Diary of a Trend Stalker: Chapter One

Every day I wake up, look in the mirror and marvel at the gorgeous physical specimen staring back at me. I soak it all in and think about how lucky my wife is to have me. 

Then I shake off the remnants of that final pre-alarm dream and take another look at the disheveled guy with unruly red locks and badass Jedi boxers.

That’s when I see the 40-year-old father of a 4-year-old daughter, a husband, and a friend to what seems to be an endless array of people. I am blessed with innumerable online "F3s" (friends, fans and followers) with whom I feel the need to connect in some way. I also feel hopelessly out of touch.

Part of my neurosis is that I'm plagued with a fear labeled by my friend @bcirce as "FOMO" – "The Fear of Missing Out." I feel a constant need to be plugged in and on top of things both for my own information, and so I can share with my F3s ASAP whenever anything appears to be a BFD.

So how does an ordinary jeans and T-shirt-wearing social creative manage to be a “trend hunter” when he lives in the cultural backwater of Orlando, Florida?

Well I'll tell you – it's nothing more than a state of mind. There is no one kind of trend hunter. That concept seems ludicrous now that I fully understand trend hunting. We're ALL trend hunters!

Why? Because each of us is affected differently when we notice people wearing Chuck Taylors again, pick up a “Dwell” or "Juxtapoz" magazine, find some new music on a video clip and tag it with Shazam, spot someone longboarding on a bamboo skateboard, or see punk studs in high heels. We each have a unique reaction and a different sense of what we think is cool. Furthermore, there are varying thresholds of motivation and inspiration that compel us to buy or seek additional information on any random meme that crosses our path.

What Makes a Trend Hunter?

Lest any of us start to feel superior, I need to reiterate that everyone is a trend hunter.

If you ever made a purchase or took action because you saw someone else do something – then trends affect you. Like it or not, you inadvertently hunted that trend by extending it. Someone who notices these impulses and makes mental notes about “’the what and why” is a trend hunter.

It's also important to note that trend hunting is not always a positive thing. For example:

OMFG - who thought puce was a good color for hip-huggers?!

Ha! I said hip-huggers. Just because you hunted a trend, it does not necessarily make it something you need to keep in your quiver of magical knowledge.

Roll die for attack move.

What to Do With the Knowledge?

The action you take is as unique as the trend itself. I might want to purchase the product and emulate the moment in which I encountered the trend. But IMHO, this nullifies the "hunting" because you are now a vehicle for the trend. When you hunt, you collect the trends on a cerebral level and then extend your knowledge into what you do. E-mail, Tweet, discuss, debate, and MOST of all – interpret what the trends might or might not do for your client base.

The Making of a Trend

Anything can make a trend.

"A fad is any form of behavior that develops among a large population and is collectively followed with enthusiasm for some period, generally as a result of the behavior's being perceived as novel in some way." ~ The Wiki-wiki-wiki

Trends are behaviors and interpretations of past, current and often futuristic thoughts, products, fandom, interests and even topical geographically specific actions.

Core Value

Having hunted enough (within your perceived specialties, please – anyone who claims to be a universal trend hunter is a douche), you will begin to shape what's impactful to future outcomes within your sphere of influence. And with that power comes great responsibility to avoid jumping to conclusions about your prey. It's a balancing act of what you “think” and what you “know” will happen.

Perception vs. Reality

There is an overabundance of sites that tell us what we (should) think is cool. Trending Tweets, lists, topics and news alerts incessantly pound us with updates on what we should or should not be doing, buying, saying, playing, seeing or using. What you need to do is break down the “trend architecture” as part of your personal brand, and decide what are you qualified to advocate as trending.

What I Hunt:

Major:

  • iPhone photo apps
  • Blogging trends - and associated technologies
  • Social business/media and storytelling - and associated technologies
  • Advertising and integrated marketing
  • Online/graphic design

Minor: 

  • Blue-collar
  • Automotive and pedal-powered transportation
  • Counterculture: tattoos, graffiti, hipsters, fashion
  • Tablet/mobile – Apple-specific <--Snob
  • Retroactive trends (‘70s to current)

At the end of the day, a trend is nothing more than a piece of storytelling. Of course there are LARGE, news-based trends pushed in your face like a tsunami of opinion. But that type of story is not a trend, it is saturation. The real "seed" is when I tell you my story so well that you want to read (buy) it for yourself, and thereby retell it.

Cue the Dr. Who music!

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Please give me shout let me know what you think.

Posted on January 18, 2012 and filed under Design, Research, Soapbox, Trends.