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Business Trends – The Good, The Bad, The Effective

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By Miri Rossitto

Trends come and go.  Today, might be the return of bell bottoms, earth tones, and animal print.  Tomorrow might be neon and glow sticks.  What is popular now may not be the ‘it’ thing a couple of weeks later.  

And, in some cases with social media, a trend can last a couple days before it fizzles out.  

As a business owner, monitoring current trends gives you the advantage of aligning your services or products for greater market visibility.  But there are so many things to consider before jumping onto any band wagon.  Will this trend uplift your business?  How can you utilize the trend and still be consistent with your brand or messaging?  What gains will you see if you follow what everyone else is doing or not?  Will it increase your bottom line?  Draw more customers to you?  Or will it do the opposite?

In talking about trends, social influences (these factors affect consumer trends and spending habits) play a big role when it comes to business growth, profit opportunities, and audience expansion. Demographics, economic trends, industry regulations, environmental factors, and technology all come into play.  By keeping up with these trends, business owners are in a constant state of learning and adapting—from new technological advances to learning how to utilize Tiktok in social media posts.

A classic example of companies affected by trends is McDonald’s.  Since his first appearance on national television in 1965 during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Ronald McDonald was THE face of McDonald’s, second only to Santa Claus in recognition.  However, in 2016, the popularity of Ronald rapidly declined due to the rash of creepy clown sightings across the United States.  There were over a hundred reports of clowns lurking around schools, chasing motorists with knives, and even standing in the woods.  The creepy clown epidemic caused quite the sensation on social media and was reported by major media outlets.

In response to this, McDonald’s decided to finally retire their long-time mascot.  During a press conference, McDonald’s spokeswoman Terri Hickey said: “McDonald’s and franchisees in the local markets are mindful of the current climate around clown sightings in communities and as such are being thoughtful in respect to Ronald McDonald’s participation in community events for the time being.”

Since then, McDonald’s pivoted their marketing efforts, shifted their branding, and underwent a full-on makeover.  Gone were the statues of Ronald McDonald, the ball pit and the red and yellow stools that were a fixture at all their locations.  At present, McDonald’s is now sporting a sleeker, earth-toned look to match their “cooler,” tech savvy vibe, appealing more to adults than children.

McDonald’s pivot in response to the 2016 clown sightings is a classic example of how a business adapts to a social trend and reinvents itself to stay relevant and profitable.

Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the iconic 90s video rental empire, Blockbuster.  At its peak in the late 90s, Blockbuster owned 9,000 stores in the United States alone and generated $800 million in late fees alone.  It started adding music and video game rentals to its already huge collection of videos.  With the rise of the video-on-demand platform, the ever-changing technological landscape, and the laser-like focus on brick-and-mortar stores, Blockbuster fell behind.  In 2001, the company refused to be a part of the first major development of wide-scale movie streaming.  They even had the opportunity to buy out Netflix in its infancy.  The decline of Blockbuster was the result of refusing to adapt in a fast-evolving digital age.  On November 9, 2013, This Is the End was the last movie rented at Blockbuster, appropriately enough.

Social trends not only affect businesses but the creations of logos and graphics as well.  If you look around at billboards and graphics, today’s current trends include some elements from the 90s – bright, neon color combinations, bold typography, and graffiti-style lettering.  The use of these designs triggers a degree of nostalgia from audiences and consumers, making them more inclined to stop and notice a product or service.

In summary, awareness of social trends can be a powerful tool in promoting your business and positioning your brand for success.  However, an analysis of the impact these trends have on your service or product can help avoid pitfalls and missteps.  Merely following a trend does not equate to success.  Careful thought and consideration need to be given when it comes to you and your brand.

Miri Rossitto is owner of COWE Communications.