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Gazing Into Future With Trend-setters

January 21, 2013

Using trend spotters in more than 90 countries, trendwatching.com predicts what the future holds

The ancient Greeks beat a path to the Oracle at Delphi, the Romans examined the entrails of slaughtered bulls, the Victorians tried to predict the future by holding seances - but today's businesses rely on consultants.

Not much progress therefore since ancient times, you might say, but trend forecasting, futurology and coolhunting is big business and a leading practitioner, trendwatching.com, which describes itself as "an independent and opinionated trend firm" based in London, Singapore and Sao Paulo, with hundreds of trend spotters in more than 90 countries, has just issued its top 10 trends for 2013.

1 Presumers and 'Custowners'

These people obviously don't read Lucy Kellaway who earlier this month tore strips off this all-too-prevalent habit of combining two words to make something less effective than either (Business+Innovation January 7th 2013), but in spite of the silly titles they are both relevant.

The first refers to the increasing desire from brand enthusiasts to become involved in contributing ideas through mechanisms such as social media, sometimes referred to as crowdsourcing.

The second part of this trend takes involvement a step further and refers to the growing movement for brand enthusiasts to invest in the business.

Leon, a UK-based healthy fast-food franchise, has raised £1.5 million from their consumers to fund new store openings. Investors own a share in the business and receive store credit.

2 Emerging global brands

The second forecast is the growth in potentially global brands from emerging countries. Examples include Amazonaz, a fashionable brand of Brazilian sandals, made with raw materials sourced from Brazil's native rubber trees and now launched in China.

3 Mobile moments

The third trend describes products which enable young people to maximise even further every spare moment using apps of varying descriptions - hyper-tasking.

A good example is Snapchat, where users share images that can only be viewed by the recipient for a few seconds before they self-destruct. I suspect many people wished they were already in possession of that one!

4 New life inside

The next trend is the ultimate in sustainability, where products that are coming to the end of their useful life can start a new life.

"Sprout" is a pencil brand that when paired down so small that it's uncomfortable to write with and has a seed capsule at the tip which will dissolve upon contact with water allowing the seed to germinate and grow.

5 'Appscriptions'

The aptly-named fifth trend involves a range of apps that will tell you when to take your medicine and provide continuous health checks.

6 Celebration nation

The sixth trend is all about the growing self-confidence of emerging nations in celebrating aspects of their own culture and heritage that they might previously have ignored or even denied. House of Masaba, a fashion label based in Mumbai, has reinvented the traditional Indian sari with modern motifs. There is also an über-cool Korean beauty product brand, Sulwhasoo, which contains native Korean botanicals.

7 Data 'myning'

This refers to the vast increase of data unleashed by the digital age being used to enhance societal as opposed to just business goals. The best example here is a collaboration in the US between Facebook, the Nation Resources Defense Council, software maker oPower and 16 US-based utility companies. Users can connect their energy account to the app and compare their energy usage to friends and others in similar residential areas, and engage in competition to reduce energy bills.

8 Again made here

The eighth trend alludes to the new phenomenon which US president Barack Obama is calling "in-sourcing", the practice whereby businesses are bringing previously outsourced production back home. One of the examples quoted is a French electronic bicycle company bringing production back from China to La Rochelle. A start-up Welsh jeans business, Huit Jeans, has located in Cardigan, a town which previously boosted a jeans manufacturer, under the brand positioning; "Our town is making jeans again".

9 Full frontal

The ninth trend is based on another familiar 21st-century business theme, transparency. An example of the lengths to which this trend is now being followed is from the Japanese restaurant franchise Kimitachi. Customers are now able to follow the preparation of their meals from a video system installed in the kitchens. The businesses objective was to humanise sushi delivery by making the whole operation more transparent.

10 Demanding brands

The final trend, predicts an increase in brands that not only make a contribution to society but encourage their customers to do the same.

There's wonderful example here from Brazilian football club Vitoria, which encourages their supporters to donate blood. Their strip was black and red stripes but they started this season with black and white, promising fans that as more blood was donated more red stripes would be restored.

There are a number of common threads running through these trends. The first is the continuing concern with sustainability and the recognition of what one commentator has called "the intrinsic value of nature and our responsibility to refrain from damaging or desecrating it".

The second is the onward march of the app resulting is an increasing number of businesses, for example Nike, redefining themselves as tech companies.

The third common thread is the rise of potential new global brands from emerging markets.

There are valuable lessons and opportunities here for Irish businesses. In fact there are some that would already qualify to be featured in this report - Voya, the upmarket beauty products brand from Enniscrone using local seaweed as an ingredient, and Inis Meain, the fashionable knitwear range which has just launched a new product based on what local fisherman Mairtin Beag wore a 100 years ago.

But the greatest opportunity for many Irish businesses will be in the sustainability area. After all if E L James can make trillions from Fifty Shades of Grey, surely we can make billions from forty shades of green.

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