It is that time of year when brand plans are being written and updated. Part of this process is looking at current trends and predicting how these will affect our brands and how we can steal a march on our competition by anticipating these better than they do. Quite rightly considerable effort is put into monitoring and measuring trends, their direction and speed of travel, and extrapolating these into the future. But this will only get us so far and our competitors are measuring and extrapolating the same available data, so this exercise is helping us to keep up with them rather than giving us any advantage.
Advantage comes from understanding the drivers of the change. Why are consumers changing their habits? Why in this direction?
Market trends are an outward manifestation, by products purchased, of a mutual shift by consumers in their desires and needs. Whilst there may be a physiological change in the “needs” of our market – i.e. a greater demand for larger sizes in clothes as our population grows larger – it is probable that the greater change is a psychological one as our consumers’ desires subtly change.
It is relatively easy to understand and adapt to changing physiological needs of our market, but understanding, predicting and adapting to their changing psychological needs is more complicated. It requires us to understand how our products satisfy the emotional needs of our consumers now, how and why those emotional needs are changing and how we can adapt to those changes. It may not be easy but it is possible and it is how we gain the advantage over our competitors – or how they gain the advantage over us.