Friday, June 26, 2009

What’s in a Trend?

Fashion Industry made the word ‘Trend’ popular apart from the share market. ‘Trend Forecasting’ is almost synonymous with ‘Seasons’ as you rightly pointed out. Designers and Architects being aware of the ‘international trends’ is another side of the story, which again is another name for ‘imitation’, in the current reality where consumer knows what is ‘in’.

Onio uses trends in the wider socio-economic perspective where ‘trends’ are not seasonal changes, but they are the responses of the society to the changing scenarios (they are also called 'mega-trends') i.e. when consumers are bombarded with mindless products and options, initially they like it, then slowly the ‘option fatigue’ sets in. This results in a trend for ‘simplified product forms’ and ‘products& experiences with easy navigation’. With this kind of pattern reading, Onio expects a ‘trend’ to last for a few years and not change every season.

Yet, there may be micro-loops of ‘fads’ which can change with any major event i.e. a big brand launching a particular colour. Even these micro-loops still follow the ‘mega-trend’ that we just talked about. For example, ‘Remixing’ is a trend that Onio has talked two years back, and named it as ‘Twin World’. Since people have more options, they want to mix and match. Indian food with Thai food, Indian traditions with modernity, past with present….and you see a whole lot of ‘retro-movies’ that have hit the Bollywood. This trend is at peak in clothing, but it will slowly come down to consumer goods, furniture and architecture (in that order).

IndianNess

In the entire rigmarole of trends, international look, forecasts etc. there is an underlying argument of ‘Indian-ness’ or ‘Indian Needs’. At Onio, we follow our own proprietary methodology for applying trends on the target consumers, called ‘Intentiability’. This process first identifies consumer segments based on their level of ‘root connect’ or connect with ‘Indian-ness’ and then looks at relative sensitivity to the prevailing trends. Higher the ‘root connect’ of a consumer segment, lower will be their sensitivity to ‘upcoming trends’. For example, we identified a group called ‘Desi-Dynamos’ primarily consisting of factory managers, politicians, senior level bureaucrats, and rural big-wigs. These people show high level of awareness yet when it comes to choosing furniture, they go by a) More solid looks, thicker materials b) Touch of glitter c) established brands and prevalent styles d) no drastic changes in shapes e) more ornamental and saturated palette rather than European pastels. Even if they follow the European pastels, it would be only if suggested by a high-end architect. They do not have a mind of their own. It is the mind of the community.

So trends alone mean nothing in the Indian scenario, unless the target segment is mapped for a) sensitivity to the trend b) their connect to the ‘roots’, as an attitude. This applies to almost all emerging countries (BRICs). While mapping a trend, it does not exclude the elements of ‘good design’. If a trend is suggesting use of ‘slim handles’ does not mean that uncomfortable handles would get a preference.

Onio’s Views on Trends

Trends deal with Future view, which takes a lot of effort to explain to the management.
We believe trends do three things for the innovation strategy-
1. Clues:
If the organisation wants to find some new leads to toe on the innovation frontier, Trends can point to some available niche. Niche emerge due to changing life-style. A trend-spotter’s eye catches it fastest.

2. Connections:
They throw up connections in the parallel fields where similar events are expected/happening. This helps the strategy articulation to the top management.

3. Conviction:
If certain direction has already been taken on innovation front, Trend study can substantiate the direction.

Thus Onio works on products, services and brand innovation through the first filter of trends, supported by user needs, technology changes and market statistics. We call this model MUST (Market, User, Society and Technology) as the four pillars of innovation in the current reality.

Onio considers ‘Trend thinking’ as a tool for business managers to think beyond the constraints and make invisible connection to leap ahead of the market.