The marketing departments I work with worry a lot about trends, and the biggest worrier of them all is invariably the CMO.
There’s a lot to fret about. Trends in the economy, disposable income, demographics, even climate. But trends in consumer tastes often top the list. Quite understandably, CMOs don’t want to be blindsided by a lucrative new consumer trend that competitors are already capitalizing on. And they certainly don’t want to be “all in” at the moment a powerful trend loses steam.
Traditionally, marketers have relied on a wide range of valuable, if imperfect, tools to gain insight – surveys, focus groups, consumer panels, instinct. But now, innovations in technology are providing CMOs with powerful new capabilities. The advent of social media and sophisticated analytics software enable marketers to identify trends that develop online, and chart how fast they develop and how they spread via social media from city to city around the world, creating adherents and – potentially – new customers. This burgeoning discipline allows marketers to correlate online trends with related developments in the offline, brick-and-mortar world — for example, new product introductions and new companies being formed.
The following infographic illustrates this capability in action. It shows a fashion and transportation trend, Cycle Chic, being born and moving through time. The trend — which involves cycling in stylish street clothes, often atop classic bicycles — spreads slowly at first but then gathers momentum. Soon, a variety of companies begin to serve the growing number of chic cyclists and others attracted to the movement.
This study is the first example of IBM’s new “Birth of a Trend” project, an effort dedicated to understanding the science behind online trends. By pushing the limits of technology, Birth of a Trend will provide insight as to whether what’s trending on social networks (not just Twitter) is, or is likely to become, commercially viable.
This is way more than merely knowing what’s “trending” at the moment. It’s a unique view of an unfolding market and competitive landscape.
Update: Please join me for a twitter chat on October 11, where we will discuss the importance of uncovering trends through social media analysis.
Time: 12:00 -1:00PM ET