Book Review: The Next Big Thing by William Higham

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Book: The Next Big Thing: Spotting and Forecasting Consumer Trends for Profit
Author: William Higham

I was delighted that someone decided to write a book about trends, how to spot them and how to exploit them. There are many websites and books about trend spotting and trend hunting, but I have never been able to wrap my head around how to exactly use the information, and many times I felt quite helpless. In an age where things are changing so rapidly, the ability to spot trends and exploit them is a skill that would make any professional more marketable, because they are equipped to accurately predict client attitudes and behaviours, and assist companies with product development strategies.

And, William Higham, the author of The Next Big Thing: Spotting and Forecasting Consumer Trends for Profit is qualified to write a book on trends because he has consulted in the area for 10 years, but more importantly, the area of trends has always been his passion, so he has studied it for many years. I found The Next Big Think on http://www.netgalley.com, and was able to download a copy for review using Adobe Digital Editions. The book is very well researched, and while reading it you get a sense that the author knows what he is talking about.

The Next Big Thing is 272 pages in length (over 40 of which are used for the Appendix and Index) and divided into two Sections: Trends and Trend Marketing and six Parts: The Value of Trends, Beginning with Trends, Understanding Trends, Identification, Interpretation and Implementation. According to Higham, the objective of the book is “To use my experience and knowledge of trends to strip away the ambiguity and mystery that surround them, to provide a straightforward introduction to the topic, to clarify meanings and debunk myths. I also want to offer some suggestions for standardized trend analysis and implementation process that I call “trend marketing”, and show how it can be learned and practised and incorporated into everyday business practice.”

So what is a trend? William Higham defines a trend as, “A long-term change in consumer attitudes and behaviours that offer marketing opportunities. Trends are the manifestation of change.” He adds, “To identify a new trend, marketers need to look for any signs of change among consumers. These can be change in behaviour or attitude.”

The author spends a lot of time going into the nitty-gritty of trend marketing providing a multitude of examples to build a case. This is good for most people, but for me it was too much information. I wanted him to get on with it, and that’s my bias because I have over 15 years of research and analysis experience, I know many websites that spot trends, so all I want to learn now is what do I do with them. How do I move forward with trends to provide better services to my clients? For me, the meat of the book started at page 115. Your response to the detailed information will depend on what your needs are.

In The Next Big Thing, the author provides many examples of consumer changing tastes and how companies are responding to these changing tastes, or even predicting where their customers would be, similar to the way Wayne Gretzky would skate to where he anticipated the puck would be, which made him a very successful hockey player. I liked the idea of heritage marketing where brands would use their rich heritage, their founders and history to market to consumers. And even those brands that haven’t been in existence for a long time would create a heritage for their clients. How can you use heritage marketing, even if your company and brand haven’t been around for a long time?

Savvy companies that know how to use trends can capitalize on trends such as Trading Up, Come Together and Gender Blending.

Trading Up Trend: Consumer across socioeconomic categories buy more premium products, and you exploit this trend by having products at different price points to create ranges. Think how you might expand into other complementary or even non-complementary product categories.

Come Together Trend: The growth of building community and social networking is staggering, how can you exploit that trend?

Gender Blending Trend: There is a growing trend for gender neutral products. Recently more women have been buying technology products and more men are purchasing and using skin care products. If your products are not gender neutral, how can you make them so? And could you create a line that’s targeted for the “other” gender?

For The Next Big Thing to be truly useful to me, it had to teach me how to do three things, and I suspect it would be the same for most people who are interested in trend marketing.

  1. How to research trend activities
  2. How to interpret and analyze trends
  3. How to implement trends

The book delves into how to create a Trend Marketing Department including the skills needed for every stage of the trend marketing process, as well as how to hire a consultant who specializes in the area. Higham also talks about how trends come into being, “Trends do not just appear spontaneously. They are driven by specific environmental or individual changes. What is happening around consumers affect their thoughts and actions. Trends start when an environment shift disrupts consumers’ normative attitudes and behaviours. And they typically occur as a reaction to something a consumer experiences.” The book also goes into fad versus trends, micro vs. macro trends, national vs. international trends. Several chapters are devoted to identifying, interpreting and implementing trends.

Identifying Trends

Who to Study

Consumers

  • Innovators
  • Influentials
  • Early adopters

Observers

  • Journalists
  • Academics
  • Researchers
  • Entrepreneurs

How to Study

  • Practical identification
  • Theoretical identification
  • Behavioural identification
  • Attitudinal identification

Finding Data

Statistical: research reports, government reports, press releases

Observational: focus groups, clubs

Media: news media (mainstream consumer, alternative consumer), non-new media (books, films)

Interpreting Trends

  • How do trends spread?
  • What are active trend drivers?
  • How will the trends develop tomorrow?
  • How to map trends against the key drivers

Implementing

  • Potential impact of trend
  • How to benefit from trend
  • Feasibility
  • Consumer demand, relevance, interest

There is a lot of content in the book, and this review should not be used as a substitute for reading The Next Big Thing. Though the information is overwhelming, if you are serious about the entire trend marketing process you have to read the entire book once and use it as a reference guide. William Higham could have easily upped the perceived value of The Next Big Thing by simply including a five page summary of the trend marketing process. He already knows that there are lots of resources out there that spot trends, but people, myself included, do not know what to do with them.

I recommend The Next Big Thing: Spotting and Forecasting Consumer Trends for Profit. Before you read The Next Big Thing, ask yourself the following three questions, and keep a notebook and pen handy to take notes and capture information that’s relevant to your situation.

Questions to Ask & Answer

  1. How are my customers changing?
  2. Which trends will my customers respond to?
  3. How can I exploit the opportunity to identify new markets as well as better service my current clients?

Note: For readers who haven’t read How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler, it’s the perfect time to do so. The book provides strategies on how to get the most out of what you are reading. And if you haven’t done so already, create Google Alerts for the trends or other important information that you are interested in to flag articles, studies, blog posts and so on.

Further Reading

Trend Analysis Expert William Higham Forecasts Major Changes for Marketers and Consumers Alike
The Next Big Thing Blog

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