Looking Back, Moving Forward
In this blog series, we explore the distinction between fads and trends and why it is vital for CMOs and other marketers—including strategists, designers, copywriters and web developers—to pay attention to each. We’ll consider broad implications of fads and trends while also pinpointing specific examples of each.
When I was a high school English teacher, I wanted to relate. I was fresh out of college, 22 years old. I wanted to be trendy—or what I thought was trendy. So, naturally, I picked up on teenage fads. I dabbled in Wiz Khalifa’s music, learned about Vine, wore some Silly Bandz—ok, this one might be a lie—and showed viral videos like Hot Cheetos and Takis to keep their attention in the middle of lessons about Beowulf. “You see, Grendel relates to Hot Cheetos and Takis because . . .”
I was striving to understand and leverage ephemeral fads instead of focusing on more comprehensive, notable trends. While I had some great successes driving students through my educational sales funnel to the purchasing stage in the short term, I learned valuable lessons about using fads—and how seeing through their short-lived murkiness might've brought me more success in the long run.
To set the stage for this series, it's important to note the difference between fads and trends.
Fads vs. Trends
To sum up the basics, fads come and go frequently. Think stonewashed jeans, pet rock, Beanie Babies, AOL Instant Messenger, t-shirts with “Keep Calm and ______ On,” mustache-themed whatevers, rustic chic wedding decor and—need I say more?
Trends, on the other hand, don’t skyrocket and then crash in popularity in a matter of weeks, months or a few years. Trends are lasting, so they rise in popularity more slowly. Healthy living—especially when it comes to fitness—is a trend; let’s just say the Shake Weight is a different story.
So, why does this distinction matter for marketers?
How fads and trends affect marketers
Like me as a high school teacher, you want to relate to your audience; you want to speak to them in a way that they’ll respond, hopefully by purchasing what you’re selling or, sometimes better, advocating your company. But how do you sort through all the hullaballoo to piggyback on a short-lived fad or capitalize on a meaningful, enduring trend? (Lesson one: don’t say hullaballoo.) For other considerations regarding fads and trends, check out the list below.
While there is really no harm in participating in these charitable ventures, it’s worth asking these questions if only to ensure that your efforts support your company culture. It’d be a bit incongruous, for instance, if R.J. Reynolds started supporting the Lung Cancer Alliance. Just like it’s odd to see a brand with a serious, formal voice use #swag in a tweet.
In essence, what do you know about your customers’ behavior? If you can’t answer this question, you’re entering dangerous territory, especially if you’re trying to capitalize on an immature fad that’s been popular for only a short time.
As we move forward, we’ll be building off of the foundation above to wrap our collective heads around more specific types of fads and trends and what they mean for your business. Read Part 2 of this series about the benefits and pitfalls of using trending hashtags on Twitter and in other social media channels.
[Related reads: Brands Trying to Sound Cool]