibility.

Are trend gurus like the branding gurus and social media gurus before them drowning in an ocean of their own opinion or has the word trend just become oversubscribed?

10-point guide

Here follows my 10-point guide for companies and brands wanting to tell a real trend merchant from a fake and some things that aspirant trend setting companies and brands might need to know in pursuit of trend cred:
  1. A real trend forecaster knows how to scan the entire world (not only their own sector) for trends and can advise you how to harness and apply these to your business to gain a competitive edge.
  2. Real trend forecasters understand timing - too early and you may have to wait a while to gain traction, too late and it's not really a trend anymore but more of a existing market condition.
  3. A real trend forecaster exists in a space where instinct meets insight and doesn't pay too much attention to data (gasp!). Well I mean if the stuff hasn't happened yet, what you going to use?
  4. A real trend forecaster knows that a trend is nothing mysterious and doesn't involve reading tea leaves, it is not much different from a long term game plan - a combination of playing to your strengths, anticipating the competition and not being afraid to ice the whole with a smattering of cutting edge stuff.
  5. A real trend forecaster knows that padding out an activation or presentation with new age terminology does not make it a trend.
  6. A real trend forecaster knows that you cannot catch a trend wave with same-old, last year, incremental, copy cat, wait-and-see or derivative thinking.
  7. Anyone can pull information off the web, a real trend forecaster knows that capitalising on trends means being brave enough to put aside a myopic "what's in front of my eyes" approach and look beyond the existing market realities to new possibilities.
  8. A real trend forecaster knows that anything trending on Twitter is already history, not a trend!
  9. A real trend forecaster knows that leveraging trends needs to be undertaken with with bullish enthusiasm, stealth, confidence and passion (you can see why few committees get on top of trends). Ironically when all the above are in place all the people out there looking for the next trend will see what you're doing, think "hey that's cool..." and try and copy you and Lo! you'll be setting trends not following them.
  10. Following all the above will ensure you can become a bona fide trend guru in your own right. Done with enough conviction, it will take a long time for the trend wannabes to catch up with you, by which stage you'll have repeated the process and be waving from your yacht.
Bonus trend spotter tip: a real trendsetter will already have already leapfrogged 2014 trends and be able to tell you what will be trending in 2015-2016 and beyond.

So, in answer to Bec's question, I don't think trends are becoming redundant or ever will.

About Terry Levin

Founder of multi-disciplinary agency OfftheShelf. Talk to us about case studies of growing legacy African brands for the future. We are Afrophiles offering strategic brand design and architecture, brand content, standout activations and more. Currently acting as creative director at large. Email , follow @terrylevin on Twitter, view her photos on Instagram, connect on or LinkedIn.
Neo Marumo-Mphaphuli
“Instinct meets insight" so true as trend analyst and strategist alike are meant to carve a channel for brands to typify cultures. To merely monitor is not sufficient but we should ensure clients services, products imitate sub cultural influences; cultural nuances that effect consumer behaviour and purchasing. Peter Drucker holds marketing practitioners by stating “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself”.
Posted on 12 Mar 2014 09:15
Terry Levin
Thanks for your comments, Neo, appreciate your opinion and input! Taking note of cultural influences is a big part of what trend spotting is all about!
Posted on 12 Mar 2014 11:43
John Sanei
Trend spotting on its own is redundant, innovation on its own is redundant and advertising/marketing on its own is redundant. What the marketplace needs or should I say what hyper-informed consumers need, are brands that combine all of the above. We’ve coined a term called Trenovate which we think should be used whenever there’s a reference to trends and innovation, because one without the other is like a carriage without a horse. With the market place shifting, we need to be shifting even faster to make sure we stay relevant and authentic.Love the post - thanks for sharing it.
Posted on 13 Mar 2014 16:03


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