Last week I was on a panel for “How to… be part of the next cool thing” as part of the LCC’s Futurising event. The panel was on trend forecasting and the kind of skills and abilities forecasters of the future require. My fellow panelists included Martin Raymond (The Future Laboratory), Jaana Jatyri (Trendstop), Jasmine Gardner (journalist for the Standard), with Maggie Norden (LCF) taking the chair. Unfortunately we started late and took some time to get through our introductions, so we didn’t get a huge opportunity to get stuck into the discussion. As panelists, we were asked to pre-prepare the answers to some of the key issues up for discussion, so I thought I’d share my responses here for whomever might be interested. Any feedback welcomed in the comments section!
Q: What is trend forecasting and how does it work – as it’s not an exact science?
A: It is a combination of strategic thinking and intuitive understanding. Recognising patterns of behavior, knowing where to find early-adopting groups/individuals and understanding brand/taste families are also key.
Q: What kind of skill set do you need to become a successful trend forecaster/analyst?
A: An avid people watcher with an interest in anything and everything. You’ll need a journalist’s eye for a story and a designer’s eye for the tiny details. Most importantly, it is vital not to allow your own taste to dictate your opinion. Being cool doesn’t necessarily make you a good forecaster!
Q: Who are the clients of trend forecasting agencies? Why do they use these services?
A: Everyone can benefit from forecasting. No product or service is on its own – it does not just compete with its own competitors but also is also up against a huge range of indirect competitors, not forgetting economic, environmental, cultural, attitudinal and chaotic factors.
Q: What are the positions available in this particular sector – from trend analyst, trend spotters to journalists writing about trends and providing editorial content.
A: On a personal level, I started out by writing a blog simply because I had no one else to talk to about my perspective on the outside world. But it ended up forcing me to articulate what I was seeing and why it meant something. It’s that ability to pinpoint exactly why something has relevance and impact which has lead me to analysis and strategy.
Q: What is the chain of communication… from trend forecasting agencies to clients to the general public?
A: At MB we do a large amount of forecasting in-house, though on larger projects we have collaborated with the Future Laboratory to ensure we start a re-brand knowing all we can about the world surrounding our client. We combine that insight with our planning for the brand to ensure it goes to market in ways that are timely, relevant and appropriate for the consumer. For the most part, the general public – in the grandest, most mainstream, use of the term – are hopefully oblivious to the brand positioning forecasting has provided. All they know is they want one and so do all their friends!