Sunday, July 14, 2024

Trendy or Timeless — Which Is Best to Grow Your Business?

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We are constantly bombarded with short-lived trends, from the Met Gala and Fashion Week to TikTok dances, skincare secrets, memecoin metas and everything in between. In an age of rampant virality, a monoculture can form, even when everything feels decentralized. We all follow at least a few trends on a weekly, if not monthly, basis, and for a business, these trends can lead to big profits temporarily.

Consider how Starbucks is now offering boba tea in an attempt to draw Gen Z consumers or how every company from Adobe to Taco Bell is going “AI first.” Chasing these trends gave both brands a temporary boost in their stock prices, but it’s not yet clear what the long-term impacts will be.

Meanwhile, a vintage Hermes bag or Gibson guitar is just as timeless today as when they were originally released over a century ago. My agency regularly attends events like Comic Con and Consensus to stay ahead of the zeitgeist and determine which of today’s trends may become timeless. Here’s what you should know about navigating trends.

Related: 5 Trends Shaping the Next Generation of Digital Marketing

Pros and cons of trend jumping

Virality is important for creators and brands alike, as it’s a cost-effective way to increase brand visibility and awareness. Consider last year’s Big Red Boot trend from MSCHF.

In early 2023, every Instagram model wanted a pair of these oversized $350 boots to look like a video game character in their pictures. The attention boosted the company’s visibility and brand awareness, driving sales and helping it land $8 million in funding by January 2024.

A year and a half later, the hype cycle is long over, and nobody is talking about those impractical shoes anymore. However, MSCHF didn’t miss a beat as it continues its streak of limited-edition releases that make it a mainstay everywhere from sneaker and art blogs to HypeBeast and GQ. The collective’s business model accounts for the ephemeral nature of trends, and it moves fast to jump between them.

Sometimes, a trend can be a miss, though. When school administrators at D’Youville University booked Sophia, the AI robot, to give its graduation commencement speech, it caused outrage among students who started a petition to stop it. They went ahead anyway, and the stunt made the private university a joke on late-night comedy shows.

It’s important to know that virality is only temporary, whether the impact is good or bad. You need a realistic strategy to capitalize on it and then move on.

Related: 5 Ways to Spot and Capitalize on Trends

Riding the hype train for the long haul

Like MSCHF, Marc Jacobs is a master at chasing trends, and by the time someone like Laundry Day or DJ Mandy goes viral, Jacobs already has them endorsing the brand. Of course, the brand is more the exception than the rule – when you jump on the latest TikTok dance or meme, the crowd will already be enamored with the next big thing.

Instead, it’s important to understand how platforms like TikTok fuel these culture-defining movements. Understanding the mechanics of these video platforms and building a TikTok content plan gives you the best chance to recreate that same level of virality. And that plan should include more channels than just TikTok, as governments worldwide consider banning the app.

You need to be where your audience is, whether it’s Substack, Twitch, Geneva, Farcaster, or whatever the next big channel in your demographic is. Building a community on the right platform is how you position yourself in the right place and time to spark a viral trend. These are your biggest fans, most likely to share your posts with their social audience.

This means you need to create stellar content that is worth sharing. It must be entertaining, informative, and a unique twist people haven’t seen before. You’ll know you truly created a trend when you start gaining imitators, like Wendy’s.

In the early days of Twitter, Wendy’s stuck out for its attitude and witty quips. This made it the hallmark example for hiring the company’s public-facing “intern.” A search of “Wendy’s Twitter” on Entrepreneur alone comes up with 306 articles about them over the past decade. Fast forward to today, and every brand from Beyond Meat to the US Department of Labor has an angsty intern raising awareness with borderline edge lord posts.

Of course, when everyone is doing it, it’s no longer cool, but the underlying mechanics of how these accounts grow through authentically engaging with the community remains the same.

Related: Wendy’s Roasts Jack in the Box by Making Fun of McDonald’s

Optimizing during down cycles

Just like people move to LA to try and make it in Hollywood, becoming TikTok famous for 15 minutes is a common goal. But that fame is fleeting–every trend inevitably becomes passe, and it’s what you do during those down cycles that will ultimately sustain your business. Going viral comes and goes faster than you expect, and everyone chases that dopamine hit when their 15 minutes of fame expire.

Those who can sustain fame typically do so by breaking boundaries. Consider Doja Cat, whose music career skyrocketed over the last few years. Her unique style, ability to jump on trends, and versatility helped her gain Coachella headliner status and sustain popularity beyond her viral YouTube hits and TikTok videos.

The brands and creators that keep it going build a strong foundation that seamlessly converts virality to revenue and profits. They continue building on their core audience each time so that their chances of virality improve for the next. At the end of the day, getting eyes on your brand is a good thing, but you need to provide real value for people to look at if you want them to keep coming back.

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