Towards the end of last year Catherine Burgess, who completed a years Work Placement with Scarlet Opus, asked if she could interview me for her degree dissertation research. The title of her paper was ‘How will a consumer led society affect trends and trend forecasting?’. Now that the paper has been completed and submitted Catherine has given permission for me to share the interview with you. Go ahead and share the interview yourself via twitter and facebook. Catherine asked some really thought-provoking questions. Questions that all manufacturers and retailers of products for interiors need to be asking themselves:
CB: How do you think the increasing accessibility and affordability of new technologies (e.g. 3D printing) – that are allowing people to design and make their own products – will affect the trend forecasting industry?
VR: In many ways it has the potential to be positive for the trend forecasting industry because it gives everybody the potential to be a Designer/Maker, and therefore everybody is a potential trend forecasting intelligence client. Of course it could be argued that this new digital industrial revolution will not be driven by, or observant of, trends… but at its simplest, it means that a huge new wave of Creatives will exist who will, to varying degrees, be interested in design, colour, shape etc… But it’s crucial that the trend forecasting industry adapts to changing needs and attitudes i.e. it must encourage, promote, connect, inform and debate more… and dictate less!
CB: Do you think that increasing global connectivity and the rapid speed in which we are exposed to new projects, ideas and innovations will affect the pace in which trends move through interiors?
VR: I actually feel that the fast pace and vastness of all this information could slow trends, because eventually it all becomes overwhelming and that is when people often take a step back and begin to make much more personal decisions regarding their interior décor, or invest in looks they believe will have greater longevity and effectively transcend trends. Ultimately it is the potential for a move towards greater simplicity to counteract the complexity of everyday life and the huge amount of input we deal with. Simplicity delivers clarity. It is also worth considering that, unlike micro Fashion trends, the trends/styles/products for Interiors often need to have a greater longevity because of the greater financial investment, and consumers will only be willing to be pushed to change at a certain pace before they feel they cannot and do not want to change any faster.
CB: Have you adapted the way in which you forecast trends for the Millennial generation?
VR: We are most certainly incorporating more and more information gathered from citizen journalism e.g. blogs, tweets, instagram into our forecasting decision making. This now forms a key part of our research and consideration prior to making our forecasts. And we are taking an increasing interest in the common denominators gaining people’s interest, attention, admiration and even affection on Pinterest… effectively what is trending visually across people’s boards around the world is providing us with valuable insights.
CB: Have you adapted the way in which you present trends for the Millennial generation?
VR: Yes we have made it easier to digest – not necessarily bite sized but less wordy, and much more visual. Up until our last forecast we included audio commentary for our trend reports and it transpired that members of our client teams who were in their 20s were not listening to the audio… they simply looked at the visuals in order to take on the information they needed. It is essentially much more of a Pinterest type of approach that we have adopted but with the guiding text and that clients find reassuring.
CB: How do you feel that the Millennial consumer is responding to trends compared to the previous Generation X consumer?
VR: At this stage they do not seem to be quite as materialistic as Gen X, partly because their ‘ownership’ does not necessarily need to be physical, it can be digital e.g. music, films etc… But they are still mega consumers and they have a huge appetite for ‘celebrity’, which means celebrity connected products can be marketed to them very effectively and manufactured trends are then created based on a pseudo desire. But overall we see greater degrees of individual style among the younger spectrum of Millennials in comparison to Gen-Xers; a greater desire to be out of step. They set trends rather than follow trends. And this really relates to their strong sense of self and great confidence generally as a generation. Ultimately they do not need or want to be told what is In, Out, Hot, Not etc… because they are making up their own rules.
CB: How do you anticipate that the upcoming Generation Z (iGen/Digital Natives) consumer will respond to trends compared to the current Millennial consumer?
VR: We are expecting them to have even less interest in responding to and following trends. Obviously this generation is still very young and has yet to form broad, measurable characteristics (rather than characteristics they will grow out of as they mature into their teens, 20s and 30s) but in general it is already possible to identify their high levels of online connectivity, community awareness, compassion, and accepting value system (I recently took part in judging the business proposals of groups of children across Yorkshire aged 7-16 as part of a competition. I was amazed by how many of these young entrepreneurs had set up twitter and facebook accounts for their businesses; how many planned to give a percentage of their profits to charities & local causes, which was not stipulated in the competition rules; how many were conscientiously using recycled, repurposed or eco packaging, ingredients and materials for their products).
CB: You have recently changed your job title from Trend Forecaster to Futurist – what are the main factors that influenced this decision?
VR: It was a carefully considered decision I took in anticipation of a time (during the reign of iGen) when I predict the role of the Trend Forecaster in its current form (predicting shades of colours, key textures and what styles will be ‘In’ etc…) will become redundant. I feel it is crucial to preemptively adapt to the new world view they will create. Their rebellious attitude, mass acceptance of 3D Printing, ecological awareness, and perhaps even a move towards a less consumerist society generally, will mean that the following of trends, and purchasing in line with trends, could end. I believe a new role will emerge and it is with my eye on the future of society that I recently changed my job title and have changed the marketing emphasis of the depth and breadth of the intelligence we provide at Scarlet Opus.
So what are the takeaways from this interview? Well we’re asking ourselves how we need to change our services, product offer, marketing and attitudes with Millennial customers in mind and you should too! What to ask yourself:
- Does our company culture help, attract & retain Millennials?
- Is our marketing visible in the places Millennials go?
- Does our product satisfy the wants & needs of Millennials?
- Do we need to call on the expertise of Scarlet Opus?
Our thanks to Catherine Burgess for granting permission for this interview to be shared.