Frenemies? The unexpected usefulness of understanding trends

February

Yesterday I had the pleasure of joining a talented panel at Ad Week London to discuss trends affecting advertising in the coming year.

Reflecting on the discussion, here’s a takeaway on the importance of trends to a branding project — Know the enemy.

The enemy? Ok, trends can be our friends— it’s important to know the terrain and the likely challenges and opportunities you’ll encounter before starting your journey. But, if you’re creating brand assets and behaviours and aiming to follow trends, you are not navigating your own path.

‘Trendiness’ may be useful as a tactical decision and appropriate to a specific campaign application. But, in the business of branding, conformity is the enemy of expressing your essential difference. So, yes, we should know the prevailing trends, appreciate the landscape, plan for the changes that might be coming and guard against anything that is sameness.  The me-too sameness of trends is the enemy. But if we can be tangental to a prevailing trend, or directly rail against what doesn’t resonate with our values, then understanding the trend is useful.

Put another way, Peter Drucker said:

“The best way to predict your future is to create it”.

Creating your own future for a differentiated brand means being true to your values, of course being current and relevant, but never sacrificing purpose and individuality to fashion, however seductive it might seem.

After all, next year it will be ‘so passé’.

Thanks to Kash Mia, Becky Power and Andy Fowler for a thought-provoking discussion.

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