One of the world’s leading trends analysts, consumer trends keynote speaker, Daniel Levine heads an international team of over 9,000 trend spotters who research and chronicle the latest ideas, products, and experiences from around the globe. As director of the Avant-Guide Institute trends consultancy, he gets to the heart of what’s driving consumers and guides companies in building their industry around those motives and mindsets. While he is a specialist in the travel and leisure sector, Daniel holds authority in an array of markets, and has done consulting work for HBO, NBC, Samsonite, and The New York Times, among numerous other organizations.
SPEAKING.COM: What exactly is a trend and why is it so crucial for businesspeople to stay on top of them?
LEVINE: Social trends are shared changes in sentiment in any measurable direction. When you can measure a significant change in the way groups of people are acting, you’ve got a trend on your hands.
Trends are important because they reflect the lifestyle decisions people are making. They are clear evidence of consumer desires and they represent real demand. Companies spend tons of resources trying to capture consumer attention and generate buzz about their products or services. Now imagine how effectively you could do this if you actually knew what was motivating your customers to act. What if you could know – in advance – how many people in your target market are moved by the idea of sustainability, or are gravitating towards learning experiences, or are starting to brag less about what they own, and more about how they are protecting their family? Taking that one step further, then, what if you had the inspiration and creativity to embrace these trends in such compelling ways that your customers sat up and paid attention?
That’s exactly what happened when club owners in Rotterdam, Holland built an energy-collecting dance floor using human power to help electrify the club. It also happened when a hotel in Seattle, Washington partnered with local university professors to host a fun and educational “Night School” in the bar. In the case of Mercedes-Benz, their understanding of trends led them to shift their marketing from an emphasis on status to an emphasis on safety, while their core product remained exactly the same.
The power of trends is the power to have foresight into what your customers are thinking and feeling. As a speaker and consultant, I help businesses understand trends that are useful to them and show them how they can tap into those trends to increase visibility, open new markets, attract customers, and increase profits.
SPEAKING.COM: How can organizations distinguish between trends and fads?
LEVINE: While fads may be intense, they spike and die out as quickly as proverbial “flashes in the pan.” By contrast, trends are long lasting and often signal more permanent cultural change. Additionally, trends usually encompass an entire segment or category, rather than just a single product or brand. If it has a brand name on it, like Silly Bands or Pokémon Go, it’s likely to be a fad. While fads are often fun, they are not durable foundations for business plans. Great brands are built by harnessing long term trends, not fly-by-night fads.
SPEAKING.COM: What trends do you talk about in your presentations?
LEVINE: I have never given the same presentation twice. Prior to each engagement, my team and I research extensively. Not only do we want to know who our audience is, we want to know who their customers are. Then we canvass our Trend Spotters (more on this below) and hand pick trends that are particularly meaningful and beneficial to each audience.
In my work I specialize in consumer trends, business trends and tech trends. The three are often inter-related and, in the context of my presentations, are closely connected to consumer psychology.
Examples of consumer trends include the rise of social responsibility, social connectivity, the future of retail, and the changing nature of the goods and experiences that people consider to be “braggable.”
Examples of business trends include new directions in customer service, as well as trends in human resources and the future of work.
Examples of tech trends include the Internet of Things (IoT), wearable computing, the future of video, and augmented reality, along with ways that businesses can benefit from them.
The most important thing I’ve learned is that the world keeps moving faster. Trends are always changing and each year brings more great ideas and innovations that businesses can benefit from.
SPEAKING.COM: Could you describe the methodology you and your staff at the Avant-Guide Institute use to discover and identify trends?
LEVINE: The Avant-Guide Institute has a huge team of Trend Spotters around the world who send us things that are new, unique or interesting in some way. In turn, our New York office analyzes these and “connect the dots.” As soon as we start to see the same kinds of things happening in a particular demographic, geographic or psychographic, we can easily recognize emerging trends and start to track and measure them for our clients, partners and presentations.
We like to think we are working with the “sexy side” of trends, as opposed to simply compiling dull data. Sure we work hand-in-glove with large data collection agencies, but it’s up to us to parse and analyze that information in order to tease out the nuggets that tell us about consumer behavior. Our goals are to answer questions like:
- Who are they?
- What do they want?
- Why are they buying certain things and seeking out certain experiences?
- What buttons can businesses and brands press to attract these customers?
SPEAKING.COM: What are some business initiatives you’ve come across that may have seemed odd on paper but were successful when put into practice?
LEVINE: Vending machines in taxi cabs, caffeinated shower soap, wrist-based mobile devices, vodka made from cow’s milk, 3D-printed houses, the organic garden at baseball’s AT&T Park in San Francisco, craft beer in wine-sized bottles, “breathable” nail polish for Muslim women, an initiative by Tourism Australia to put free Wi-Fi in every hotel in the country… the list goes on and on!
SPEAKING.COM: What are some signs that a business idea that takes off in one part of the world could successfully translate to another part of the world?
LEVINE: As the world continues to grow ever smaller we are finding that trends are becoming more aligned globally, but individual businesses’ responses to these trends remain culturally specific. For example, the “sharing economy” trend is global, but the actual items that are successfully shared (homes, cars, tools, pets!) differs from region to region. Similarly, wearable technology is a universal trend (and has been for millennia, ever since humans started wearing swords by their sides), but the specific items that are worn, and what people consider to be trendy can be quite different from place to place.
SPEAKING.COM: How can you tell when a trend is dying out?
LEVINE: Trends have a great deal of inertia, which means that they usually keep going – and even get stronger – until something major happens to change their trajectory or stop them in their tracks. Common examples of this are an economic meltdown or political upheavals like the ones that much of the world is experiencing now. Elections in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere are creating “culture quakes” that are breeding anti-globalization movements and privacy-protecting technologies, to name two things.
Trends do die, of course, but they tend to expire far more slowly than fads. Speaking of which, I just saw that Groupon is offing clip-on “man buns” for 85% off, so hopefully it’s an indication of that hairstyle’s imminent death!
To bring consumer trends keynote speaker Daniel Levine to your organization, please contact Michael Frick at: Mike@Speaking.com