Though the discoveries can be vast, when you think about it, there are only a couple of resources for gathering information: the real world and the digital world. Both play an essential role in trend prediction, and one should not be used exclusively over the other. Each is integral in studying and deciphering human behavior. Taking into consideration the time you live in, the geopolitics, and how that affects people’s perception of their lives, what that means for how they spend their dollars, and where their attention is being diverted; all this comes into play when considering forecasting resources that are available to you.
Before digging deep into the social media reservoir, it is important to pause, lick our index finger, hold it in the air, and assess the temperature and direction of the zeitgeist. Zeitgeist means “spirit of the time.” It has been said you can’t accurately gauge the spirit of an era until that era is over. A valid point, but there is no better time to look at the emotions and vulnerability of the people of a time than when they are living it.
To understand your audience’s experiences, to some extent, you’ve got to live them yourself. This part of the process involves putting down your devices, closing your laptop, and physically engaging with your environment, your community, and the people in it. The media manipulates information into what they want us to hear. To be an influencer and trendsetter, we must shut out the chatter long enough to make firsthand observations and come to conclusions. Once we formulate our ideas, we can re-engage with the online masses to compare and contrast our findings with the valuable opinions of others.
What do we look at? Look at everything that matters; politics, the economy, the weather, art, design, science, technology, media, food, travel, and anything you can think of that can influence the way people feel and react. In our current climate, a topic of observation is politics and the reactions and fallout. As we look at this really interesting time, it is also important to see if historically there has been a similar political climate.
There is valuable truth in the saying, “What comes around goes around.” While no moment in history can be exactly like any other moment, similarities are often profound, and it is helpful to look closely at human reactions to these past moments. Lately, many are comparing Trump and Nixon. Make your own conclusions. But, type these names together in your search bar, and you will get over 26,000 social media mentions in the past seven days.
Without getting into the nitty-gritty of the current geopolitical upheaval, it is worth noting some facts. As global citizens, we were surprised by recent political outcomes in both Britain and the US. We are divided. Not only as a nation but also as a planet. It’s easy to get lost in your personally curated bubble, taking in only information that you want to hear.
For a forecaster, it has never been more important to listen to everyone and find a common story. This task is not easy. The noise of the media is overwhelming, and if I look at my personal response to this, I sometimes turn off the circus. (My mental heath depends on it.) I’m not the only one who tunes out the media. This example highlights the difficulty of scrutinizing modern events and our reactions to what is happening while it is still occurring. However, if we want to understand how something like geopolitics affects everything we do, it’s time to pay attention. Immediately, we see a resurgence in protests: for women’s rights, for and against the government, for civil rights, jobs, and the environment. As it relates to trend forecasting, our heightened political atmosphere will certainly affect consumer behavior.
As brands, what can we do to support and embrace a renewed interest in activism, while also broadcasting our brand messages? Immediately, we see brands and individuals donating money to causes such as the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. Go to either website, and you will see each capitalizing on current human interest. We see a resurgence in slogan driven t-shirts and the pantsuit as a symbol of women’s strength. Will we harken back to the 80s and go for the win with the return of shoulder pads (a sign of protection and strength)?
Will a stronger pallet of red, green, blue, black, and gold, accompany and even replace the passiveness of the pastel and natural hues that have been dominating the color forecast? The Pantone color of the year for 2017 is a vibrant grass green, specifically called, “Greenery (15-0343).” If this renewed wave of activism persists (and it does not seem to be abating), I predict 2018’s color will be more in your face.
As the mercury rises for both the earth’s climate and the geopolitical climate, the consumer is in desperate need of someone or something they can trust implicitly. Brands whose DNA is suffused with authenticity, who deliver what they promise, who inspire trust, and are aligned with the values of their audience will soar now.
Take the time to look the Zeitgeist in the eye when out in your community, out in the world. Then, with that excitement and personal perspective in tow, power back on your device of choice.