Hey Managers! Time to Get Serious About Trend Research—Here’s Why

In Netflix’s early days, its CEO Reed Hastings met with Blockbuster’s CEO John Antioco to propose a partnership. The story goes that Blockbuster had no interest in risking the brand they had worked so hard to build by partnering with a startup and showed Mr. Hastings the door. At the time, the Blockbuster team didn’t see the significant implications of online shopping and video streaming trends. That was in 2000 and Netflix was a startup enterprise. Blockbuster is now bankrupt and Netflix had revenues of $8.8 billion last year.

This is an extreme case, but other companies like Blackberry and Kodak have experienced similar downfalls by not understanding and acting on the deeper implications that trends were having on their markets.

Like Blockbuster, there are many leaders today ignoring trends or just stopping short of analyzing the impact to their business. Why? For some, their overconfidence in the success of their existing business trumps their need to pay attention to trends—dismissing them as insignificant or irrelevant to their business. For others, it’s about lack of time, resources or even corporate culture that stymies them from taking advantage.

Researchers at Harvard Business School and London Business School found that “managers often fail to recognize the less obvious, but profound ways that trends are influencing customers’ aspirations, attitudes, and behaviors.”[i][1] Without a structured method for analyzing trends managers tend to:

  • Outright ignore trends
  • Superficially address their impact
  • Adopt a wait-and-see approach and hope to be a fast follower
  • Feel there is too much uncertainty to act
  • Be overwhelmed by a perceived overabundance of information

But it’s time to get serious and not be complacent. Here’s why…

  • Ignoring trends will leave you behind the eight ball. Identifying them might help you stay relevant, but analyzing their impact and influence on your business can bring you to the forefront and lead to sustainable growth.
  • The marketplace is moving faster than ever. If you’re not analyzing trends (beyond simple identification) you can be blindsided like Blockbuster, Blackberry or Kodak. When blindsided, companies can feel the need to act quickly and often respond with knee jerk reactions that can tarnish a brand’s image or deteriorate an established value proposition.
  • 40% of the Fortune 500s are predicted to be extinct by 2025.[ii][2] New opportunities (and disruptors) emerge every day. Knowing how these factors impact your business will help you foresee opportunities and obstacles before the competition does, and develop plans to take action today.
  • Uncovering trends can help you transform your business, mitigate risk, give you a roadmap to the future, and…
    • Inform brand strategy
    • Protect brand reputation
    • Drive innovation
    • Help deliver the experiences customers want

Analyzing and acting on trends effectively takes structure, imagination, and guts. But not doing so is not an option in today’s hectic environment. Therefore doing it right is a necessity. It can uncover the truths that connect, transform and disrupt your business and lead to opportunities and success. We’ll help you make sense of the data deluge—helping you identify, integrate, interrogate, and make an impact where it matters most, while revealing the possibilities to change your business’s future.

Do you want to see real trend analysis in action? Read this case study to see how we helped a leading healthy snack brand capitalize on trends to launch a new product. Getting actionable insights like these comes from using the right sources and the right frameworks. Experts like  ours can help you understand the opportunities and threats created by trend impacts. If you want to read more about using the right sources and right framework, read my other blog post called, Four Reasons to Go Beyond Trends and Focus on Quantifying Impact.

If you are interested in uncovering new market opportunities and understanding how trends are shaping the future, contact us and ask how we could help you get serious about trend tracking and analysis.

[i]  “Are you Ignoring Trends That Could Shake Up Your Business?,” Harvard Business Review, July-August 2010.

[ii]Digital disruption will wipe out 40% of Fortune 500 firms in next 10 years, say c-suite execs,” InformationAge.com, February 2017.


About the Author
Brian Reuter is Senior Vice President of Engine’s Accelerated Intelligence Service and Expert Engine. At Engine, Brian specializes in evaluating new opportunities for Engine Insights and Engine Insights clients. Starting as a Research Analyst, Brian worked his way up to Vice President and currently is leading Engine Insights’ Accelerated Intelligence practice. Brian manages a team that effectively leverages published information and expert insight to enable clients to make fact based decisions on innovation opportunities, competitive environments, new markets, trends, and customer insights. Brian is known for client-focused business development, marketing, and research design. He has developed and implanted overall business unit strategies for sales process improvement, marketing, client experience improvement, staff skills development, process and productivity improvement, and adjacent market growth. Brian was promoted to his first director-level position for continual initiative in expanding his assigned role of researcher to full project development and management. That type of motivation, paired with creative process improvement, has defined his entire career.

If you’d like to talk to Brian about how you can integrate trends into your strategy, please email him at brian.reuter@enginegroup.com.

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