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Local customs drive global trends

How does trend analysis help brands plan for the future? Anne Etienne-Reboul of WPP’s Peclers responds 

Nothing stays still for long. That’s what makes trend analysis so useful, especially in the global context. Colours, shapes, retail experience, artistic direction, aesthetics generally – these are all part of what a brand stands for, and how it communicates its values to its audiences. 

This is where trend forecasting comes in. Peclers – based in Paris but expert in trends globally –publishes trend books as a source of inspiration for brands to help them avoid blank page syndrome. But more importantly, its consulting business wrangles with brands’ questions about their place in the market generally.

When brands approach Peclers, it’s because they have an issue to solve. They might have a communication problem, or a problem with style, or even with a problem with their products themselves. Peclers consultants make recommendations informed by their role as social observers. They not only undertake brand analysis at the diagnostic level; they also observe macro trends that might influence the brand in two to five years’ time. 

“Brands can reach a wider consumer target audience by injecting new values associated with consumption into their own brand values,” says Etienne-Reboul. “This is why we study consumers’ relationships with nature, pleasure, science, technology, and so on. We look for emerging trends through the lens of consumer tribes and their lifestyles.” In this way, brands can align with consumers’ needs and desires, and create a strategy that matches their consumer base.

“We are connected with the global evolution of our society,” says Etienne-Reboul, pointing to inflation, interest rates, buying power, the rise of the pre-loved market, and so on. “When you think about it, many of these things are connected, not just to the zeitgeist but also to each other.” 

The analysis of all these signals makes for interesting insights. For example, in China there has been a shift towards the incorporation of Chinese history into brands’ stories. This puts Chinese culture at the centre of these brands – but in a modern way.

Similar trends are emerging in Western culture: there is a shift towards localisation, with homegrown traditions increasingly celebrated. 

Cultural fusion is prominent too

Fusion is increasingly evident across cultures. “We see it in recipes, interior decoration and clothing,” says Etienne-Reboul. “We also hear it in music, and we experience it in policy.” 

Partly this is driven by social inclusion so, for example, Black and Asian people, and their culture, are clearly visible in the promotion of Black and Asian brands globally. This is a shift compared with, say, 10 years ago when messaging was much more global with an element of localisation.

She talks of how brands are tapping into the ‘quest for individualism’, and cites, by way of example, the classification of women by their age – especially those aged over 50 – and how old-fashioned that thinking is now. “We are all unique and, if there is a need to classify us, that classification is more around values – values disconnected from age, ethnicity, gender or anything else. Values can be global but the expression of them can be localised,” she says. 

But is there a global mood? “Yes,” she responds. “There are some very real trends that we are seeing worldwide.”

The first is ‘happy frugality’, as she terms it. This is about wellbeing linked to self-reflection and simplicity. But it’s being combined with the desire for magic and excitement in everyday life. At first, these two behaviours appear to be at odds, but Etienne-Reboul is noticing a new ‘dualism’ in society whereby people are following two seemingly conflicting trends with both trends representing their mood at the same time. ‘Quiet luxury’ is another example of this seeming duality. 

The future is full of big issues

Whatever the mood globally, there are some huge issues for societies to tackle and all of this will have an impact on trends. For example, societies in the developed world are ageing. Women are challenging the traditional concept of family life, and their roles in society are changing. 

The balance between work and private lives will be interesting to watch. And sustainability is higher on clients’ agendas since Covid.

So how far forward are brands looking when they come to Peclers for an understanding of long-term trends? For manufacturers, the lead time is probably one or two years. And trends (not nano trends) tend to play out across their nature lifespan, despite disruption in the market. 

The key to success is consistency. What is important to consumers is the relationship between their values, their lifestyle, their style, their taste and those exhibited by brands. Trends are about evolution – never revolution – so brands must evolve if they are to meet, or surpass, consumer expectations.

 

Anne Etienne-Reboul

Peclers Paris

published on

14 March 2024

Category

Communications

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