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Guest Column: Translating trends for brands - Shaziya Khan

06-February-2014
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Guest Column: Translating trends for brands - Shaziya Khan

Brand custodians are reviewing 2014 trends.
It’s time.
To step back.
Listen, see, absorb, ponder.
The emerging developments in consumers lives.
The shifts in world thought.
The angularities in choices, the dilemmas of modern living.

Read them, noted them, highlighted a few.
Great. Now what?
A trend report is not a foreign language class.
But it can nevertheless leave one wondering… how do I translate all this? For example, remixing tradition is great. Umm… what now?

The question, in other words, is how to translate trends? Into brands? Into teams? Into life?

A starting point is – translate a trend you relate most to, into behaviour, into symbol and into meaning.

1. Translate trend into behaviour.
Adopt it. Embrace it. Own it. Live it.

For instance, speaking visual is a key trend. (From a global JWT report: JWT 10 trends for 2014 and beyond is based on proprietary research across developed markets and the BRICS)

Whereby photos, videos, and other imagery is supplanting text. Sixty-eight per cent of the millennials agree that visuals are more powerful than text. Mobile photography, and 350 million FB photos uploaded daily point to a high visual skew in present times.

If images are the new story telling medium that people related to, according to the Huffington Post, how can we make them our story telling medium more and more?

Visuals only consumer home visit reports. Hmm?
Re-imagine a brand key (or main brand document) entirely with pictures or videos. 
Re-think a brand’s visual aesthetic
Re-train teams to become more visually literate.

This is just one illustration, but you get the…uh picture.

2. Translate trend into symbol.
Trends matter as a sign of the times.

Signs, badges, symbols, colours, and icons subtly show that brands have affinity and connectedness with the bigger picture. Be it fashion/ environment/ humankind symbols signal being in step with the times. For example, in step with fashion via the colour of the season – such as coral. In step with a purpose such as recycling, charity, partnership, awareness, and protection.

Translating trends into symbols makes a non-verbal statement of connection to the big picture, happily often branding the holder, in the eyes of others, as trendy. At least, on the surface, at least for the moment.

3. Translate trend into meaning.
A third, and most exciting, aspect of ‘translating’ trends is reading the meaning behind them.
Asking what lies beneath the surface.
Like the question behind the question.

If coral was the (outer) symbol, can one set out to connect the dots between different data to see the key value underneath – for instance, personal liberty?

If it is all about better deals from flights to meals, do we see a shift in the meaning of value itself from cheap/ budget to smart ‘n’ savvy? We do, by the way (and more on that later).

Translating trends to spotlight, the shift in purpose and values they imply, matters more than we can imagine.

Brands with a purpose and that are values-led over time are going to be by definition more successful – Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever.

Translating trends into behaviour, symbols, meaning is a starting point for brands and their custodians. Trends are precious as glimpses of ‘what’s going on’ and what to do about it.

Mind your…trend.

The author is Executive Planning Director at JWT.
 

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