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From fashion to music, trends and fads come and go. However, what separates a fad from a trend is staying power. Trends tend to gain widespread momentum, while fads appear in contained bursts appealing to a smaller group or entity.
As a marketer, being able to spot trends provides you with an edge to get in on the ground level before your competition. At the same time, depending too heavily on fads can be costly especially if you jump on the bandwagon after everyone else has moved on. Here are some tips to help you differentiate a trend from a fad so that you maintain credibility in your industry.
Trends gain momentum, and fads fade. One of the most telling differences between a trend and a fad tends to be how fast something gains momentum.
A fad catches on very quickly because it has a shallower appeal. It could be Troll Doll hairstyles for male fashion models, Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” or a technology like Betamax formats for videotapes.
A trend will often lie “sleeping” and only be noticed by the most prominent thought leaders. It won’t necessarily catch on right away because it takes some thought and also some progress to become completely feasible. A fad is there, used, and gone.
An excellent way to look at trends versus fads is diets. More and more people have embraced a healthier lifestyle via healthier diets. The idea of making healthier eating choices is a trend. However, the many diets that come along with it are fads.
Consumer rights can also help show something has become a trend, not a fad. For example, right now, consumer rights revolve around privacy.
People are becoming more and more militant about how their information is accessed and used. This shows that social media platforms are here to stay and will continue to grow. P
erhaps the most telling of all were changes made to digital marketing introducing permission-based marketing. Email and text marketing can’t possibly be fads with laws created to dictate how these modes of communication can be used.
Watching for changes to consumer rights legislation can help identify a marketing trend.
Technology and the Death of a Salesman
Technology has also played a key role in establishing trends. Fads can be marked with little whims to indulge users, such as certain types of mouse or keyboard designs or the use of apps, whereas the digital world itself has gained momentum over time.
Since 2005, the number of households with computers has risen from 27.6% to 48.3%. The arrival of computers in the home has changed the way companies sell. Where sales were once driven by the product and making customers see why they need a specific item, today’s marketers have to shift their way of thinking away from the sales pitch and pay more attention to what their customers want.
Technology allows the consumer to dictate their specific needs so that the salesperson knows what to give them. The sale is almost already made by the time lead generation happens.
The ability to collect data directly from consumers and businesses is easier than ever, providing marketers with deeper experience and knowledge to identify trends and ignore fads. Marketers are primed to be more responsive as they can pinpoint when a fad or new mode of marketing transforms into a tangible trend.
Trends Solve Problems
Problem-solving plays an important role in trends. A trend can gain momentum because it is filling a hole and helping to relieve pain points for marketers.
Trends will grow because they are serving a purpose that will continue to be in demand. It might be something that is working for the marketer but often is about meeting the needs of a target audience.
A trend becomes a viable tool that sees results and serves a purpose. Social media continues to grow because it brings people together who share things in common.
Mobile phones are in demand because they provide an important communication tool. Understanding why something is a trend and what problems it is solving makes it easier to jump on board and use them to your advantage.
The Mis-identified Trend
Occasionally, you can use a fad to your advantage. For example, fads can provide material for social media posts because social media posts live for a fleeting moment, and then people move on.
If you see a fad and invest too much into it, you can find yourself wasting valuable time and money. How you choose to use a fad is very important as it can get your marketing team caught up in minutia.
Trends should be incorporated into your overall marketing plan, while fads should be nothing more than a momentary tactic used on the road to customer engagement.
Telling the Difference
Trends develop over the years, so it takes continuous industry and general marketing research to watch for signs a trend has arrived.
You have to watch both fads and trends in order to remain relevant. Fads still play a role in your marketing strategy as long as it is relevant to your brand. Again, the fad has a role but only as a tactic. Trends have to be identified so that they can become part of your marketing strategy, such as using data and geo info to reach your customers in a more personalized manner.
Fads help you remain current but when not tracked properly can make you look outdated, which leads to a disconnect with your audience. Someone with less experience might jump on and start using the term across all of their social posts even though the fad is over.
An experienced trend spotter will know it takes year-over-year data to determine when something is trending. It shows something has staying power and can become part of your strategy. Trendspotting then requires research. Reading research guides in a little more detail can help you begin to understand how to spot valuable information that marks trends.
It is in your best interest to follow a number of reports so that you can pay close attention to what is happening in the marketing industry. There are many valuable documents at your disposal through organizations such the ITSMA. These stepping stones provide valuable information that enables you to explore what’s happening in the digital landscape.
Another mistake many marketers make is to ignore the input and insight of industry publications and influencers. Don’t be caught up in your own little world.
Instead, explore what is happening beyond your own office to learn from peers and thought leaders. We don’t all have hours of time for reading, but as a marketer, research should always be a priority. There are plenty of condensed versions of leading trend info available on many blogs. Some of the best blogs include Hootsuite, HubSpot, and Moz.
Experimentation & Adaptability
Experimenting with new trends discovered through research helps develop your brand’s adaptability. As a marketer, your goal should be to constantly look for better ways to market, instead of continuing to invest in marketing tactics that see limited results.
Although there is something to be said for the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” there is always room for improvement. Experimentation provides you with further insight that will help you identify a trend and how effective it is for your purposes.
Digital marketing has greatly changed the way people think. It provides a new opportunity for companies to present themselves in a more honest and up-front manner.
Modern marketing allows your brand to be integrated, instead of inserted into a customer’s life. Also, because your customers provide some of the best insight into how effective a new trend might work, you have to find ways to integrate their knowledge into your marketing efforts.
Adaptive marketing uses customer trends and data to customize marketing efforts to continue to meet the changing needs of a customer’s interests and needs. There are three factors to adaptive marketing:
- Sensitivity: Staying in tune with all the marketing channels you are using to capture important feedback so that you can respond to your customers’ preferences.
- Flexibility: Ensuring your company is set up to accommodate change and adapt fluidly in order to identify and grasp new opportunities provided by your customer data and feedback.
- Resiliency: Looking for your own mistakes and listening to customer feedback to respond and change as required.
This allows you to spot trends specific to your own customers' needs and meet them.