Trend Watching Seminar

Bright Idea1 hour, 5 big ideas, 10 trends, loads of examples.

The second session of the Trend Watching Day in Amsterdam promised us the “10 Newest and Most Actionable Trends for Right Now”.

I’ve described the ideas and the trends, and tried to capture some of the examples. I’ve included the best of the examples mentioned that I could find described online.

The workbook that came with the seminar encouraged us as participants to think of what we could take away from this and use immediately.

Lens of Human Needs

There is a big temptation when talking about trends to focus on technology, to look at the newest, latest and greatest from the technology sector. There’s so much going on in the world of technology that it’s easy to forget that human needs are constant and it’s only by meeting those needs that technology is useful, interesting and forms part of a trend.

(1) Beneficial Intelligence

We’re used to talking about “artificial intelligence“, the idea that a system can take information from the environment and take action to optimise the result of whatever function it is performing.

Beneficial intelligence takes the same concept but looks at it through a human lens; use data to give context to help decision making and increase positive experience.

For example Prizm analyses the music play lists of whoever is connected to the device and provides an optimised stream of music to meet the group’s music tastes.

(2) Internet of Shared Things

The “Internet of Things” becomes internet of shared things, as technology meets the sharing economy.

For example Bitlock enables the sharing of bikes, although with a staring price close to the price of a second hand bike in Amsterdam I’m not sure it’ll fly here.

The concept has become interesting to some larger companies; Audi has launched “Audi Unite” in Sweden where groups of up to five people can jointly own a car. This extends the concept adopted car sharing networks such as Car2Go.

 Compelling Brand is About Emotion

Even in a world where a drone will take your photo a compelling brand is still about feelings.

(3) Two-way Transparency

Rating our experiences with companies has been around a while, some companies are are also rating their customers. AirBNB might have been in the lead here, letting both hosts and guests rate each other.

But other companies are getting in on the act and rewarding their customers, The Art Series Hotels in Australia now use “reverse reviews” to give feedback on their guests with the tagline “it pays to behave”.

Prêt à Manger, a chain selling gourmet, ready-to-eat food based in the UK, apparently gives staff a “freebie allowance” to use on customers who stand out as friendly. I must smile more next time I visit one.

(4) Insider Trading, Companies Appeal to the Personal

H&M vacationMake your internal policies a point of difference, make it public and use it in PR for your company.

H&M included their 5 week vacation policy on billboards – presumably in the US, since this is a standard vacation allowance in many parts of Europe.

Intel pledged 300M USD to build a more diverse workforce and announced it at a major electronics show.

Earlier this year Vodafone announced a global maternity leave policy, backing it up with a business case that highlights the importance of good maternity policies in keeping talented women at the company.

Peer Economy

Peer-to-peer transactions, collectively known as the sharing economy build value.

(5) Very Important Peers

Working on the old principle of ‘it’s not what you know it’s who you know’ companies are figuring out how to get individual consumers in touch with the right person – either because of what they know or what they’re doing.

Lopeca connects you to local people who can act as a virtual tour guide showing you their city via their phone.

(6) Peer Armies

Companies are finding ways to mobilise “peer armies” to answer questions, and help others. (I think Army is a poor analogy here, but I’m sticking with the Trend Watching nomenclature).

AUDI in Sweden launched “snow rescuers” app to connect you to another AUDI driver, one with a 4WD, if you’re stuck in the snow.

The Lazy Consumer

We’ve all become lazy, we want everything now, and we don’t want to work for it. We want expertise instantly and, as consumers, we want to do the right thing as long we don’t have to expend a lot of effort.

(7) Instant skills

We’d like to be able to do all the cool things, with as little effort as possible.

Instagram is probably the best example of this, turning us all into arty-hipster-photographer types by providing simple filters and tools to edit photos on the go. Obviously we’re not all expert Art photographers because of this, but Instagram photos have been hung in galleries and sold for artistic prices.

New options for the lazy gardener; Seed Sheet, which will help you design a garden online, and then grow it.

(8) Lazy Virtue

Rag Bag recyclingMany consumers have concerns about the healthiness of what they consume, and the sustainability of its production. Our ethical interests can challenge us – I appreciate American Apparel for their “no sweatshop” manufacuturing, but I hate their sexist ads. We’d like to feel virtuous as we shop, and some brands are connecting to this.

The Rag Bag encourages recycling and that minimalist ideal of non-accumulation; simply turn the bag inside out put your unwanted clothes in and send it off.

Warby Parker operates a “buy a pair, give a pair” programme, donating glasses to the third world where they’re sorely needed.

Just make it fun

(9) Small World

As smart phones and internet connectivity become ubiquitous we have tools to connect humans in extraordinary ways.

Tworlds is a photosharing app that connects people across the world who are posting on the same subject based on hashtag eg; two cups of coffee.

Lifetramp aims to connect people with inspiring mentors in a new field. You could spend a day with a cobbler, an artist, or a furniture maker.

(10) Brand fanatics

Sometimes people love a brand way beyond the pleasure gained from the product they own.

Reebok brand fanatics have been getting the logo tattoed as part of the “Reebok Forever” brand campaign.


At the end of the session we were asked to spend some time thinking about the trends we’d heard about and how we could change or business to adopt them. For me it’s more about looking at what is happening in the company and surfacing it to tell the company story in a compelling way. The stories are there already.

Image: Bright Ideas  |  The Pink Lemon  |  CC BY-NC 2.0





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