In contemporary society (and economy) it is only important to join the as early as possible latest trends. Technology plays a major role in our lives and innovations follow each other at an ever-increasing pace. For most companies, hooking up or dropping out. Or better yet: create a trend yourself. But what is actually a trend? What different forms are there? And why are they so important for the modern entrepreneur?
A trend is a long-term development in a certain direction. In the economy it is a development that represents a decline or growth in a so-called trend line. If there are figures available, then you can find trends in it. In fashion it is about what you see a lot in clothing and fashion at that time. See you there too recurring trends: something that used to be 'in' is now becoming the trend again.
Trend or no trend?
A trend can best be described as an observable course with which a certain market or sector develops. Unfortunately, a short, universally applicable definition does not really exist. It is generally accepted that the trend is somewhere between the craze and the evolution. Trends occur in all markets and societies and have one important characteristic in common: they leave traces in society. That therefore appears to be the first important criterion for the term 'trend'.
The trend distinguishes itself immediately from the craze. The craze (or hype) comes up quickly, is visible everywhere, but often disappears just as quickly from society. For example, think of the Tamagotchi or Flippos.
Yet the distinction between a fad or a trend is not so easy to make. In their time, the Beatles invariably became all the rage (even a mania: Beatle Mania), but no one will deny that the band has left deep marks in the history of music. The terms trend and craze are therefore often confused. In principle, a trend often comes out a bit slower than a fad, is also more durable (and therefore does not suddenly disappear) and has a social impact.
The trend pyramid: micro, maxi, mega
In order to get a better grip on the 'trends' phenomenon and their different manifestations, there is the trend pyramid. The trend pyramid classifies trends according to their nature, impact and duration. Three types of trends are defined. It is important to realize that it is often only afterwards and with retrospective effect that the type of trend can be determined.
The microtrend takes an average of one to five years and is focused on a product. Consider, for example, the rise of the Crocs. The microtrend thus comes closest to the craze. Where a fad bleeds to death completely in the long run, a product that is part of a microtrend will normally have a longer lasting impact on the market. You can still buy Crocs for more than ten years after the first introduction, but there is no longer a trend.
Microtrends are often, piece by piece, part of a larger one max trend (or sometimes macro trend). In a maxi trend that lasts for at least five to ten years, the consumer is central. Consumers, for example, are interested in digital pets, so there are micro trends such as the Tamagotchi and the Furby. The maxitrend encompasses a range of microtrends and exposes the underlying tendency: what growing need in society is met by these microtrends? Anyone who understands which maxitrend is the cause of different microtrends can respond to this by recognizing or even launching a successful microtrend. This is what trend watchers are good at (trying to) do.
Finally we have the megatrend. The megatrend borders on social evolution. It is an abstract change in society that offers room for new trends. Think of women's emancipation or digitization. Mega trends are often the breeding ground for maxi trends, because a changing social landscape creates new consumer needs. After all, the megatrend normally has an impact on an entire society. Everyone, from old to young and from poor to rich, for example, has to participate in the digital world. Nobody escapes a mega-trend.
Recognize a megatrend
For many trends it applies that in most cases they can only be identified and interpreted afterwards. To a lesser extent, this applies to the megatrend, which lasts longer and is therefore more easily recognizable for the society experiencing such a trend.
Recognizing a very abstract megatrend at national level is often not that difficult. But what if a trend shows international characteristics? And not ten years, but maybe it will last for decades? Are there individuals who know how to recognize such trends, which are almost evolutions?
The Russian economist Nikolay Kondratiev (1892-1938) was such an individual. He tried to expose trends in the development of the world economy over the decades, and thought he recognized a wave movement that had very long cycles, sometimes up to sixty years. Supported by a few other economists of his time, a number of so-called Kondratieff waves were identified, of which the industrial revolution (late eighteenth century) was the first. Because Kondratjev was able to substantiate that these wave movements were not isolated developments, but a recurring trend, it had to be possible to also use this science to 'predict' the economic future.
The urgency of trends
That conclusion from Kondratjev brings us to the most important question: why are trends so important now? What do they mean for the entrepreneur today?
Following the trend pyramid: being able to recognize and estimate micro trends helps the entrepreneur to put profitable products on the market properly. And perhaps even more important: being able to recognize when a trend is coming back. After all, anyone who opened a store in Crocs in 2011 and saw that its turnover fell by nearly fifty percent in 2012 is not happy.
Having a good view of maxi trends helps especially SMEs and large companies when designing new products and services, by allowing them to respond perfectly to a growing consumer need. It also helps to align your marketing to the prevailing maxi trend: state the need that you meet with your product or service, and if you have done your homework well, you will come across understanding and interest.
The real trend spotter, however, knows to follow in the footsteps of Kondratjev, recognizes (also the not so obvious) megatrends and even derives a predictive gift from this recognition. Anyone who has some idea of where society will be in ten years' time has a strong lead over their competition. That is why we see the best entrepreneurs in recent history as innovators rather than businessmen.