Spotting industry trends and making forecasts for a year ahead is a challenge, especially in an age of constant change and technological developments. The way I see it, in terms of trends, it is critical to seek out the best when you need to spot trends and discern the real change elements at work. After offering my year in review and looking back at the trends in 2012, it’s time to also look ahead. We are at the dawn of a new year – a year filled with potential and uncertainty. So, let’s get some clarity on what the future holds.
The Way the Industry Sees It
I had the pleasure of speaking with Marian Salzman, CEO of Havas (formerly Euro RSCG) Worldwide PR, North America, who is viewed as the trendspotter in the world today, about her thoughts for the year ahead and some secret tips to spotting trends for the advertising industry.
I’m always fascinated by your annual trends reports. Without revealing any secrets, could you explain your process for identifying trends and making forecasts for the coming year?
My thing is pattern recognition, incorporating an eye for the oddball statistic. There would have been no metrosexual mania, at least not instigated by me, if there hadn’t been a few stunning numbers popping. Back in 2003, guys began to feel they were no longer guaranteed to be CEO of the bedroom or the boardroom. They suddenly had a serious interest in the kitchen. Straight men were increasingly comfortable socializing with gay men. 2003 seems like the dark ages, but it illustrates the kinds of observations that set me off on an investigation. Ever since Al Gore invented the Internet (kidding) in the early 1990s, I have been a huge information surfer. Today, this process can be automated for me with services such as Factiva clipping in real time. Finally, my trendspotting would be much less robust if not for an informal network of trendspotters around the globe who log in all kinds of sightings. (In fact, I did not invent the word metrosexual—it was invented by journalist Mark Simpson in the early 1990s. But it was forwarded to me by a colleague and I matched the word to my sighting, Men Get Softer – the rest was history.) This past year, I launched TrendsU, an e-learning program about how to trendspot, for all Havas staff around the world. About 550 people from around the world studied the four modules and shared their sightings with me, and even pictures are now compiled (the thousand-words adage never rang more true) on our TrendsU Pinterest board.[/a]
In 2012, you focused on the trend toward achieving a grainy, “Polaroid” effect for digital photography with the popularity of apps like Instagram and Hipstamatic. How do you think the world of apps and wireless will evolve in 2013?
Wireless will be so ubiquitous that discussing it will be almost like talking about the Internet or even the dial tone. I agree with a recent post of yours that it will be very interesting to see how the advertising, marketing and communications industries will adapt to a wireless world. I remember helping on a pitch for IBM back in the dark ages for which we interviewed people about the future, and Kevin Kelly, the co-founding editor of Wired, talked to us about the future like it would happen a week from Thursday. Well, it’s finally a week from Thursday, and always-on, constant connectivity is the new normal. People take mobile devices to bed, to the toilet and onto airplanes and assume, voilà, they’ll be connected because connectivity is a given. Back in 1993, Kelly told us connectivity would be like air or water. Apps for 2013 are like software was a decade ago, except that the innovations are coming every 22 seconds. Before you know you need an app, there it is. Simplification has been a trend for 15 years, and apps are the epitome of simplification. Branded apps are a given. Tablets are making apps even more essential. I want to do more on the fly, more quickly, and an app ensures I get it done, seamlessly. The app I expect next year is for voting – the most prehistoric thing we still do without much connectivity. Seriously, in 2013, you want me to walk to a school and fill out some paperwork and pull levers? How very last century. Once Americans can vote online using apps and smartphones or tablets, expect a much more engaged population to be that much more connected on issues and topics that matter to them.