The word ‘trend’ is tossed around frequently in news papers, magazines and on social media. Often with various meanings. So what is the definition of a trend? Let’s dive in!


The word “trend” evokes many different associations, and you might have heard this word being used in various ways and contexts.

What are the first thoughts that pop into your head when you hear the word “trend”?

Create a mind map where you collect all associations regarding the word “trend”. You can do this as an individual or team activity. Use it as input review and reflect on the definition of a trend. 👇


What is a trend? Mind map to create a trend definition. Studio Elsewhere


What stands out to you from this mind map? And what happens when you discuss it with others? Get the conversation going! Probably you will get a lot of different views in on the word “trend”.

With such a wide variety of interpretations of “trend”, when you start working with trends it is essential to explain which definition of “trend” you are using. That way everyone on your team or in your organisation will be on the same page, and you avoid a lot of discussion and confusion.



A quick look at the online Oxford Learner’s Dictionary (2023) gives us the following definition of “trend”:

“a general direction in which a situation is developing or changing.”

But this is still a very broad definition. Let’s get more specific. The key elements defining a trend are:


When talking about trends, you are talking about the specific direction in which a change you spotted is heading. In what way is it shifting away from the mainstream and the accepted? Is something getting more or less dominant?


The direction of change can be pinpointed by describing the specific shift in values, because these define people’s needs, attitudes, expectations and mentalities related to the change identified.


A trend is driven by forces that lie primarily beyond an individual’s control and have already been going on for some years, perhaps even decades. These forces should be taken into consideration when researching trends because they are driving a trend’s emergence.


The direction of change can be spotted because trends manifest themselves in an observable manner in various ways and across different sectors, for example through language, style, behaviour, products, services, art, events, etc. Signals of change can be detected by scanning the environment.

Certain groups

A trend starts within a certain group of people in society before it spreads further and perhaps one day becomes accepted and adopted by a majority in society. Trend research is about finding and understanding the changemakers who often operate at the fringes and in the margins. 



In a nutshell, you study change to find patterns that show shifts in people’s values and needs. These emerging patterns of change are called trends. The trends are driven by global forces and already manifest themselves in various ways, like in a certain type of style, language, behaviour, a new service or product. These manifestations can be spotted first amongst the niche groups in society who are setting the trend or embracing it in an early stage.

It is always helpful to have a one-sentence definition of a trend to share with your audience. The following sentence combines all aspects of a trend in just one line:


A trend is a change in values and needs which is driven by forces and already manifests itself in various ways within certain groups in society.


This is the trend definition I use. Sometimes I tweak it a bit for specific audiences.

See if this definition works for you or tweak it to make it feel comfortable for you to work with. The goal for it is to help you explain your view on trends to others.

Want to dive in even deeper? Read about the three trend levels, that are part of this definition: forces, values and manifestations.


To wrap it up:

Want to start working with trends? The first question to deal with is: what is a trend? A mind mapping exercise helps to create an overview of your thoughts and feelings around the word “trend”.  Key elements are: change, values, forces, manifestations and certain groups in society that are early adopters. Mix this with your own thoughts on a trend and create your own definition to work with.



Read my book for more in-depth information or contact me to for trend training or trend coaching sessions