An insight is for life, not just for Christmas…

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Callum Saunders, Head of Planning at ZEAL Creative, shares his thoughts on the insights of seasonal ‘top trends’.

Have you heard of Whamageddon?

Players have to get from the 1st of December to the 24th without listening to ‘Last Christmas’ by Wham!

Having heard this classic being played at MediaCityUK’s Christmas markets in the first week, I have already failed the challenge, although in my humble opinion, listening to the dulcet tones of George Michael can never be classified as losing (hashtag: guilty secret).

But for those of us in marketing circles, there is an equally hard-to-avoid Christmas challenge.

That’s right, the season of ‘top trends for 2020’ is upon us!

It’s time for LinkedIn feeds and third-party emails to become saturated with dubiously-informed ‘soothsayers’, as we are bombarded with this festive marketing ‘classic’!

Favoured by global network agencies, paperclip suppliers you haven’t heard from in 12 months, and self-employed marketing ‘gurus’ seeking to churn out yet more ‘content’, the ‘trends of [insert year]’ has become as traditional as the client pitch brief two days before Christmas (‘we’ll see you on January 3rd for the response!’).

Whilst this article is clearly tongue in cheek and written in jest, there are three main reasons why I take umbrage with this increasingly listless listicle.

1. Humans are not ‘re-booted’ on the first of January

If you believed the articles, the first day of the new year would herald a completely new set of norms and behaviours.

I’m now an adopter of VR! I’m mobile-first! I now buy experiences over things!!

The truth is that cultural shifts, trends and changes in behaviour happen fluidly and constantly. We should be monitoring these consistently throughout the year, every year.

Of course, contextual changes impact consumer and shopper behaviour. But these are not negotiated and introduced to the public ahead of a certain timeframe (unlike ongoing Brexit negotiations).

For those of us in planning, insight and strategy, we have a professional duty to shine a light on these throughout the year, as opposed to making up a December highlights package.

2. The trend for utterly generic waffle

I could forgive these lists if they actually contained insightful observations where thought has been considerately applied.

Forgive me, but too often it feels like a marketing groundhog day: the marketing equivalent of pulling an insight from a cracker.

‘It’s the year of mobile’!

‘Video is the post-modern tool of choice’!

‘Data will rule!’

‘Millennials want experiences’!

The majority of these articles continue to peddle such holistic, vague generalisations, it’s hard to glean any sense from them, let alone value.

3. We never measure and follow-up on these predictions 

At their very best, these articles become a virtual vacuum the moment they are published.

I’m more than happy to be proven wrong, but does anyone ever follow up on their predictions? Do we review these six months in, to track whether the nebulous statements are seeing any traction?

Does anyone even care?

If we’re going out into the world as industry experts and predicting that this truly is the year where we all do our shopping through virtual reality goggles, then who’s challenging that statement if it turns out to be hollow?

Too often, these predictions can feel like election pledges: something designed for a quick piece of PR or a soundbite, but ultimately lacking any substance.

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So there we have it: my festive moan about the incoming glut of ‘top trends’ articles.

My predictions for 2020? That human empathy, true insight and ongoing cultural observations will serve us all well throughout 2020.

Remember, an insight is for life, not just for Christmas.

If you would like to find out more about ZEAL Creative, get in touch with Callum Saunders at callum@zealcreative.com