Another day, another idea. This time, it is TrendWatching.
I define TrendWatching as a disciple where one observes (not sees), engages people in conversations (not interviews), identifies what is popular (not market research) and finally using these popular social objects to help businesses.
Market research as we know it is dead. I have huge reservations against the very premise of market research. If the respondents know that they are being researched, they more likely would come up with made up stories rather than answers. Then there is an entire issue about intelligence and commitment of the research agency. How do you know that interviews were actually conducted? How do you know that there are no errors in recording? And other millions questions like that.
TrendWatching can be the future of market research. Although it has been there since early 1990s and there are numerous companies making decent money predicting trends, yet it is still not taken seriously. Companies in India don’t even know about it. And hence the opportunity.
Predictions made by trendwatchers might or might not be accurate but they are far superior than a traditional market research. Trendhunters have been reported to be very accurate in predicting trends, fads and about-to-be-cult things in technology, pop culture, fashion, entertainment, media and youth.
How can one benefit from TrendWatching?
If you are a business and you know whats in vogue, you can use it for your brand to get new customers and keep existing ones excites. It also helps make your brand more relevant, pertinent and contemporary.
Its like looking in the glass ball and getting a perspective on things that would be cult in years to come and your business and brand can use these inputs to succeed. If I can draw an analogy, in all facets of life we have people who predict the future based on some logical assumptions. Institutions like meteorological departments, astrologers, stock traders, policy makers, governments, economists etc. so it all the time. Why not do it with business? And if you are accurate even at 1% of times, there are immense gains to be made.
If you are an individual, you can figure out what is in vogue and you would not be known as a drab person. It will elevate your social status in your peer group.
How to go about TrendWatching?
It involves using Malcolm Gladwell‘s now famous work titled The Tipping Point. It assumes that there are certain people who are very much involved into one activity and are experts by the virtue of their indulgence. If we bring few such experts and let them talk to each other, we can have interesting observations. There is no real innovation happening with these methodologies. Most of these are simply making incremental changes to what people in other evolved economies are doing.
The biggest stumbling block and (as Michael Porter would put it) the entry barrier to this business is access to these people. You need to be able to identify these people, get them to work for you and get into a conversation. And moment we talk about people being a key criteria, we are talking about emotions and uncertainty.
I see immense business potential with TrendWatching in times to come. Especially in India. This is one of those businesses where capital required is minimal and business can generate awesome cash flows.
I invite readers to share their perspectives on this. Please be critical. And as always, post reproduced from personal blog.
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A lot of people have their reservations on research is dead comment.
When I say that it is dead, I do not mean that it as a profession is dead but the applicability of market research to new businesses is limited. Taking the risk of being repetitive, I think market research is no longer relevant because
1. Customers often dont themselves know what they want.
2. The data collection – where you recruit people to look for trends etc. is only limited to the intelligence and understanding of people who actually conduct the survey.
3. Once the surveys are done, what comes out of them is mostly intuitive and until or unless you are trendwatching, it is difficult to figure out exact cause of problems.
4. Paras says that with trendwatcting I am only guessing what will work and what will not, in my opinion, with trendwatching I have a higher probability of coming up with something new rather than reinventing the wheel.