This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Obviously Awesome" by April Dunford. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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In marketing, is chasing trends ever a good idea? If so, when? How should it be done?
Sometimes you’ll find that you have the option to connect your product to a current trend. In Obviously Awesome, positioning consultant April Dunford discusses the pros and cons of this strategy.
Continue reading for Dunford’s advice regarding latching onto a trend.
Once you know what market to target, you might take advantage of a current trend to show that your product is relevant and useful to consumers now, proposes Dunford. While chasing trends isn’t necessary—and there are conditions under which it’s a bad idea to ride a trend—if you can clearly show customers how what you already do aligns with a current trend in your existing market, you can benefit from the trend.
Let’s illustrate this: It would be a bad idea for your veggie chip company to ride the trend of supersizing your products because your brand identity revolves around healthy portions, and supersizing products isn’t a trend in your existing market. By following this trend, your company would appear uncommitted to your core principles. However, if there’s a current trend of adding barbeque flavoring to products, you might avail yourself of that trend because 1) your existing products already have flavoring, so adding a new flavor would align with what you’re currently doing, and 2) other chip companies in your market are also BBQ-flavoring their chips.
(Shortform note: If riding a trend isn’t possible for you because it doesn’t align with what you’re doing or isn’t a trend in your market, consider making the use of your product a trend in its own right. You might do this by first targeting consumer groups that Geoffrey Moore refers to as innovators and early adopters: people who are extremely tech-savvy and willing to test new products (in this context, products are usually new technologies and software). Innovators and early adopters are the people who spread knowledge and enthusiasm about a product to the general population, thereby potentially launching a trend.)
Before latching on to a trend, ask yourself the following questions to determine if doing so is the right move for you: Does connecting my product to a trend reduce the clarity of my message? Am I only stressing the trend and ignoring the product and market? Is the connection between your product and the trend unclear? If you answer “yes” to any of the above questions, don’t avail yourself of the trend—it won’t help you.
(Shortform note: Dunford advises cautious self-examination when thinking about riding trends. Other experts are less wary of trends, arguing that a company’s ability to ride a trend contributes significantly to its profitability. However, they contend that it’s not enough to ride a trend: You must anticipate the trend to take full advantage of it. This requires you to actively search for trends, for instance in growing geographic markets. You might thus reframe the questions Dunford recommends you pose to be: “Where are markets growing? And how can I position my product in these growing markets?”)
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Here's what you'll find in our full Obviously Awesome summary:
- What "positioning" is and why it's so important for marketing
- Three common (and avoidable) mistakes marketers make
- A 12-step process that lets you position any product well