Anatomy of a trend

I've been thinking about trends lately.  Not in how I might identify them, but in observing how other people think about them.  Some want to be trend setters.  Others are fearful that they will miss an opportunity if they fail to recognize a trend.  What's common in these points of view is that trends are often seen as isolated occurrances that spring out of nowhere.  They see trendwatchers as people with a crystal ball who predict the future.  I don't agree that this is true, and for that reason I don't base my decisions on predictions by trend forecasting companies.  If I read them at all, it's to understand why they made the prediction. 

Then yesterday I was pleasantly surprised.  I was looking at trendwatching.com's top 15 trends for 2009.  In it they defined a trend as:  "A manifestation of something that has unlocked or newly serviced an existing (and hardly ever changing) consumer need,* desire, want, or value."

Bingo!  They went on to say that basic human values don't really change.  What does change are the social and economic contexts in which we live, which may surface issues that haven't concerned our society in a long time.  Technology is always evolving, giving us new ways to express or satisfy our current concerns.  On the surface, it may look like new trends are emerging that we have never encountered before.  And while it's true that we haven't encountered the specific expressions before, if we dig a little deeper we will find that the underlying drivers have not changed much at all.  Digging deeper is where we will find our answers.

And while we're speaking of trends, one trend I am seeing lately is the fact that more organizations are recognizing the importance of understanding consumer values and motivations as a way to succeed in the long term.  Their bigger issues are in translating these values into products and services that will satisfy consumer needs within today's social, economic and technological contexts.  When they get that translation right, they won't have to worry about trends, because they'll be transcending them. 

Now that's an underlying recipe for success that doesn't change.