Once upon a time … As you know, this is how most fairy tales start. But there was a time when the world did not know about concepts such as ‘trend’, ‘trend analysis’, ‘trend sociology’ and other related words. There was also a time when the world did not know the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, iPhone, iPad, let alone photocopiers, faxes and news 24 hours a day.

It was in those days – at the beginning of the 1970s – that a small group of people, as the first ever in the world and independently of each other, began to take an interest in a mysterious blend of modern culture research, sociology, economy, change analysis and trends. Compared with today, the collection and dissemination of knowledge about consumer behaviour and trends was infinitely slow. Collection was conducted via travels and personal conversations and meetings, mood boards were created with scissors and glue, presentations took place with plastic overheads, the dissemination of new knowledge included a typewriter, and texts were printed and distributed as articles or books.

The start-up of the trend industry

The emergence of new industries is based on new needs. The trend industry originated in the early 1970s out of nowhere, through a need for structure, understanding of consumers’ habits and behaviour, and possible explanations for the increasing speed of change. The first pioneers popped up in France, England, the Netherlands and Denmark. In many ways, the United States was slightly behind, but caught up a few years later.
The pioneers did not know each other in the beginning, but got closer over the years and have kept in touch; some of them have been able to celebrate 40th anniversaries in the same business. Well, those who are still here. So much has happened since the early and mid-1970s, and in particular the financial crisis combined with the rapid expansion of the Internet has been hard on the traditional trend industry. For those companies still alive and kicking, the second generation is now running the trend forecasting business – apparently trend forecasting runs in the blood.

In Denmark, interest in the field occurred in a combination of cultural research, traditional future studies, segmentation analysis, the fast lifestyle industries’ needs for insight into consumer behaviour and commercial interest in being ahead of the competition. Pioneers were people like futurist Rolf Jensen, culture researcher Karen Schousboe, sociology analyst Henrik Dahl and yours truly, Poul Erik Jakobsen. We knew each other, worked together, borrowed from each other’s insights and became wiser together. Everyone made a career out of it, and methods and frameworks were established, along with magazines, seminars, conferences, books and much more.

Greater reach

In the ’70s and ’80s predicting trends was often seen as a mysterious industry, combining witchcraft with supernatural abilities. But today it is a recognised and very well-integrated
discipline in industries such as design, fashion, interior, food, media, advertising, travel, communication, finance etc., and, in recent years, also the medical and health industry.

Next generation

Today the next generation is at the forefront of development – as company owners, independent consultants, writers, inspirators and communicators. Many have come from or took their first steps in two companies in Denmark: the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies or pej gruppen in Herning. This book’s publisher is pej gruppen, a trend forecasting and media publication company founded in 1975. pej gruppen is the largest commercial player in the world of trends in Northern Europe, in the top ten in the world and currently works in all the above industries. However, it started with the fashion and interior design industries in Central Jutland in Denmark, and has since grown to include many sectors. The durable consumer goods industries’ needs during the 1980s and 1990s also became other industries’ needs. And in line with the proliferation of the Internet and greater access to knowledge, as well as more general transparency, the pace of change became a requirement for renewal, improvements, development and innovation, and intensified in virtually all industries.

Small size, big effect

The trend industry is small compared with other industries, but its influence is significant and extensive. Today it functions as a ‘service provider and ‘sparring partner’ for many industries and sets the direction for future product and service launches. Most end consumers will never know where the ideas and thoughts came from, but the collection, processing, systematisation and dissemination of knowledge about trends, lifestyle and the future inspires companies, which must continuously adapt, deliver new products or services, inspire new platforms or be rule breakers.

New book from pej gruppen

This book provides a glimpse into the theory, methods and models used in trend forecasting so that everyone can become wiser. The book is number four in a series of books published by pej gruppen on trend research, also known as trend sociology. The first book was published in 1997 under the title ‘Trends in time’. The second book was released in 2002, and was reprinted in 2003, with the title ‘Trend Sociology’ and written by Poul Erik Jakobsen and Louise Byg Kongsholm. The third book was published in 2015 and written by Louise Byg Kongsholm and Cathrine Gro Frederiksen, a new and different co-author to ensure a new and fresh perspective combined with forty years of experience accumulated in pej gruppen. This is the fourth book on trend sociology – and now in English so that more readers may be able to become smarter at understanding and forecasting trends.

Poul Erik Jakobsen
An experienced board adviser, consultant and lecturer.
Founder and former owner of pej gruppen.