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Which hypes or trends matter and why your company should know the difference

  • Hypes can have profound effects, but they don’t stick around
  • Trends have staying power and lead to lasting changes
  • Knowledge is power
  • Factors that help you determine the impact of a trend

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s becoming increasingly important to keep up with the changes that are taking place around us. Organisations that fail to stay up-to-date with new technological developments and shifts in consumer behaviour run the risk of putting themselves at a serious disadvantage. Examples of leading brands that have fallen by the wayside – because they ignored or were unaware of these shifts and developments – are numerous. But it’s important to realise that not every new development is necessarily better than what came before, and it can be a huge mistake to be too focussed on each and every one of them. To know the difference between hypes, fads, and trends – and which ones are important – it makes sense for organisations to have a dedicated research and development team or an external futurist or trendwatcher.

Hypes can have profound effects, but they don’t stick around

Trying to figure out what’s a fleeting hype or an important disruptive trend can be confusing and frustrating, and may cause organisations to be hesitant towards innovation. Fads and trends can be equally impactful and important, but it’s critical to know what to focus your attention and resources on. Adapting to every hype that comes along could be a costly waste of time and energy, but you also want to avoid overlooking trends that are critical for the survival of your business.

A man floating in a boat made from a dollar bill during a thunderstorm, looking towards lightning and heavy clouds
Trying to figure out what’s a fleeting hype or an important disruptive trend can be confusing and frustrating, and may cause organisations to be hesitant towards innovation.

A hype or fad can include a type of behaviour, a diet, toys, or clothing styles. Hypes rise fast and furious, are followed by many people for a short while, and usually fade away just as fast – once people are captivated by the next one that comes along. Some examples are today’s hype of auto-tuning songs as a stylised voice effect, or the Crocs craze of ten years ago (those exquisitely awful – yet undeniably comfortable – plastic clog-type shoes with holes), or the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS awareness. Hypes or crazes do have value, though. They can be used in marketing strategies and function as an entryway to new audiences and untapped markets. But it’s important to remember that they’re fleeting.

Trends have staying power and lead to lasting changes

Trends and hypes may resemble each other at first, but one major difference is duration. A trend isn’t temporary; it’s driven by certain needs in the market or society. It emerges slowly and gets stronger as it develops, impacting consumer thinking and buying decisions, and often leading to lasting changes. Trends usually encompass entire areas of technology, as opposed to a single item or brand. Distance learning, for instance, became a trend because you can use any type of mobile device to learn from anywhere in the world. Conversely, Google Glass was more of a hype, in part because it’s just one product developed by one company, with very few other companies operating within that market. We tend to pay the most attention to tech trends, but political, social, and economic trends create needs, demands, and markets, too.

Trends also ‘work together’ with other trends, generating an even more profound and longer-lasting impact. For instance, younger technologies like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things are fortifying mobile and cloud technology, big data, and analytics, creating an impact that’s exponentially greater and leads to new trends. Data generated from the Internet of Things, for instance, feeds machine learning and advanced analytics, which produces even smarter applications.

Knowledge is power

As a business, imagine the horror of investing loads of resources to serve a hype, only to see interest (and sales) wane or die, while you could have focussed on longer-term trends to create solid new business opportunities instead. Mind you, jumping onto the right hype-bandwagon can certainly be profitable, but building your business on the basis of a trend that leads to new markets and new customer segments really is the smarter choice. When deciding where to focus your time and money, try to figure out whether the emerging hype or trend is likely to expand, evolve, and have a long-lasting effect. Ask yourself whether it’s based on novelty, or economical, political, technological, or social changes. And lastly, determine whether the emerging hype or trend will create new markets or shift thinking, behaviour, and ways of life.

Factors that help you determine the impact of a trend

According to Gartner, there are three key factors by which you’ll be able to determine what impact a certain trend will have. First, does the trend offer new value? In other words, will it produce better outcomes for your business or help solve problems? Second, what’s the level of digital disruption of the trend? For instance, would adopting the new trend require reinventing or changing your company’s business model? Would it replace existing technologies or the services of existing providers that your business relies on? And third, what type of impact will the trend have? Will it only be felt within your company or will it have an external impact on your business? Furthermore, it’s important to realise that some trends might impact a single business, sector, or region only, while others may have a country-wide or even global reach – depending on economic, geopolitical, cultural, and social factors.

Samantha Searle, a senior research analyst at Gartner, says: “It’s easy to be seduced by over-hyped trends, but not all trends are equal and not all will apply to your organization or industry. Self-driving cars, for example, will have a greater impact on organizations involved in logistics, transportation, aerospace, defense and the retail sector and far less than those in financial services and healthcare industries. You need to consider the trend from your organization’s perspective and work out what it can do for you.”

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