Three ways to take trends forward
Get inspired by three avenues – brand strategy, consumer understanding and innovation – to take trends further.
Sarah Van Oerle
18 January 2024
4 min read
TikTok launched its ’What’s Next 2024’ report, Instagram has its ’2024 Instagram Trend Talk’ and Google shares its ’Top digital marketing trends and predictions for 2024’. These are just three of the 1.3 billion hits that appear when you Google ‘trends report 2024’. One of those is our very own ’2024 What Matters Report’ in which we bring you 8 themes that highlight what matters in 2024 and beyond. So yes, we are also guilty of contributing to the wealth of trend reports out there.
After browsing through some of these trend reports, you might be wondering what to do next. As interesting and inspiring as they may be, many readers struggle with their actionability. Here are three ways to take consumer trends forward.
Brand strategy & (re)positioning
Understand which trends and cultural insights impact your brand strategy and (re)positioning. The Black Lives Matter movement, for example, gained momentum in 2020, sparking conversations about a more inclusive and representative future. This was also the case at Philip’s reseller, a leading tech and services retailer. The brand questioned how well they catered for Black African Americans, particularly concerning haircare. Philips decided to inspire and support their partner, a leading US retailer, by bringing thought leadership and insights to the table that could help establish a more inclusive approach. By combining social intelligence and the power of leading-edge consumers, Philips North America gained a better understanding of Black African American haircare, enabling them to inspire and support their partner.
Another example is what Space Doctors, the cultural and creative consultancy within Human8, did for Mattel’s brand Barbie. Using cultural insight and semiotic research we uncovered the unique challenges that young girls face. These insights helped the team to develop powerful new stories to inspire girls to believe in the limitless scope of their capabilities and re-claim its status as positive role model. It inspired Barbie to launch the ’Barbie Dream gap Project,’ a global initiative by Mattel to educate society on gender bias and expand the potential girls see in themselves.
2. Human understanding
Understand how trends are manifesting amongst your consumers, what their current challenges and barriers are, and how can you create relevance as a brand. Sustainability is an important driver for consumers as 8 out of 10 globally says they are worried about the state of our planet and future generations*. Nestlé Australia wanted to immerse into people’s recycling attitudes and habits to discover opportunities to better support consumers in this area. Our insight community approach allowed to go beyond what people are saying and observe what they are doing in the moment (the so called say-do gap which is also an aspect of sustainability highlighted in the ‘What Matters 2024’ report). This revealed the vast gap between what people were doing and what they should have been doing. The project highlighted the size of the challenge to educate people, as well as change everyone’s behaviour, if we are to do better.
Let trends fuel your innovation initiatives, allowing them spark new ideas and using them to co-create potential solution areas. To support Mars Wrigley in developing ‘experiential snacking solutions’ linked to specific innovation territories, we collaborated with our ‘Illumes’. These leading-edge consumers identified key cultural shifts and emerging trends within each territory which were then further explored by our cultural experts using strategic-thinking frameworks. Next, our semioticians delved into the innovation territories, leading to actionable inspiration visualised in provocative inspiration boards. In the final stage, we tapped into eÿeka, our creative crowdsourcing network, to generate out-of-the-box solutions for each territory. We launched a global contest to collect fresh inspiration for each innovation territory, resulting in over 50 concepts per contest. The final ideas were further developed by Mars’ stakeholder and served as inspiration for further concepting.
Another example of how trends can fuel innovation is the work we did for L’Oréal R&I China on Gen Z beauty. The team gathered numerous trend studies from various sources but faced the challenge of translating those ‘trends’ into concrete product features to fuel innovation. First, we connected with our ‘Illumes’ to sharpen bigger trends and define key areas for L’Oréal to focus on in the beauty category. Second, we tapped into L’Oréal’s ongoing online community to better understand how each territory reflects in Gen Z’s daily life. This allowed us to prioritize the territories which resonated most with consumers and, at the same time, interpret consumers’ needs to fuel product innovation. This approach resulted in a consolidation of macro trends with real micro moments in consumers’ daily lives. The L’Oréal team received a holistic picture, depicting Gen Z’s key drivers in the beauty sector and their expectations in the identified territories.
While translating trends into actionable strategies can be challenging, these three avenues – focused on brand strategy, consumer understanding and innovation – can give you the spark you need to start thinking about next steps.
* The numbers in this article are based on 17 markets: AR, AU, BR, CL, CN, CO, DE, FR, HK, MX, PH, SG, TH, UAE, UK, US and ZA
What Matters 2024
The 2024 edition of our What Matters report has arrived. The report takes a clear stance for change driven by a call for urgency, as new research reports 8 out 10 people worldwide are worried about the future and feel brands need to take responsibility.