At Fu­ture Fes­ti­val, creative minds gather to dis­cover in­sights in so­cial trends, mar­kets


When life is chang­ing all around you — mar­kets, tech­nol­ogy, con­sumers, em­ploy­ees — where can busi­ness own­ers turn for di­rec­tion?

Many look to Toronto-based Trend Hunter, a re­search firm that trans­forms so­cial change into busi­ness op­por­tu­nity. Its re­cent Fu­ture Fes­ti­val in Toronto at­tracted en­trepreneurs and mar­keters from across North Amer­ica to ex­plore the lat­est money-mak­ing so­cial trends.

Founder Jeremy Gutsche traces the ori­gin of Trend Hunter, which boasts such clients as Sam­sung, Adi­das and Cray­ola, to his fa­ther, Sig. A charis­matic Calgary en­tre­pre­neur, mainly in restau­rants and oil and gas, Sig Gutsche be­came the un­likely saviour of the trou­bled Calgary Stampeders. In the five years he owned the foot­ball club (1996-2001), it won two Grey Cups and dou­bled at­ten­dance — and Stamps fans awarded Sig per­ma­nent pos­ses­sion of the team’s Most Valu­able Player tro­phy.

Sig sold the team for five times what he paid, prov­ing that op­por­tu­nity re­ally is ev­ery­where. In fact, fa­ther and son spent week­ends por­ing over mag­a­zines, from Fast Com­pany and The Econ­o­mist to Pop­u­lar Sci­ence and Mo­tor Trend, ex­am­in­ing new trends and prod­ucts, and brain­storm­ing how to max­i­mize each pos­si­bil­ity.

The younger Gutsche was run­ning the in­no­va­tion team at cred­it­card mar­keter Cap­i­tal One Canada when he started Trend Hunter as an on­line com­mu­nity ex­plor­ing new busi­ness ideas. He hoped his plat­form would sur­face a great busi­ness idea for him­self. But when the site took off, he re­al­ized the site it­self was the op­por­tu­nity. He joined the busi­ness full-time in 2007, just as it was spot­ting such trends as a de­cline in the lux­ury mar­ket, con­sumers turn­ing from restau­rants back to the kitchen, and a rise in “credit crunch cou­ture” — all fore­bod­ing the fi­nan­cial cri­sis that un­folded the fol­low­ing year.

Trend Hunter now has pro­duced more than 5,000 cus­tom­ized trend re­ports for busi­ness clients. But Gutsche’s heart still lies in sur­fac­ing new, off­beat ideas, from celebrity-themed snacks and haute­cou­ture wet­suits to self-mixing baby bot­tles and stuffed an­i­mals that fall over when they de­tect your body odour. For 2018, the com­pany has iden­ti­fied 24 “pat­terns of op­por­tu­nity.” Con­sider just seven:

Cat­alyza­tion: Brands now play roles in ac­cel­er­at­ing con­sumers’ per­sonal devel­op­ment.

Pro­sumerism: To­day’s con­sumers ex­pect pro­fes­sional-level tools and ser­vices.

Cu­ra­tion: Peo­ple are look­ing for hy­per-tar­geted ser­vices “to sim­plify their lives with bet­ter things.”

Sim­plic­ity: In a com­plex world, con­sumers want sim­ple — in­clud­ing clean de­sign and fo­cused busi­ness mod­els.

Hy­bridiza­tion: Lines are blur­ring as prod­ucts and ser­vices merge to cre­ate unique con­cepts and ex­pe­ri­ences. (Con­sider sausages in­fused with en­ergy drinks, Kit Kat-flavoured cough reme­dies, and a Ja­panese juice ma­chine that cus­tom­izes drinks based on your favourite mood mu­sic.)

Co-cre­ation: Com­pa­nies are col­lab­o­rat­ing with cus­tomers to cre­ate new prod­ucts, ser­vices, brands and mar­ket­ing cam­paigns.

Many-to-many: For­get one-toone mar­ket­ing, or even one-tomany: an ex­plo­sion of in­di­vid­ual sell­ers and me­dia pro­duc­ers is gen­er­at­ing a “many to many” econ­omy.

What does all this mean to you? The key mes­sage is to be aware of changes in your mar­ket and em­brace con­tin­ual ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. Whether it’s Baby Boomers look­ing to re­cap­ture their youth or Gen­er­a­tion Z down­load­ing their first bike-shar­ing app, con­sumers ex­pect your busi­ness to of­fer more per­son­al­ity, cus­tomiza­tion, ease of use and so­cial pur­pose. (And don’t worry: Like the fans of $6 lat­tes and $9 juices, con­sumers will pay more for your best.)

Still, not all con­sumers are alike. At Fu­ture Fes­ti­val, Ar­mida As­cano, Trend Hunter’s VP of In­sight, of­fered some handy hints for sat­is­fy­ing four gen­er­a­tions:

Gen Z (born af­ter 1999): The new kids are “more a tribe than a gen­er­a­tion,” says As­cano. They are plu­ral­is­tic, unit­ing around causes, in­de­pen­dence and their burn­ing de­sire to cre­ate. As­cano says 76 per cent of Gen Z be­lieves they can turn their hob­bies into their ca­reer; 32 per cent are al­ready work­ing with on­line teams on per­son­ally mean­ing­ful projects. Her chal­lenge: How can your busi­ness pre­pare Gen Z for adult­hood? How can you help them be more creative?

Mil­len­ni­als (born 1982-1998): What As­cano calls “the most hated gen­er­a­tion” is now the largest de­mo­graphic in the work­force. Us­ing U.S. stats, how­ever, she notes that 36 per cent still live with their par­ents, and 25 per cent live in poverty. They seek pas­sion, ad­ven­ture and ful­fil­ment — and when they travel, 30 per cent travel alone. “How can you help your mil­len­nial con­sumers grow and progress in their lives?” As­cano asks.

Gen­er­a­tion X: The MTV gen­er­a­tion, born be­tween 1965 and 1981, share “a trou­bled past,” says As­cano. They were first latchkey kids (ar­riv­ing home af­ter school to an empty house), and they’ve been held back at work by Boomers. But they were the first group to use tech­nol­ogy for fun, and their mega­trend is nos­tal­gia. “A Gen X re­nais­sance is on the way,” says As­cano. “What is one thing about your cus­tomers’ up­bring­ing that you can in­cor­po­rate into your prod­uct?”

The Boomers: What unites the Me Gen­er­a­tion? Youth­ful­ness. “Boomers are still try­ing to reach their po­ten­tial,” says As­cano. “Ten thou­sand boomers reach re­tire­ment age every day, but 63 per cent don’t plan to stop work­ing.” And they have twice the dis­cre­tionary spend­ing of Gen X. “What are you do­ing to help peo­ple treat them­selves?” asks As­cano. “How can you help your ag­ing cus­tomers de­fine who they are?”

Turn­ing so­cial change into sales can make your busi­ness fu­ture­proof. In­no­va­tion has to start at the top, but re­mem­ber: even an owner can take home the MVP award. Fi­nan­cial Post Rick Spence is a writer, con­sul­tant and speaker spe­cial­iz­ing in en­trepreneur­ship. rick@rick­spence.ca Twit­ter.com/Rick­Spence


Toronto re­search firm Trend Hunter hosted Fu­ture Fes­ti­val, where en­trepreneurs and mar­keters ex­plored the lat­est so­cial trends and ideas that they hope of­fer a moth­er­lode of op­por­tu­ni­ties.

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