PRODUCTION: NOTE BULLETS By ALF NUCIFORA Trend analysis has been a domain reserved for the large corporate marketer. But nowadays, even small businesses can have access to protocols and technologies that help foresee where marketing is headed, according to Minneapolis-based marketing experts Vickie Abrahamson, Mary Meehan and Larry Samuel, co-founders of a trend newsletter, Iconoculture. In their latest book, “The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be,” the co-authors, whose clients include General Mills, Warner-Lambert, Wendy’s and Saatchi & Saatchi, address 40 cultural trends that will help transform both life and business. Iconoculture’s key to success is behavior-based observation. Most of their insights work best as a companion to standard research methodologies like survey data. Their findings help put a face to the numbers and the statistics. The trio identifies the following strategies for tracking and forecasting trends: ? Cast as wide a net as possible. As Yogi Berra astutely put it, “You can observe a lot by watching.” ? Sift through the clutter for cultural passion points. Issues such as religion, sex and death are key clues to values, particularly appropriate to the aging baby boomer generation. ? View everything as a sign requiring decoding. Because every action has a significance, you can borrow from semiotics (the study of signs) to uncover the meaning of things around you. ? Look for connections, parallels and analogies. It’s more important to know how many places trends appear in than how long they’ve been around. ? Look to the margins. Peeking into nooks and crannies of society can unearth the juiciest nuggets. The so-called fringe groups, the subcultures, are most important and are indicators of new trends, for instance, new age, gay, hip-hop. ? Don’t confuse trends with values. Trends are the tips of the icebergs; values lie beneath the surface. ? Use the past, as it’s all you really have. Memory can be recycled as a powerful marketing tool; an example is cable’s “Nick at Nite.” ? Expect and capitalize on backlashes. Smart marketers are thinking about the backlash to a trend before the trend runs its course. For example, the current love affair with technology has spurred an offsetting desire for personal involvement fountain pen vs. e-mail. ? Proactively manage change. Don’t attempt to create the trend. It’s smarter to creatively surf it. ? Focus on application, not prediction. Again from Yogi Berra, “Prediction is difficult, especially about the future.” Iconoculture has outlined 10 illuminating trends that will influence boomers, Gen Xers and their succeeding progeny. ? Altered states. Products and services become resources for the imagination as people live out some form of fantasy, such as attending race-car driving school. ? Beehiving. Tight-knit affinity groups (or “beehives”) will form among friends, families and pets. For example, independent marketing consultants pool resources or get together to exchange information, complain about clients and learn from each other. ? Biomorphing. People will see their bodies as blank slates and attempt to seek longevity by delaying mortality and radically altering their appearance. The will and technology now exist to accomplish it. ? Bunkering. The home will be treated as sanctuary from a hostile world. That’s why Martha Stewart is so popular, why home theaters are all the rage, and why increasing numbers of workers choose to telecommute. ? East meets West. Americans will continue their quest for a sense of inner balance and centeredness. That’s why every Weil and Chopra book is now a bestseller. ? Detox. Awareness grows for the need to battle an invisible enemy in the form of toxins, poisons and germs. The battle is best fought with natural remedies, vitamins, organic foods and exercise. ? Merit badges. The trend will be toward collecting experiences vs. things, and the baby boomers will be the ones most seeking to experience it rather than own it. ? Personal best. Aging baby boomers, with net worth safely protected, will pursue activities leading to self-actualization. They will seek pride in their lives and be concerned with leaving a legacy. Look for a surge in volunteerism. ? Synesthesia. It’s the blending and maximizing of sensory environments. From fine wines to bath teas, aromatherapy to the spa experience, people are into pleasurable experiences. ? Vice-versing. Eat, drink, smoke and be merry using a host of hedonistic, yet permissible forms of self-gratification: selective sin, nice vice, naughty “lite.” How else can one explain the popularity of the $30 cigar? Abrahamson, Meehan and Samuel contend there is an overall change in consumer psyche at play, specifically identified in the trends toward “stealthing” and “unplugging.” Marketing advice I’m often asked to provide recommendations for additional marketing reading, particularly as it relates to small business. The following will get marketing novices started and keep longtime marketers up-to-date. These books are enjoyable to read, easy to digest and loaded with valuable insights: “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing,” “Marketing Warfare,” and “Bottoms Up Marketing,” all by Jack Trout and Al Ries; “Strategic Selling,” by Robert B. Miller and Stephen E. Heiman; “Ogilvy on Advertising,” by David Ogilvy; “Which Ad Pulled Best,” by Philip Ward Burton and Scott C. Purvis; “Life’s a Pitch, Then You Buy,” by Don Peppers; “The One-to-One Future: Building Relationships One Customer at a Time,” by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers; “Conflicting Accounts, The Creation and Crash of the Saatchi Advertising Empire,” by Kevin Goldman; “Whatever Happened to Madison Avenue?” by Martin Mayer. These two are both on cassette and deal exclusively with small-business management: “Business Essentials.” This monthly 80- to 90-minute audiocassette follows an interview format. The subject matter includes government relations, the economy, tax advice and features on human resources and marketing, together with profile stories on successful companies, high-tech ventures and women in business. This audio newsletter from Washington, D.C., is geared to small, growing businesses in the $5 million to $10 million revenue range, with 15 to 50 employees. For information, call (888) 813-8292. “Newstrack.” This is a similar, monthly audiocassette series loaded with information for the entrepreneur who wants valuable lessons on managing a growing enterprise. The source material is culled from a variety of business publications around the country. For information, call (609) 582-5388. Among newsletters, Social Change Briefs, published bimonthly by Campbell-Ewald Advertising, is a handy summation of trend behavior affecting the American marketplace and a concise, informative and enjoyable read for anyone who wants to know what’s going on inside the consumer’s mind. For information, call (810) 574-3400. If you have to subscribe to one magazine, it has to be Advertising Age. It’s required reading every week for the advertising and marketing pro or those who want to be in the know. For subscription information, call (888) 288-5900. The American Marketing Association is one of the nation’s best resources for anything and everything relating to marketing, particularly research, seminar training and consultant services. The AMA also has local chapters in most major cities. For more information, call (312) 648-0536. Let me know if you’ve come across additional sources that I should add to the list. Alf Nucifora is an Atlanta-based marketing consultant. He can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com or by fax at (770) 952 7834.