Consumer trends to monitor, as spotted by

September 25, 2012  |  Alicia Androich  |  Comments

Ever wonder how much it costs to successfully tap into a current consumer trend and show your brand is forward thinking? In some cases, not as much as you’d think.

For Dubai-based franchise Red Tomato Pizza, it only cost $9,000. That was the price its agency charged to create a prototype of the restaurant’s now-famous “VIP Fridge Magnet,” a Bluetooth-connected magnet that customers can use to get a pizza delivered to their door by simply pressing a button on their fridge.

The idea tapped into the “one-touch wonder” trend—one of several timely global trends explained by global head of research and managing partner Henry Mason (pictured) on Monday at the packed Toronto installment of the consumer trend-spotting company’s Trend Seminar.

Mason kicked off his presentation with a definition of trend watching, which he said isn’t a subjective view of whether you personally would use a product or service, but rather an objective way of looking at whether consumers would want to use it.

And trends themselves aren’t just about which colour will be popular in fashion this year, but are about opportunities for innovation and new products and services that could be rolled out in the next three to 12 months to better serve your customers.

A consumer trend, as defined by, is a manifestation of something that has “unlocked” or newly serviced an existing consumer need, desire, want or value, said Mason.

Leveraging trends for business, he said, requires applying vision, new business concepts, new products, services or experiences, and marketing, advertising and PR.

And while consumers face demands on their time and money these days, Mason said if you offer them something exciting, they’ll get, well, excited.

And the good news is, consumers don’t care whether an idea is original, as long as it brings something good to them. For example, Mason referenced the virtual grocery stores Tesco rolled out in South Korea last year that allowed subway commuters to make purchases using their smartphones. The premise has since been used elsewhere. Online retailer used the approach earlier this year near a subway station in Toronto, for example, allowing people to scan a QR code with their phone to get the item delivered to their home.

One of the key topics in Mason’s presentation focused on “statusphere” – the way consumers search for social status and what it means to them. While some view money and a big house as their ultimate status symbols, video interviews conducted with consumers around the world showed that some folks put more value in health, knowledge, being respected and—in the case of one man—being able to brew his own beer.

The takeaway, said Mason, is that while traditional status is still important to some, the concept of “status” is more diverse than ever. So is the desire to be unique and stand out, he added, pointing to a Louis Vuitton shop in London that allows consumers to work with craftsmen to make their own custom shoes and choose their own materials and shoelaces.

Mason also spoke of the “eco-iconic” trend and how some brands are creating experiences around a product so that consumers have a story to tell. For example, Molson Canadian recently released coasters infused with spruce tree seeds that consumers can plant as part of its Red Leaf Project. Over the pond, an outdoor movie theatre in London has film fans pedal on stationary bikes to power the screen.

Another key theme Mason addressed was “infolust”—the way consumers crave relevant, useful, timely information. Noting a recent mobile mindset study showing that 63% of women and 73% of men ages 18 to 34 say they don’t go an hour without checking their smartphones. Mason gave global examples that show how pertinent this consumer trend is.

In Korea, for instance, a grocery store allows shoppers to load their shopping list onto a tablet secured to their grocery cart, which then points them to where the items are stocked in the store. He also talked about the Adidas’ Originals app that lets users take a picture of an Adidas shoe they like and finds the closest store that carries the coveted shoe.

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