Fidget spinners, parachute pants, Gangnam Style. Those are fads.
Social media, recreational marijuana, artificial intelligence. Those are trends.
Can you tell the difference?
Whether we realize it or not, trends and fads play a major role in our everyday lives. They influence the clothes we wear. How we find the people we date. Or how we listen to the bands we love.
Often used interchangeably, the two categories are actually very different. For example, trends are slower to gain momentum and have greater staying power. Fads on the other hand, rise quickly in popularity and fall just as fast.
To find out how to embrace a trend or fad, let’s dig a little deeper.
For brands today, learning to spot something #trendy is essential.
Trends tend to fill a need or serve a purpose. Because trends offer something of value to their audience, they are widely used and successful for a longer period of time. A good way to figure out if a trend is truly a trend is to see if there is growing, multi-year data that demonstrates it has an effect on the market.
Because of their value, it’s often wise for companies to incorporate trends into their business strategy. Trends can provide helpful information for decision making, especially in terms of marketing strategy. If a company ignores a trend, they do so at their own risk. Oftentimes, the result of ignoring a trend can lead to the forced adoption of the trend at a later date. Now the business is behind the curve or even worse, it can lead to the early demise of the company.
Social media is a perfect example of a trend. It has increased in momentum (users) over time; the modern use of social media has been prevalent for about 20 years now, thus demonstrating a strong staying power; and it fills its audience’s need for connectivity.
From bellbottoms to pet rocks to telebooth surfing, fads are fun and fresh, and widely loved—until they go out of style. While trends satisfy a need, fads exist on more of a surface level. They serve as a temporary novelty. That’s why they have a quicker start‐up momentum but are also quick to burn out. Fads are contained bursts that appeal to a smaller audience.
While fads are exciting and can help a business remain relatable and current, they can be tricky to take advantage of. If a business jumps onto a fad’s bandwagon too late, they can be perceived as out of touch and behind the curve. This results in a waste of time, energy and—Ouch!—money. However, if a fad is artfully employed as a momentary tactic at the height of popularity, it can boost a company’s relevance.
Sure, it might be fun for a business to use the newest fashion fad in their next advertisement or post a video of their office doing the Boom Floss dance. But these are probably not things you’d want to incorporate into your company’s long-term strategy.
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