Your Big Idea

The Consumer Trend Canvas: understand & apply a trend today

Your Big Idea

The Consumer Trend Canvas: understand & apply a trend today

We need to have a serious talk. It’s time to unlock your potential.

At TrendWatching, we love trends. More than our friends and yes, more than our pets.

But there’s one thing we love more. It’s you. The world’s sharpest community of trend-hungry, change-loving, consumer-obsessed professionals. We love you as much as the day when you first opened our newsletter back in 2002, when Nelly ruled the charts and Nokias buzzed in our pockets.

It’s high time we take our relationship to the next level and make sure you, the reader, aren’t just a reader. We want you to be doer. It’s what your customer deserves. That’s why we are giving you our most powerful ideation tool and a process for generating innovation ideas that we’ve honed by working with everyone from Samsung, to the Dubai government, to the Walt Disney Imagineers.


Never miss a TrendWatching Quarterly Briefing!

The tool is simple. The process is effective. Move from insights to ideas in an hour (or two). You’ll generate compelling new perspectives and become a true trend-driven innovator. And if you who have colleagues who struggle to make sense of trends then – short of microdosing them – sharing this tool with them is the answer.

Here’s the plan. We will quickly introduce the tool and then share a NEW trend for 2018 and work through that trend together, ending with an innovation idea that is deeply aligned with what customers will want in the near future. Then you’ll be ready to go it alone. At the bottom is a download link for everything you’ll need to get going.

Still here? 78% of our traffic has already navigated away. But you are different. You are curious. You are ready to develop a new skill and blow the Crocs off your peers. Let’s go…

The Consumer Trend Canvas

Make the leap from insights to ideas.

The Consumer Trend Canvas (CTC) is an easy-to-follow framework that will help you unpack and understand any consumer trend, and then apply it to launch successful, consumer-facing innovations of your own. We’ve seen this tool generate everything from hyper-persuasive savings accounts to patent-worthy pet products 🐶. It’s as versatile as you are.

As you devour content (from LinkedIn, conferences, podcasts etc.), occasionally you encounter a trend which gives you that special mix of feelings: excitement, opportunity and a dash of fear. Take that trend, grab your team, and print out this canvas as big as you can. Answer the questions the canvas asks by filling it out with sticky notes.

Analyze & Apply: a tool of two halves.

The canvas is divided into two halves. The left hand side of the canvas encourages you to analyze a trend by exploring its building blocks. You’ll uncover why it’s happening now, who is already harnessing it, and most importantly, consider what it might do to customer expectations. Then you leap over to the right hand side and start considering how you can apply the trend to your business. In doing so, you will generate ideas that will delight your customers.

It sounds simple. It is simple.

So, let’s take a trend – from our 2018 Trend Report – and work through it together.


Virtual creators unlock the next level

The global landscape is undulating with political polarization, regional conflicts, environmental catastrophes and corporate scandals. In advanced economies, 58% feel the next generation is going to be worse off (Pew, June 2017). Yeesh! Amid all this, it’s a relief to remember that humanity’s fundamental love of play remains. But expectations around the what, how and where of play are anything but fixed.

In 2018, the world around consumers will become the biggest map, level or landscape they’ve ever gamed on. Fueled by maturing technologies and a creator mindset, participants will look to build, explore, subvert and dive into interactive challenges in physical spaces. Welcome to the GLOBAL SANDBOX: a space for self-expression and for-the-fun-of-it thrills.

To unpack this trend on the canvas we are going to start with the Analyze half. By answering four simple questions about this trend, we’ll come to understand it deeply.

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Part 1: Analyze

1. Inspiration

How are other businesses applying this trend?

The first step when it comes to unpacking a trend – and understanding it more deeply – is a super-simple one. Simply ask: what examples of this trend have I already seen?

Spotting, analyzing and learning from new B2C innovations is at the heart of trend methodology. New products, experiences, business models, services and campaigns are 'bets on the future'. Taken on aggregate they allow us to access the wisdom of the business crowd and draw powerful insights on new directions of travel in the consumer arena.

That's why we start our journey across the canvas with real-world examples. In this walkthrough, we will explore the innovations that are currently raising expectations when it comes to the GLOBAL SANDBOX trend. They could be your competitors, startups from other sectors, and even businesses in distant markets. Slap these innovations on the canvas at the beginning and they will help you generate answers and make connections further along in the process.


  • World Brush — AR app lets users ‘paint’ on the world.

    Launched in September 2017, World Brush is an AR experience that allows users to create 3D images with their smartphone or tablet that others can only see pinned at a specific location.

  • Jeff Koons, Snapchat and Sebastian Errazuriz — AR public artworks vandalized.

    In October 2017, Snapchat partnered with Jeff Koons to display AR representations of his sculptures in real-world locations. Within hours of going on display, one was ‘vandalized’ by artist Sebastian Errazuriz.

  • Marriott — Shower cubicle doodles emailed to hotel guests.

    In November 2017, Marriott Hotels offered guests shower doors which allowed their drawings on the steamy glass surface to be captured digitally. Touch-sensitive doors recorded ideas and emailed guests copies.

  • Oobah Butler — Journalist gives followers control of his destiny.

    Oobah Butler used a new polling feature in Instagram Stories to handover his decision-making to his followers. One day in October 2017, he let them decide everything from the clothes he wore to what he ate. By nightfall, participants had sent him on a bus to Brussels.

The above selection of examples is not an exhaustive list. It's simply a diverse array of brands and individuals already changing your customer's expectations with regards to play and creativity in the real world. The fact that a brand the size of Snapchat is having its virtual art installations vandalized within 24 hours is a powerful sign we are living in a blurred world of offline and online interactivity.

And while we didn't include Pokémon Go above as it's so famous, but of course its reaching of half a billion people in three months was a key sign of the emergence of GLOBAL SANDBOX trend, even if the app's popularity has long since waned. And while we will discuss developments in AR below, this trend isn't all about AR. The examples from Marriott and Oobha Butler above show the expectation behind the trend will continue to play out in different ways, whether that's bringing interactivity to a shower door or a human being.

And these handful of examples are just scratching the surface of this trend. Feel free to add others you see.


2. Basic Needs

What deep consumer needs & desires does this trend address?

All trends are ultimately rooted in our basic human needs, wants and desires. These needs don't come and go with the seasons: they are fundamental to our nature and pretty darn stable across decades, even centuries!

So the next step when it comes to unpacking any trend is to ask: what basic human needs does this trend address?

GLOBAL SANDBOX taps into the core human needs for Excitement, Entertainment, and Social Interaction.

3. Drivers of Change

Why is this trend emerging now? What’s changing?

Trends emerge at the intersection of unchanging basic human needs and a changing world. More specifically, they emerge when change – technological, social, cultural and more – unlocks new ways to serve basic needs.

So to unpack a trend we need to ask: what is changing in the world now that is making this trend possible? What's fueling this trend?

We recommend splitting the Drivers of Change into longer term Shifts and more recently occurring, more immediate Triggers.

3.1 Shifts

Long-term, macro changes playing out across years, or even decades, that will shape the direction of the trend.

Global Arcade: Is there anyone who is yet to recognize that gaming culture is mass culture? Even the squares at the IOC are thinking about including eSports in future Olympics. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has listed “gaming addiction” as a mental health disorder.

Creator Culture: At least two generations of consumers see themselves as creators. And not just because their helicopter parents were too complimentary. For years they’ve been empowered by a combination of social apps where creative expression is the norm (from Snapchat to, and funding solutions (from Patreon to Kickstarter) to marketplaces (Etsy and beyond).

3.2 Triggers

More immediate changes or events that brought this trend to life.

AR Tools: ARkit, ARcore and better hardware in smartphones is leading to a revolution in AR experiences. And while this trend is about more than AR, the creative and gaming opportunities unlocked by the blending of digital and physical worlds are endless.

Low Cost Devices: Over two-thirds of the world’s population has a mobile device (We Are Social, Hootsuite, January 2018). This demand has been served by an immense supply chain, which in turn lowered the cost of key components. Inventors have a somewhat easier time of launching smart gadgets that bring interactivity to new corners. Check out Specdrums for one delightful example.

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4. Emerging Expectations

What new customer expectations are emerging?

We've already seen how new trends emerge when change unlocks new ways to serve basic human needs.

That's because innovations that serve basic needs in new ways do something special: they create new expectations among consumers. When consumers have a basic need served in a new way by an innovation – or even simply see an innovation that makes this possible – they will come to expect the same from other brands and businesses. This becomes a point of tension. And that means an opportunity for you to serve them!

So the final step to unpacking a trend is to ask: how are these innovations – which are serving certain basic needs in new ways – changing what consumers expect of brands and businesses? Let's answer that question for GLOBAL SANDBOX.

Location-Powered Play
      : From dating to restaurant discovery - location based information (and play) is expected.
Interactive Layers
      : Digital natives expect the physical world to have an interactive digital layer on top.
Playful Brands
    : The old days of businesses having purely transactional relationships with consumers are long gone, consumers expect playful brands (from Taco Bell to Mini Cooper) that engage with them in play.



The APPLY section of the CTC is all about using a trend to generate new innovation ideas for your business. This means that how you complete the it section will be specific to your business. For the purposes of this walkthrough, from this point forward we are applying the trend to TrendWatching’s business objectives. Your own answers here will be different.

1. Innovation Type

How and where could you apply this trend to your business?

When you’re thinking about applying a consumer trend, it helps to consider how and where it could impact your business, through the lens of these four areas: Brand Vision, Business Model, Product / Service / Experience, and Marketing / Campaigns.

For TrendWatching, we feel that this is a Product / Service / Experience opportunity. This trend could impact how we deliver our insights to our audience, or even suggest a new format.

2. Who

Which new customer groups could you apply this trend to?

You may already have a customer segment in mind for whom you need to develop a new innovation for. However, we encourage you to think beyond your existing customers, to new groups you could reach. Think beyond demographics—it’s not about people’s gender, age, or what they say but about what they do. Consider their needs, desires and expectations.

For TrendWatching, a customer group we are focused on today is clients of our Premium service who are tasked with leading innovation initiatives at their organizations: Innovation Managers.

3. Your Idea

Generate your new trend-driven innovation.

This is where the magic happens! By referring back to the insights you generated during the Analyze phase, and making connections between the two halves of the canvas, you will now uncover truly novel concepts that are deeply grounded in emerging customer expectations.

So what’s our innovation idea? We're glad you asked. We built a card-based game that links the Consumer Trend Canvas and our online Premium Service. And it fits in a beautiful compact box! An Innovation Manager can work with this tool to run workshops that are playful, extending a digital resource by encouraging tactile interaction in the real world. We're serious: we actually developed this product!

The only way you will experience this magic is if you print out the Consumer Trend Canvas and give it a try. In the 100+ workshops we have run with this tool participants always emerge with robust, customer-centered ideas. Now it's your turn...

Want More?

Ready to unpack and apply any consumer trend?

Download worksheet

About The Author:



This Trend Briefing has many hands on it. A huge thanks to the team that pulled this together with such positivity and enthusiasm, especially: Alida Urban, Francesca Coppola, Harry Metzger, Harvey Gomez, Henry Mason, Jonathan Herbst, Maxwell Luthy, Nikki Ritmeijer, Tash Cohen, Vicki Loomes and Vicky Kim. THANK YOU!