Consumers Adopt & Drop Fads, But Stay True to Trends

Trends offer powerful, and often viral, ways to connect with consumers and enhance their emotional connection to a brand. And then there are fads. Consumers adopt and drop fads rapidly, and they may view a brand clinging to yesterday’s fad as “out of touch.” So, here are a few fads that were better left alone, and how brands can spot them, without the benefit of hindsight.

The Importance of Continuous Consumer & Market Intelligence

_Fad vs Trend

While fads are fleeting, trends are enduring. And the consumer love a brand can attract hinges on getting that distinction right – or risking consumer wrath, as your brand becomes associated with ‘that annoying fad.’

How do you know which is which? Well, a trend jibes with the general direction in which the market is developing, whereas a fad is an intense and suddenly shared enthusiasm for something. Still fuzzy on the distinction? We have a list offering further detail, and at least a few of these ways will click with your thinking!

We’ll follow this list with some examples of each, and how social media analytics saves the day for brands that need to make this determination quickly.

Differences Between Trends and Fads

  • Trends tend to gain widespread momentum while fads appear in contained bursts appealing to a smaller group.
  • Fads gain popularity quickly and then fade, whereas trends gain traction and build momentum over time.
  • Fads are often singular products while trends are a part of an overall movement and changing behaviors.
  • Trends can be understood and tracked back to early beginnings and are often purposeful, but fads can be inexplicable, born of impulse and adrenaline, with little planning.
  • Trends can also be born from deep-rooted social, political, or environmental factors. Fads are caused by novelty choices.
  • Fads appear instantly on the market, and, of late, are often driven by celebrities or celebrity influencers – and can disappear with equal quickness.
  • Trends often solve problems.
  • Trends typically have a much longer lifespan than fads – though some fads hang on for dear life till they die painfully (think: Beanie Babies).
  • Trend products are adaptable to market needs and desires, but fads have limited flexibility nor expandable utility.
  • Fad products are often niche products that briefly have mass market appeal, or carry mass market expectations that can’t be met.
  • Fads have demand fluctuations and sharp price changes while trends are sustainable and shift with markets.

From an enterprise standpoint, fads are fast promotional tactics to increase top-of-mind awareness and demonstrate an organization’s timeliness. They enhance consumer engagement – in spurts. Trends offer the ability to connect meaningfully over time, with focused consumer and market intelligence understanding.

Some examples of each will help flesh this out.

Examples of Trends & Fads

Trends are often things we take for granted as part of our everyday experience. But they weren’t always the ‘norm’ of the day – nor popular in any sense of the word. And although, some trends seems to cycle, like fashion, with waxing and waning interest, they bubble just below the surface – even offering opportunities to add a new twist. The return of 90s fashion is one such trend, as it rose to prominence in tandem with a consumer craving for everything old as new – the nostalgia trend, as detailed by Shelina Taki, Senior Director, Strategic Planning and Insights at PMG during a recent NetBase Quid LIVE:


And on the seemingly opposite spectrum, we see everything robotic and wearable tech continuously building out its consumer base – and its momentum as growing trends as well.

Fads find a foothold in consumer consciousness fairly easily, as they’re often energetic and widely touted for whatever reason – sometimes in the name of a cause they support! The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was one such event. It propelled research of the neurodegenerative disease by increasing donations 187%. But it didn’t continue.

We saw similar energy around the future-forward named “hoverboards” that didn’t actually hover. Everyone had one, until everyone didn’t, as copycats flooded the market along with injuries and complaints that began to mount about the rapidly manufactured bits of motorized mayhem. And it happened that fast. Fads are like that.

Trends transition into norms and fads became neat stories to tell the kids.

Making Trend vs. Fads Predictions

Although they have staying power, make no mistake – trends move fast, particularly in the ‘emerging trends’ phase. And this is when these category defining trends are most valuable to brands, when there is a window for early adoption. It’s where the leading brands in your category live, watching competitors scramble for purchase in their walled trend castle.

How can you build your own trend-laden fortress? By continuously checking in on your consumer and market intelligence – your ‘continuous intelligence’ must inform your efforts.

Businesses can use this aggregated data to create customized, real-time dashboards that capture various consumer trends across product categories. Once captured, this data can be analyzed using a decision tree methodology to statistically determine whether a given trending topic is a consistent trend, emerging trend, a fad, or just random consumer noise. And this same criteria can be applied to competitor buzz as well, with all of this continuous intelligence available at once

This insight is not only useful for marketing campaigns, of course – it benefits the entire enterprise, helping guide product development roadmaps, sharpen messaging and pre-empt supply chain adjustments. And it’s something you can start tracking today. Reach out for a demo and we’ll show you how!

The Importance of Continuous Consumer & Market Intelligence

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