Squared is a Google-led initiative in partnership with Hyper Island and the IPA
designed to address the talent shortage in digital marketing in our industry. It
takes graduates at the start of their advertising and media careers through an
intensive three-month education designed to accelerate digital capabilities
In the session that I ran, I chose to speak about (amongst other things) the ability
to identify the trends and shifts that really matter amongst all the noise and spikes
of attention. By that I mean the ones that mean you need to adapt your strategy -
the ones that are really going to change things and make an impact.
I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to pass on some wisdom from
some truly smart people in the industry. So I stuck a blog post up asking for some
contributions that I might pass on to the graduates.
What follows combines the feedback gleaned from responses to the post with
that gained from an open space session ran at the event.
Trends become embedded within culture
"Our focus should not be on emerging technologies but on emerging cultural
Henry Jenkins, Director, Comparative Media Studies Program
A fad courts publicity, a trend doesn't.
John Dodds, Marketing Consultant
As William Gibson said ‘the future's already here, it's just not evenly distributed’…the
seeds of what is to come, and that which is enduring, already exist in more subtle, less
flashy ways, we just need to become more attuned to identifying them.
Dino Demopoulos, Director, Strategic Planning, MacLaren Canada
"Don't be social - or technological - be meaningful.”
Rob Campbell, Head of Planning, Wieden& Kennedy, China
Trends become embedded within culture
“Trends veer from the edge towards the centre (of culture, politics, society)
while fads teeter on the edge, falling into obscurity.”
Gavin Heaton, Director of Social Media, SAP
“A fad is a discernible cultural effect and a trend is usually the underlying cause”
Mark Hancock, Planning Director
“A trend is driven by something more macro (than a micro explanation), something
running through the whole culture. Ask how will this [insert thing here] change us?
With what consequences?”
Valeria Maltoni, Strategist, Conversation Agent
Trends affect real change
“Fads are elastic, in that the world returns, unchanged, to its original position once they've run their
course. Fads inform campaigns.
Trends are plastic, in that the world is irrevocably changed by them. Trends inform business models”
Phil Adams, Planning Director, Blonde Digital
“It's like weather versus climate: 'People tend to dramatically overestimate the effects
of technology over the next 12 months but dramatically underestimate the effects of
technology over the next 5 years.’”
Ben Malbon, Managing Director, Google Creative Lab, New York
Trends focus on the
Trends focus on the long-term
“We think of innovation as a singular thing - BIG, with a capital I. The firework. With
the associated cost and lack of longevity.
What matters is 'i'nnovation with a small i; a continuous stream of small ideas. It gives
brands momentum. It drives business. It is built for experimentation.
Long ideas are more valuable than big ideas”
Gareth Kay, Chief Strategy Officer, Goodby Silverstein & Partners
Trends change behaviour
“A fad is a new thing that people are doing. A trend is a new *way* that people are doing.”
Dave White, Comms Planner
“This from Clay Shirky: ‘Watch young mothers, not geeks - they don't have time for
anything that isn't useful.’”
Dan Thornton, Digital Consultant
“Fads generate excitement. Trends, just happen. The point at which i know
something is a trend, and not a fad is when my mum asks me about it”
Tom Darlington, OMD
To separate fad vs trend, ask: What is the ratio of buzz:behavior over time?
Sean Miller, Group Planning Director, R/GA
“A fad's what several people say they do in the short term. A trend's what
people are actually doing in the long term”
Will Humphrey, Planner, Anomaly London
Trends have multiple articulations
“A fad repeats in entirely predictable ways once you've spotted it.
A trend keeps surprising you in its creativity.”
John Willshire, Founder, Smithery
Trends take on a life of their own
“…the ones that produce the most noise - activity, behavior change, interest, pass
along - from the lowest signal - i.e. the smallest amount of effort or input…when the
platform or trend…begins to take on a usage that is different than its original intent.”
Dan Weingrod, Strategist, NYC
To tell the difference, you need reference points. It's not about futurology. It's
about understanding now so that developments can be evaluated in context.
Preparing for improvisation, if you will:
1) Obsess about people (all kinds) and why they do what they do. This way you'll
know what's valuable.
2) Read, insatiably. Business & Tech, not just Marketing. Short & long, new and old
- find a community of sources. This way you'll know what's interesting.
3) Play with new stuff. Share and talk about it. This way you'll know what's good.
James Caig, Head of Strategy, MEC
…and now some feedback from the young talent at #squared2012
“A trend is a general behaviour over time. A fad is an extreme action
related to that behaviour.”
“A trend is an evolutionary behaviour, gaining momentum & cultural roots,
whereas a fad is instantaneous and brief”
“Fads don’t change
things. Trends do”
“Trends evolve and
“Trends are the behaviour, fads are how the behaviour is expressed”
“Timescale and groups: fads are short, small & divisive, trends
are long, large and inclusive”
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