Sometimes the truly great and talented are not recognised in their own lifetimes. Sometimes they are plainly ahead of the times and ahead of their peers. Although being ahead sounds like a good thing, when it comes to trends, getting the timing right is more important.
Today Vincent van Gogh’s painting are sold at record prices, but he sold only two during his lifetime. JS Bach’s compositions were mainly unrecognised and while Keats’ poems are some of the most studied in English literature today, he did not enjoy the acclaim while still alive. (Read more) Closer to home, in 1928 famous landscape artist, JH Pierneef exhibited Cubist-style works that, while receiving high acclaim today, got such bad reviews back then, that he reverted to his old style. (Read more)
In business, it is very important to successfully address consumer preferences and trends. Trends are social commentary and how consumers spend their time and money is a reflection on society and the state of the world. To be more successful with what you sell, you need to identify and then capitalise on the wants and needs of the consumer. But the key to reading the trends and responding to them, lies in the timing.
Perhaps you are well-travelled, well-informed and with the insight to foresee trends. Adapting your offering to suit these trends before the consumer has realised the need, you might find yourself facing the same dilemma as Pierneef. You are ready but the consumer is not. If you have to survive financially, you might then do what Pierneef did. Revert to your old style to keep the customer happy and the money flowing. Sometimes being ahead of the times can put you behind in business.
But we also know that staying behind in today’s fast-moving world is not an option. If you are not on top of trends and have to catch up with competitors, you have an uphill battle. With brand loyalty a scarce commodity, not addressing consumer requirements in a timeous way, will cost you dearly.
In truth, most of us react to trends. We realise that relaxation is important to the consumer, so we react with new experiential offerings. We see that the trend is for fusion in alcoholic drinks, so we infuse gin with fynbos, cannabis-infused drinks are on their way and in Ireland you can now get vodka and Red Bull-infused pork sausages… Removing or reducing elements (especially from food and drink) to improve health, leads to the exclusion of sugar, alcohol, fat, carbohydrates and the new plant-based food focus. The increasing demand for immediate reaction, seamless transaction and better efficiency, makes us all open online shops, introduce cashless options and in China you can even pay by just smiling.
Ideally, you want to set the trend. In this instance, you also need to have exceptional insight – in the world, the economy, social patterns, technology and politics. And you need this insight before the rest of your competitors. What makes this different to those who are ahead of the time, is that it is not only about identifying and addressing, but also about interpretation. There is something really creative and authentic about leading a new way, understanding where the trend comes from and how it will play out. And then to time it perfectly.
When you are a trendsetter, you make consumers aware of a need. Your adapted offering or new product answers a need they realise they have when they see the product or learn about the experience. This is clever. This is what creates brand power.
Trend-watching is a popular activity when a new year looms and it is about much more than fashion and fads. The world is ever-changing and trends hold power and potential for business. If you treat them carefully, with insight, interpretation and innovation they can change your world.
Here are a few trend forecasts for 2019: