Fads vs Trends: What's the Difference and Why are they Important?
Do you remember that song by the band Bowling for Soup where they talk about someone being the flavour of the week? Probably not, as it wasn’t even their biggest hit as a 1-2 hit wonder, so it’s ironic that they ultimately ended up being somewhat of a flavour of the week themselves. This brings to mind the idea of fads: these are “form[s] of behavior that are intensely followed by a population for a short period of time.” They come fast and fade away just as quickly. In marketing, these have their uses for a short period, but they don’t stick around. Therefore if a company hops onto a fad too late, they may seem out-of-touch: like an embodiment of the “How do you do, fellow kids?” joke that young people on the internet love to use whenever someone in an older demographic tries desperately to appeal to a younger crowd.
What is important is identifying the difference between fads and trends, and what falls into each category. That’s right, these are different things that can impact your marketing in different ways:
While fads rise quickly and fall just as fast, trends gain momentum and grow over time. An important facet of trends is that they tend to gain momentum due to filling a certain hole or solving a certain problem in the market. They see results because they serve a purpose and meet a need for the target audience. While these may take some time to grow, they typically stick around for quite some time, and adapt along with the market and consumers in order to get stronger as time goes on. Ignoring trends can be detrimental to a brand, as the company will either be forced to adapt later and be unnecessarily behind everyone else in their industry, or they will no longer be relevant and start to fade away. Although trends may inevitably end up being more influential and important in the long-term, this is not to say that fads don’t also have their uses: fads can play a role in your marketing as long as they are relevant to your brand and target audience. They can be utilized as a way to connect to an audience, but you need to pay attention so as not to jump onto a fad and start using it’s terminology across your social media and advertising after the fad is already over. In short, trends can be considered a part of a marketing strategy, while fads are a tactic. This difference can be easily understood through the example of social media: using social media for brand engagement is a part of your marketing strategy, while the types of posts you put up are your tactics (aka, how you carry out that strategy). For instance, if a certain type of Instagram post is hot at the moment, you may consider throwing some up for your brand while it’s still in the audience mindset, as a tactic of your greater social media strategy.
But how does one spot a trend that can benefit their brand? In many cases, it can take year-over-year data to really determine when something is trending. That is why research is important in identifying what is proving its staying-power, and can therefore become an important part of a brand strategy. Not everyone has time, however, to pour over report after report to try and unlock what is trending and will continue to into the future, nor can company’s always wait for years-worth of data to come along before making moves on an established trend. Therefore, some suggestions to help with identifying worthwhile trends are:
1) Follow Publications and Influencers in Your Industry: why read up on trends in the general market when this has little influence on what you do? Find articles, blogs, publications, and influencers who are specific to your industry, to cut down on the irrelevant data and see more clearly what affects you and your brand, specifically.
2) Find Reliable Advisers and Industry Peers: having a wider perspective from other people can help identify problems, solutions, and strategies that you may not have considered previously.
3) Ask Questions, and Listen to Consumers: as previously stated, trends solve problems to fill holes in the market that meet consumer needs. Don’t be afraid to ask consumers what their concerns and potential future desires are to get some ideas, and really listen to their needs. By doing this, you can identify areas where you will need to grow and adapt in order to continue to grow alongside your target audience of consumers
In the end, while fads and trends both have their uses, trends are a bigger piece to the puzzle of your marketing strategy. They are vital in the long-term in order to grow and adapt as consumers grow and change: if your audience is evolving, you want to be able to address their new and changing needs, otherwise someone else will. Staying in tune with market channels and industry-specific research, being flexible to accommodate change as required without doing a complete overhaul, and listening to consumer feedback and needs as a starting point for where you want to grow and adapt can all be useful in identifying what trends to follow and when. While the old adage may be “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” you should always be looking for ways to grow in your marketing to increase your results and evolve along with your audience.