Reading the Tea Leaves For 2006
December 4, 2007 By Michelle Brisebois
“Predicting trends is about noticing what’s happening around us and understanding how our products and services can fit
into the behavioural change.”
If we could see the future, we’d all be rich. Trend spotting is the marketing equivalent to predicting an earthquake – is it going to happen? When and where is it going to happen? In most instances, we don’t pick up on a shift in consumer behavior until it has taken root en masse. Of course we then have weeks or months ahead of us to develop and launch the products to target the new trend. By the time we get to market, we often miss those lucrative first waves of sales potential. So how do the early birds do it? Is it luck or do they know something we don’t? The truth is, it’s probably a bit of both – but if we put our ears to the ground there are some early tremors worth noting for the upcoming year.
If you haven’t got your health …
Turn on the news and chances are that health-related stories top the newscast every day. Contaminated water, avian flu, genetically modified foods – what we ingest is scaring us. This trend is hot due to an aging population and 24/7 news stations that repeat dreaded “scare stories” over and over. Tap into this trend by ensuring your food safety program is bullet proof and that you promote your dedication to top-notch handling procedures. Organic foods continue to grow by double digits and whole grains are in demand. This trend isn’t going away any time soon – we’re not getting any younger.
The battle of the bulge
Raise your hand if you’re glad the low-carb dieting craze has hit a brick wall. What hasn’t hit the wall is the fact we’re on the run with little time to prepare healthy meals. More of us are obese than ever before – primarily due to eating large portions of fat-laden foods with little to no physical activity on our part. Our kids are fat because we’re afraid to let them run loose and play – they might get abducted. We have our offspring in so many activities their agendas would make the average CEO weep. Consumers want fast food but they also want it to be healthy and tasty. Think smaller portions, low fat, low calorie treats that taste as good as the real thing. If you can include some of these options on your menu – it’ll be a license to print money.
One size fits all doesn’t cut it any more. Apple computers made history with their Ipod MP3 players not because the sound was so much better but because we could set it up as a private music library of our favourite tunes and books on tape. No more listening to tracks that aren’t our cup of tea – it’s all about our preferences. Involve your customers in the development of new products. Let them buy the donuts and the glaze separately so they can finish the item themselves. Consumers want to be involved in the product.
The empty nest that wasn’t
Most trend watchers are poised for a whole bunch of Baby Boomers to start having empty nests as their kids leave home. This one may be a “non-starter” since new research by Synovate reports that 56 per cent of North American Baby Boomer parents don’t want their kids to EVER leave home. Many of these parents (43 per cent) want to be their kids’ best friend. With heavy student loans and housing and car prices having gone into orbit – kids are living at home well into their late twenties. Don’t downsize to smaller pack sizes just yet – smaller portions, yes, but chances are your customers will still be feeding a family for some time to come.
They knit and crochet. They play poker and drink cocktails made famous in the forties. They want to wear business suits to work (because their parents wore khakis) and they are mad for collecting LP records and playing them on turn tables. The Echo Boom (children of Baby Boomers) started in 1980 and ran right through to 1995. These kids are now old enough to have money to spend and they’re defining their own generation. They seem to have more in common with their Depression Era grandparents than their boomer parents. There’s a retro quality to them that savvy marketers are tapping into. Think of fun items your bakery could introduce that would fit into their hobbies. Perhaps a line of funky pretzels would complement poker night nicely?
Now and zen
Yoga studios are proliferating. The Dali Lama has several books on the New York Times bestseller list and people are more stressed out than ever before. Food can be a great stress reliever – especially foods we associate with our childhood. Comfort foods (think banana bread, bread pudding, rice pudding, chocolate chip cookies) can be the culinary equivalent to a security blanket. Chocolate is often credited with raising serotonin levels (the happy brain chemical). Make little tags for your products made out like doctor’s prescriptions: “Take two truffles and call me in the morning.”
Predicting trends is about noticing what’s happening around us and understanding how our products and services can fit into the behavioural change. Make note of what magazines populate the newsstands and what TV shows are trendy. It’s certainly not an exact science, this trend watching, but if you get in on the front of a trend, the pay-off is very sweet indeed!
Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. She specializes in helping companies grow their brands. Michelle can be reached at OnTrend Strategies by e-mail at:
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