What it says on the tin
There seems to be something in human nature which attracts us to trends, whether it is the latest fashion style, must-have gadget or must-do diet plan. Advertising is full of trendy people, which sometimes are more concerned with following trends than creating them on behalf of the brands we represent. This is risky behaviour for a few reasons.
Trends are superficial. They are but symptoms of their underlying causes; the stable and universal motives that drives human behaviour, such as the need for belonging, the need to be taken seriously and the need for something to believe in.
The reaction against technology, mass-consumption, and everything else that the hipsters represent, started as a genuine movement (or, depending on your view, as inauthentic regurgittion of the most popular elements from a plethora of earlier and more noble movements. Nevertheless, it did start somewhere…). A group of people took a position against a dominant ideology, and having successfully articulated something many people felt, it soon found followers. As always with new ideologies, new consumption habits followed. As the movement spread, however, the ideology was watered out and the more visible traces left by consumption remained and gained traction, until we were left with forty year old bankers and westies in skinny jeans riding their fixie bikes. These are the late adopters and they adopted the trend rather than the ideology.
The majority of brands are also late adopters. When brands jump on trends, large or small, they simultaneously abandon any aspiration they might have had of authenticity, and instead choose to write their strategy documents to retrofit their vision and values to whatever happens to be hot at the time of writing. Terrified of missing out. What could have been a fairly straight forward exercise with an intuitive result now becomes an extremely complicated process of spin and rhetorical acrobatics. If a brand’s vision/proposition/strategy/essence/etc doesn’t feel right, it’s probably because it’s not. LG: because life’s good, anyone?
Trends are simplistic. Trend analysts look to the lowest common denominators for explanations of trends. While opposite extremes and everything in between are ignored, conclusions are formed based on newsworthy generalisations. While hipsters are going back to basic in what has been called “fetishizing authenticity”, they are still very much a minority in society. But because their consumption habits have trickled down to the mere mortal masses of consumers and follower brands, the original ideology is disproportionately weighted when analysing the larger lines along which culture and society are moving. Suffice it to say we are not headed for analogue doom anytime soon, and that devising one’s strategy on the assumption that we are is likely to fail miserably.
Trends are short-lived. They appear and disappear in an ever accelerating speed, only to be replaced by the next one. People use consumption to create their identities, and may go through widely different phases before figuring out (more or less) who they are. The experimental stage for brands is their strategy process, and they better know who they are before going public with it. Living life in public as a perpetual teenager strips away their credibility and reveals the empty void that constitutes the core of these brands.