What's the difference between a fad and a trend?

Posted by Jenni Armstrong on 11 June 2013

Neil Perkin, the founder of the digital media consultancy Only Dead Fish, is an award winning digital strategist and a key speaker at Squared. He writes for the likes of Brand Republic, FutureLab, and Marketing Week, and and his clients include Warner Bros, the RSA Group, Samsung, YouTube, Marks And Spencer and the NSPCC.

Last year he  spoke to participants on the in person programme. We’ve re-posted his blog here (find the original here), and the resulting slide show is at the bottom of this post. Over to Neil…

A few years back I crowdsourced a presentation - curating a bunch of individual slides contributed by the readers of this blog into a talk about community that I then gave at a conference. It was a wonderfully positive (albeit a little risky) experience.

I’ve been asked to speak at Squared this week. Squared is a Google-led initiative (full disclosure: Google is a client of mine) in partnership with Hyper Island and the IPA designed to address the talent shortage in digital marketing in our industry (a subject I think is critical). It’s described as ‘an ambitious and transformative programme’ to take graduates at the start of their advertising and media careers through an intensive three-month education designed to accelerate digital capabilities.

There’s some amazing people involved including Sir John Hegarty and Jeremy Bullmore. Part of it is about education, part is about inspiration, part is about working on real-world projects, and gaining some good experience of ‘creative, debate-driven collaboration’. I think its a great initiative (check out feedback from the participants). The programme isn’t limited by a fixed structure, and it provides a framework for ongoing support and discussion, as well as an invaluable peer network that will no doubt serve them well as they progress in their careers.

So on Tuesday, I shall be speaking to an audience of 80+ graduates from almost 30 agencies, each with 0-6 months experience in the industry. I shall be talking about content, agility, and the intersection of business, media, and technology. And whilst I’m not planning on crowd sourcing the presentation this time, I do think its a wonderful opportunity to pass on some wisdom from some truly smart people in the industry.

One of the truly challenging things right now I think is the ability to identify amongst all the noise (and spikes of attention) the trends and shifts that are really important – the ones that mean you need to adapt your strategy – the ones that are really going to change things and make an impact. I think knowledge and skill in this area will be a hugely valuable thing in the years to come, so I’d like to ask for some contributions that I might pass on to the graduates that might help them identify the difference between what’s a fad, and what’s a real trend to take notice of. I’ll aim to capture feedback I get and also include it in the deck on Tuesday.

As a starter, I really like this quote from Henry Jenkins (which was on the slide that Faris contributed to the crowd sourced presentation): “Our focus should not be on emerging technologies but on emerging cultural practices”.

How do we tell the difference between a fad and a disruption or trend that really matters?

// After the Session //

After I gave my talk, and before I revealed to them what everyone had said, I ran an open space session to get some debate going and they then spent a short time honing that thinking into some key themes which everyone then voted on.

The winning definition from the graduates was:

“A trend is a general behaviour over time. A fad is an extreme action related to that behaviour.”

I then wrapped up by giving them the answers contributed by the readers of my blog, and it was good to see a good degree of similarity. I’ve compiled the feedback from both into a few slides below – I have paraphrased some answers slightly for the sake of brevity but endeavoured to keep the meaning as intended. Thanks again to all those who participated.

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