If the trend is clear, is the cause important?

man's face seen unfocused through spectacle lenses, to support blog about clarity of trends


Perspective affects everything we do, including how we allow insight to influence our view of consumer need.

A LinkedIn contact recently posted a blog about the tendency of millennials not to buy material goods (houses, cars) in the same way older generations have been trained to do. The data that support this are strong and the trend shows that Gen Y is even less inclined to follow the path of their elders, preferring to invest in experience over roots.

The thread included empirical evidence from people who have sold property in order to live an experience based lifestyle. Despite this the thread included a comment from a Management Consultant suggesting the trend is down to the affordability of houses in the UK.

On closer inspection the demographic of the contributors justifies some review of the first assumption. Are they millennials or at a time of life when the choice is easier to make? In this case it was an equal split so the data need some more division.

But, so what? If the trend is clear, is the cause important?

If you’re a mortgage lender this insight has a different impact than if you’re a travel broker. Either way interpretation is going to influence your view of the macro trend and your response.

In itself is this innovation? No. But an opportunity for innovation? Absolutely, in both cases. Trend analysis that adopts an objective stance rather than one looking for validation of an idea is something that may not be possible without taking in some external help. 

The market research industry has made capital from this kind of situation for aeons. Because the same data can be differently regarded their market is wide but it’s time to challenge what MR delivers and what can be differently interpreted from data. This is why bespoke insight gathered from new sources and the re-purposing of old data with new tools has become highly demanded. We’re all looking for the money shot.

Today, machine learning allows us to access and handle data in such quantity that views of the future can be yours alone. Say what you will about technology, for a time this new facility has the potential to drive Innovation strategy into business with real and unique product and service differentiation; Design Thinking differently informed; that’s a powerful combination.

But who to take advice from is another conundrum. This isn’t for us to say so let’s leave it to Seth Godin; “…if we pre-process our reactions to things already labelled we don’t have to reconsider our plan.” Future thinking. Future Proofing. It’s what we do.