Distinguishing Between Fads and Trends

Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Pogs, Beanie Babies, Cabbage Patch Dolls, Rubik’s Cubes, pinball, Green Slime, Disco, Hootenannies, Ouija Boards, Davy Crockett Coonskin Caps, baseball cards, Garbage Pail Kids, Slinky, roller derbies, victory gardens, swallowing live goldfish at colleges, hanging out at blind pigs and flagpole sitting. What do all of these things have in common? They were either trends or fads of decades present or gone by.







Understanding and exploiting trends and fads can give a marketer a powerful competitive advantage. But in order to do so one must first be able to quickly ascertain whether something is actually a trend or a fad.

The major difference between a trend verses a fad is longevity. Trends are long-term and spotting them early can give a marketer the much desired “first to market” advantage. Take for example the companies that were quick to jump on the social media bandwagon. They are enjoying the “first to market” advantage over the companies who are just now taking the use of such media more seriously.

Fads on the other hand are short-term in nature and require a “get in and get out” strategy to render maximum profits. Fad items are the kinds of things that consumers buy because they are popular at the time but are quickly regulated to the back of the closet when something new comes along. Things like macramé owl wall hangings that were popular in the 19070’s come to mind.

If you are unsure of how to quickly distinguish between trends and fads at an early stage here are six questions that you can pose to yourself that can aid you in your determination. As we ask ourselves these questions let’s use social media as an example.

(1) Does it fit with basic lifestyle changes? If it complements the lifestyle changes of a society it’s a trend. If it goes against the lifestyle changes of a society it’s a fad. Social media in fact does fit in with basic lifestyle changes. Our society is becoming ever more technologically advanced. Social media is part of that technology.

(2) What benefits do consumers receive? The more diverse and immediate the benefits, the more likely it is a trend. Fads tend to provide less or weaker benefits than trends. Social media outlets are very diverse and the benefits of them are immediate.

(3) Can it be personalized? The more adaptable a product is the more likely it is a trend. Fads

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