How does a trend expert work? What is a trend really, and how do they even spot and analyze trends? We have asked the trend forecaster David Mattin, who is Head of Trends & Insights at Trendwatching.

This is a small excerpt from the book ‘Trendsociology v. 2.0’, published by pej gruppen. Buy the book here.

Why and how did you become a trend expert?
It certainly was not planned in any long-term way. I had been a journalist for ten years by the time I joined Trendwatching. I had been aware of the company Trendwatching for a long time before that and often read their reports for ideas, and given the direction my interests were taking it seemed a natural progression to join the team in 2012.

Why is it important to work with trends?
In the end, trends are about success. If it is your job to put anything – new products, services, campaigns, business models, anything – in front of consumers, then trends will give you a much greater chance of success, because they will mean your innovations are grounded in what consumers want and where they are heading.
Today, that advice is more pertinent than ever. The pace of innovation is relentless. Consumer behaviours and mindsets can change seemingly instantly. Trends give us a way to get a handle on all
this and find a way to the innovation that will delight our customers. But note: Spotting trends is not enough. That is only the first step. You also have to apply them. At Trendwatching, we have developed a methodology for trend-led innovation that helps our clients not only spot trends, but choose which trends to focus on,
and then use those trends to develop successful innovations of their own. One of our central messages to clients is: Interesting and nice to know is not enough. Trends are there to be used and should make
your business more profitable. And, of course, that is a constant challenge to us as a team, too.
Are the trends we are telling people about genuinely actionable? Will innovators be able to use these trends to create successful new products, services and campaigns?

How do you define the concept of a trend?
To my mind, a consumer trend is simply a newly-emerging pattern of behaviour, mindset or expectation among a group of people. At Trendwatching we have a model that supports that definition. The model is built around two elements: Basic human needs and wants, and external change. So, on the one hand the world is always
changing. Technological change, social change, economic change: All of that has an impact on our lives. On the other hand, our basic human needs and wants do not change that much over time: Safety, connection, excitement, value and so on. New trends emerge when external change unlocks new ways of serving age-old human needs and wants. One example: The innovators behind Airbnb did not invent the human desire for better value and authentic experiences – those desires have always been with us. What they did is see that external change – in this case the internet – had unlocked a new way of serving those desires. Of course, Airbnb is just a single innovation, not a trend.
But by looking at lots of innovations and seeing the patterns that link them, we can spot new trends and see where consumers are heading next. That is why looking at innovations is central to our trend spotting methodology.

Which types of trends interest you the most?
I am interested in all consumer trends, because I am obsessed by the study of people, how they live their lives, how they think and how that is changing. We occasionally have to explain to readers and clients that consumer trends do not mean fashion trends, or tech trends, or economic trends. All of those are interesting and can help shape consumer trends, but they are not in themselves consumer trends.

How and where do you discover trends?
On a company level, our trend spotting is fuelled by TW:IN (Trendwatching Insight Network), a network of thousands of spotters across the globe who are constantly alerting us to the latest new products, services and campaigns in their markets. What we are doing as an analyst team is joining the dots between those examples to spot the new directions of travel – and spot the trends. On a personal level, the great thing about being a trend spotter
is that you never have to stop. Inevitably, many of the innovations and ideas that inform my thinking are encountered online. But I also travel a lot for trend presentations, and on the road I always keep my eyes open for new innovations, behaviours and signs that people are thinking in new ways. You never know what kernel of data might help identify a new and powerful trend.

Are you interested in getting your hands on the entire book, (it’s 400 pages), it is possible to buy here.

The book consists of three parts:
1. Theory and practical description of what a trend is, how it is spread and what effect it may have.
2. Interview with 17 of the world’s top trend researchers
3. Practical process description (5 phased process) with concrete methods and tools for working with trends.