I was amused (and a little dismayed) to read Charles' Vallance's perceptive piece in Campaign recently - Trends aren't trendy any more. Starting with the story of the hipster trendspotter who wouldn't bother interviewing Brexit voters as they "... don’t set trends, they tend to be older. They’re less experimental and don’t live in London," the article examines the rather "untrendy" but clearly happening trend of social conservatism. This mass trend underlies movements in politics and society from the knitting revival to the election of Donald Trump.
I've already blogged about why the polls got the Brexit vote so badly wrong, and I think exactly the same dynamic happened in the US election. We don't learn.
The article addressed a number of things that have been puzzling me recently:
1. The tendency for people who work with brands and in consultancies to put their heads in the sand (or ignore the elephant in the room - choose whichever overworked African wildlife cliche you prefer) when it comes to what really drives and motivates people - the majority of everyday people, mainstream people, if you like. Because it doesn't fit with their worldview. I am against Brexit, but that doesn't stop me wanting to find out why people think, feel and vote as they do.
2. Maybe worse than the first option is consultancies who recognise this trend, and then try and sugarcoat it so it does fit their worldview, which is exactly what Trendwatching have done. This consultancy, in their 5 Trends for 2017 has made the distinction between the 'New Global Citizens' and the 'Nation Nurturers'. This latter group, or trend (it's not really clear which) will 'favo(u)r a turn inwards, seeking solace in the familiar.' Which seems all very well, but brands are warned that 'branded displays of faux patriotism won't fool consumers for long.'
Not sure. It will depend on who is defining what 'faux' is.
3. Having been a bit sniffy about Trendwatching and their slightly naive (or is it patronising?) attitude, I must say I enjoy reading their bulletins, and those from Springwise, as well as reading 1843 magazine. Here, I can step into a bright and shiny world of apps for everything, contactless payments, smart homes and reality in at least three variations on virtual. But then I go back to my car that's 10 years old and my 'new' iPhone which is an iPhone 5, and argue with my son about the pointlessness of Spotify for someone of my age who has as many CDs as I do.
4. When I started out in this business, we used to do Group Discussions (they weren't called Focus Groups then) in people's homes. These tended to be in very untrendy towns and suburbs at addresses that were almost impossible to find in those pre SatNav days. And I must admit I would often feel uncomfortable in those homes. There was no one-way mirror and soundproofing to hide behind and make snidey comments. As a junior from the client or agency, it was easier - you'd be passed off as the researcher's assistant and could sit there and help with the tape-recorder. But more senior clients had to be instructed on how to behave - take off their tie, don't arrive late, don't interrupt, don't snigger. Needless to say, you often heard opinions you didn't like. Not just about your brand, but about the world in general.
The move from Group Discussions in suburban homes and face-to-face street interviews to the internet via research studios and telephone has meant that we have lost touch with the people who buy our brands. Yes, of course we can analyse Tweets and Instagram posts to see what people are saying about a brand or a market, but this is all what they choose to project, not what's really there.
And if one thing has characterised this year in marketing for me, it's a leap forward in diversity and inclusion in some respects, but a huge step back in others.
It seems these days, in the world of advertising and the media, that diversity of opinion is not welcome.