September 19, 2020

The Difference Between Trendy and a Trend

In my experience, and I mean this in the most personal sense, creatives are not the most forward thinking demographic. As a musician, my future was always dependent on the next album cycle. The next record was always going to be “the one” that took us to the next level. However in my scenario, the next level never came. Not only did the next level never come, but the current level didn’t hold. Popularity is fickle, but we rode our wave where it carried us. Unfortunately for me, it crashed mightily into the shore of “now what?”

I wish I knew how to spot, follow and capitalize on trends back then like I do now.

I have mentioned this before, but I am a futurist. If it sounds cool, it’s because it is. I have a Master’s degree in Strategic Foresight and I was educated to know how to map out possible futures that may happen and make business decisions based on those potential future scenarios.

It sounds complicated, but anyone can do it. All you need is a cocktail of data, scenario planning, and time. The problem is that most creatives are so busy trying to figure out the “now,” that the “next” is too worrisome to contemplate. I relate to this wholeheartedly. However, to be sustainably successful, you need to know what lies beyond the next album cycle—good or bad.

Use tools to discover an optimal future

One way that creatives, or anyone, can learn how to create potential future scenarios is to spot trends. Trendspotting is being able to recognize a trendline from the past, walk alongside it in the present and follow it into the future. The most important idea behind this is differentiating between ‘what is a trend’, and what is ‘trendy.’

For example. Substack, the platform I am publishing this article on is trendy, but there is a deeper trend involved which is one to few publishing.

Major media companies have an opportunity to develop audiences around specific columnists or reporters. Tight-knit communities will become stronger as Facebook emphasizes private groups and as micro-influencers gain credibility.

Fortnite is trendy, but the trend is eSports.

eSports is primed to continue its growth as a major cultural phenomenon in the near future, with significant impact expected in the gaming, sports, streaming, entertainment and tech sectors.
Leading up to this year’s 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Intel will host its Intel World Open eSports tournament featuring Street Fighter V and Rocket League with a total prize pool of $500,000. The 2024 Olympics, held in Paris, will include demonstration eSports events.

Miquela is trendy, but synthetic media is the trend.

Synthetic media will give rise to an entirely new kind of celebrity in the 21st century: synthetic pop stars.
They don’t drink alcohol or use drugs, would never say anything off-message, and their mug shots would never go viral on the internet.

As a creative looking to create a sustainable future for your brand, you must be able to identify and capitalize on trends. You may never write on SubStack, but you should create a revenue plan based on one to few publishing. How can you find your niche audience and communicate directly with them? You may never play Fortnite, but you should recognize the rise of eSports and research ways to capitalize on the millions of dollars of sync opportunities presenting themselves more and more each day. What are you doing to pitch popular music or a custom score for the next big game? You may not follow a robot influencer on Instagram, but preparing for the rise of digital musicians will put you in front of the trend, open up possible social collabs and prepare your fans by positioning yourself in the age of digital competition. Are you keeping up with where tech in your industry is headed?

If I knew then what I know now

As my full-time career in music came to an end I began researching and studying how to spot trends. If I had done this sooner, I would have had many more opportunities to take advantage of trends and find ways to generate sustaining revenue from them.

Put simply, keep your eyes open. When you spot a trend, make a plan for how you and your brand can benefit from what is happening today—and how you can take advantage of it tomorrow.

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