The profession of trend researcher is still highly charged with stereotypes. Many think it’s mainly about documenting hip and trendy fashion styles or following hypes and fads. But the scope of trend research extends far beyond that.
In this blog we will look at the difference between a trend and something that’s “trending” or “popular”, such as a hype, fad and craze.
Let’s dive into the different meanings:
A fad or a craze
This is a form of collective behaviour that develops within a culture, a generation or any other type of social group. It is often followed enthusiastically for a limited period of time. Think of popular fashion styles, specific language deemed cool within a peer group, or hashtags that are “trending” on social media. Fads can fade quickly when the feeling of novelty has gone.
A hype is often created by advertisers or media to promote a specific idea, event, person or product. The coverage can seem out of proportion to the significance of what is being covered. Think of the hype around a new technological gadget before its official release. Or the hype around a certain celebrity.
Trends, on the other hand, rise more slowly over time and travel across industries. They are not short or seasonal and don’t materialise overnight. Trends emerge step by step over years as they move from the fringes of society into the mainstream. Trends are about value shifts, this means you have to go beyond the outer surface of something new. What kind of need does a specific new service fulfill? What type of value lies behind a new style?
When you know the difference in meaning, how to work with these in your trend research?
For trend professionals, fads and hype are only interesting in the way that they might be manifestations of a bigger trend and connect with emerging values and needs. This is certainly not always the case, and a trend researcher should try not to get distracted by fleeting fads or hype. Push yourself to find signals that challenge the status quo and are not popular (yet).
Also be aware when you see the word ‘trend’ used in the media. Often it’s actually a hype or fad that’s being presented not a meaningful trend. Stay critical when you come across ‘trends’ in your feed or in news headlines. Don’t blindly copy/paste something just because it’s being called a ‘trend’.