‘PATTERNS OF OPPORTUNITY’
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. firstname.lastname@example.org 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.