2011: Trendspotting

2011: Trendspotting for the next decade.
Richard Laermer
McGraw Hill, 2008. 305 pp.

First: The difference between a trend and a fad:
A fad is a “flash in the pan that doesn’t deserve mention,” says veteran Trendspotter Richard Laermer, while a trend is “something that is just beginning to percolate—but is happening in a significant enough manner that we can see how it’s going to change us.”

If you’ve read Laermer in Huffington Post or elsewhere, you know he is funny, blazingly smart, and … well… he loves to write. Among other titles, he is the author of Native’s Guide to New York (1989), TrendSpotting (2002), Full Frontal PR (2003), and and co-author of Punk Marketing (2007). He has contributed to Public Radio’s Marketplace program and he copublishes the BadPitchBlog.

Although it’s impossible to do justice to this 300-page book and its nearly 80 essays covering every conceivable topic part in contemporary life, here’s a stab at it. . . .

Do you want practical tips?
“If you’re not thumbing through business magazines on a regular basis, checking out industry blogs … and staying informed about the world, you’ll be left behind.
“You’ve got to evolve or die.
“Be a noncliché spotter of trends so that you don’t become obsolete or, worse, stale.”

Or do you prefer Gestalt?
Picture a tree, Laermer suggests. “The roots of new trends are in technology, while the branches are finance, travel, weather, sex, education, communication techniques, gracefulness, and societal changes.
“Most trends come and go, but some recur like the seasons. Rather than stemming from the vacillations of technology and pop culture, they are rooted in deeper phenomena . . . “perennial” or “meta- trends.”

Do you want research?
Laermer’s essays cite data from the census bureau, the FDA, the World Health Organization, the Harvard Medical School, and other studies. “By 2008 the median age of the workforce is expected to rise from 38.7 to 40.7. Contributing to these trends is the new influx of ‘boomerangs’—those boomer retirees who come back to the workforce after a short time away.”

Or do you prefer personal observation?
Laermer’s encyclopedic knowledge of popular culture informs many trends he identifies.
“Teens shall remain narcissistic. Those whom I dub Generation Broke … have their parents navigating and engineering their lives. They don’t subscribe to the so-called learning via the school of hard knocks, or making the grade, or rising up the ladder, or earning one’s keep.”

How about an insider’s view on the media industry?
“When you deconstruct the news … you need to know that most information comes not from sources who proffer it because they wish to “get the story out” (or are prodded to do just that), but rather from those who are paid to make sure the world knows about their latest glory. … “News is a consumer product just like all the others: it’s created by someone, for someone, with a single goal in mind—to make a profit.”

His web site www.laermer.com offers “essays, trend advice, ways to spot trends, and blog posts. It provides links to many other useful and entertaining sites too.

General readers will find this book entertaining, funny, and thought-provoking. Practitioners of marketing and public relations will take away some new things to try.

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