Just like the beginning of each year, the outset of 2023 is inundated with a motley of news, tweets, and prognostications about trends. “The 10 Marketing Trends of 2023 and Beyond” and “Stock Market Trends in 2023” are just some of the heralded headlines. Majority of us follow these trends, but a few create them. In business, investing, politics, and everyday life, we are either a trendsetter or a trend-follower.
Usually associated with fashion, trendsetters are people who can spot a new trend at an early stage or even create a new one and lead its spread to new social groups or locations. They are visionaries and innovators able to see what’s in the horizon and create or set something people will adopt or follow, which leads to the progression of trend-followers.
A trend-follower, on the other hand, is not the antithesis of the latter but its offspring. They are people who adopt a new idea or product, becoming a member of the herd. Hence the term “herd behavior” which is characterized by how individuals in a group can act collectively in everyday decision-making, judgement and opinion-forming. The more trend-followers there are lead to the bandwagon effect — a phenomenon whereby the rate of adoption of a trend increases the more that they have already been adopted by others.
The problem with trends is that they change fast and frequently. So if you’re a trend-follower, when you read headlines about trends in the current and coming years, it’s most likely old news and just a rehash of the author’s lack of foresight.
But there is wisdom in being a trend-follower as much as being a trendsetter. At times, a trend-follower detects and adopts a trend at an early stage, improves on it, and starts a new trend in itself. There’s a plethora of successful trendsetters and trend-followers alike in the worlds of business, politics, and arts.
Probably the most famous trendsetter was the iconic Steve Jobs who envisioned the iPod and iPhone which paved the way for the mobile revolution. Other examples are Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Elon Musk, and Jack Ma. In the world of investing Warren Buffet, often referred to as the most successful investor in the world, is well known for spotting investment opportunities. These trendsetters are all visionaries who recognized human needs, problems, and opportunities, found solutions, and turned them to fruition.
But then, examples of successful trend-followers are companies from Japan, China, and Korea which improved on products from the West, such as cars, TVs and appliances, displays, mobile phones, and others, and set their own trend, lording it over the incumbent Western brands.
In the world of investment such as stocks and bonds, a trend-follower is an investor whose strategy is based the technical analysis of market prices, taking advantage of these market trends by observing the current direction and using this to decide whether to buy or sell. On the other hand, a trend-setter investor is one whose strategy is based on the fundamental strengths of the companies, sifting through financial statements and balance sheets much like Warren Buffet.
But what spells the difference between a successful trendsetter and trend-follower from unsuccessful ones are the mindset, preparation, planning, and strategy.
Trendsetters surround themselves with innovators and creative people. They talk about ideas with movers in society and business. They immerse themselves in a multitude of interests such as arts, sports, and culture. They read a lot about various subject matters. They create their own identity and style much like branding. They find innovative ways to spread the news about a new idea of a product.
Successful trend-followers, on the other hand, detect and adopt a trend at an early stage and not wait for the rest of the herd to come in. They quickly execute to invest, produce, and distribute. They improve on a new idea, product, and concept through enhancements, additions, and fusion. Like trendsetters, they expose themselves to innovative people, diverse subjects, and creative distribution methods.
In the end, not all of us will be like a Steve Jobs or a Warren Buffet. There’s a complex interplay of timing, resources availability, and luck. We can veer from a trend-follower to s trendsetter and vice versa. We just need to be more perceptive and skillful in creating or detecting a trend and quick in capitalizing on it.
The author is CEO of Hungry Workhorse Consulting, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm.He is Fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. The author may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org