As we begin designing what we want to create this year in our businesses, I’m thrilled to share some insights from Lynn Casey, the brightest trend forecaster and consumer expert I know. In our years of friendship, I’ve personally seen how valuable it is to hear Lynn’s unique perspective on market trends—even and especially for passion-driven entrepreneurs like us. Read my interview below to hear more about what trend forecasting is and how you will benefit from it, and don’t forget to check out Lynn’s top 10 trends for the year ahead and see how your business fits into what’s next.
For those who are unfamiliar, tell us a bit about what you do and what trend forecasting is all about.
Basically, I’m a consumer scientist. Big brands come to me to find out who they should be making products for, where those people are going, and how to connect with them. Today to stay in business it isn’t fast enough to react to trends, you have to predict. So first, I look at the macro. What’s changing from a global standpoint? Agenderism, peace and safety, politics—the big things that inform how we think and behave as human beings. Then I bubble it down to what we call a “cohort.” It’s a fancy word for a big chunk of people—like a Millennial, or young females returning home—that acts in the same way. So I examine what those people are doing on a micro level, while considering the macro as well. Then it’s about connecting the dots that people don’t see yet, to create a picture of how our future is going to be.
Fascinating! How did you get started in the world of trends, and what led you to founding your company, Shine Scout?
I started out as an ad girl on Madison Avenue (post-Don Draper era). What always fascinated me in that job was that great advertising worked whenever we got to the why. There was something magical about those moments of developing creative, when it wasn’t about what people are doing but why they do it, and inevitably the campaign would be a success.
After that, I moved to LA with my then husband, and I became the VP of Marketing for Paramount Pictures. I did that for a number of years, and then one divorce and three children later, I thought—I’ve got to do something that puts me back in charge of my life. So I thought about what excited me and what was most valuable about my work, and it was really about getting back to this why story.
Trends are incredibly important to understanding why things catch on. They are like physical symptoms of how we’re feeling as human beings. If you go back to the recession for example, there was this moment where fashion died. It became exceedingly quiet, monochromatic and almost old-school. You may not connect those dots, but if you think about it, people were trying to be invisible. There’s that Japanese expression, “the tallest nail gets hit the hardest”—so while people were being laid off and losing their houses, the reaction was to hide and disappear. We didn’t see color and fashion come back until the Arab Spring, when there was this renewed feeling of ebullience and excitement, and it was okay again to be bold and brave.
Tell us a bit more about what Shine Scout does. What are you working on lately?
We work with companies to provide guidance in three main areas: internal culture, innovation and marketing, and global insight work. Internal company culture has become a big focus as Millennials—now between the ages of 22 and 37—are so insistent on creating work cultures that keep them happy, comfortable, and fed. A lot of companies have been losing top talent to tech firms, so I help them understand who populates their own culture, and how to make that into a culture that feeds them.
With innovation and marketing, I help companies understand where people are going and what they want so they can create new products and services to meet the future demand. What happens a lot is they’ll be making tires or washing machines, and they get up one day and find nobody is buying, and they don’t know why. So we have to figure it out—is it the product, the positioning, do they need to be in a different work stream?—and advise them in a new direction. A number of large companies also subscribe to our trend reports, and I’ll give in-person reports, speak at leadership seminars or events, etc.
Why do you think trends are important for not just big corporate businesses, but small entrepreneurs as well? Why should we consider them?
I think trends are almost more important for a small business than a large one right now. First of all, one of the top online search trends right now is local. Consumers want to find people they can reach out and touch, even if they never do meet—they want someone who walks the same streets, who understands their life.
Second of all this current generation of consumers—mostly Millennials—are fascinated by mastery, information and learning. They want to know how to do things well, and they want to meet with local experts—people who have perfected their craft and love what they do—to be shown how. The emphasis is on having a rich, full life, being more talented, more creative, happier, smarter. It’s about, how do I make myself better, and then express that brand’s meme to other people? There’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur and frankly I do believe that within a decade 65% of our workforce will be some kind of freelancer/entrepreneur.
Talk to us about what’s coming up in 2016, and why.
The two new Pantone colors that have just been selected for 2016 are this very soft “rose quartz” and a very light “serenity” blue. Pantone didn’t choose those colors because they saw them everywhere, they predicted them. And they predicted them because fear levels in the U.S. now are as high as they were immediately after 9/11. So there’s this incredible desire for safety—and those colors play into that. It’s this idea of what I’m calling “homeland security”—creating sanctuary. People are going to be looking to make their homes rich, safe, and serene, and to bring others in. It’s about home entertaining, salons, book clubs, knitting, painting.
And a second trend that plays into that is “girlfriends first.” I’m sure you’ve seen the hashtag #squadgoals, and it all goes back to Taylor Swift and her cadre of supermodel friends. It’s not about the husband and the kids anymore, it’s about this group of girls achieving something together. Increasingly there’s this desire to create these communities and grow together as a group. So collecting people, being safe, being held, and the question of, “what can we do together on a local basis?” is going to be very, very important.
What’s one thing you wish entrepreneurs knew about trends?
I would say that in the language of trends, the vernacular is critical. Think about if you’ve ever used a word incorrectly in front of a teenager, and they’re so appalled and embarrassed for you. You have to know the language of what’s going on in the world. This is an entire generation that expects to be heard and understood, so if you can’t mirror that back to them they’ll just move on.
When you forecast trends, how do you differentiate what’s fleeting from what’s here to stay?
Firstly, I have a rule of three. I have to see something in three different places by three different people. Then I have to tie it back into how deeply it connects to the why.
Here’s an example—food trucks. When the Kogi BBQ Truck first came out in LA years ago, it was surprising to see people paying $12 for a plate of BBQ from a truck. When you start to think about what Millennials are interested in and care about though—it makes a lot of sense. They care about localism, and they care about collecting experiences over buying a house and starting a family.
They live in the moment. So the Kogi BBQ truck plays into a lot of those elements. It provides a special experience. It’s on social media, you can only find it if you’re tuned in, and it’s local and sharable. So food trucks have had staying power.
Talk to us about the luxury market. Where is it headed?
Everyone is talking about the death of luxury, and it’s not actually dead. 2015 was a bad year for the luxury market—it only grew by 1%. In 2016 it’s projected to grow 4-5%, so there will be a resurgence. However what will continue to be important is what I call “luxury on the down-low.” It’s subtle, very, very expensive, and about the best of everything. Think of the success of Victoria Beckham’s line and of The Row—these lines are subtle, but they are absolutely the best. Even with Millennials now, who originally led the growth in fast fashion—H&M, Zara, Forever 21—they are learning to save up for better quality. It’s not about “I’m not going to consume,” it’s, “I’m going to consume better.” People are looking for beautiful, authentic fabrics, cashmere and leather, and they’re not satisfied by knockoffs anymore. So this generation is moving into high-end, beautiful quality, and we’ll see that translated into the home as well.
What is something small business owners can do to keep up with big corporations and maintain their market share?
I actually think it’s the big corporations trying to keep up with small businesses right now. There’s this hunger and desire to find that authentic someplace. The response rate for, “Meet me at this local boutique coffee shop,” is a lot higher than “Meet me at Starbucks.” People want to be somewhere that helps express something about them.
Once upon a time brands had a lot more control over who they were. When social media started, all of a sudden a brand was defined by its users. Now the one place left for brands to express themselves with control is retail. That’s the brand’s home, the place where they invite you in and tell you who they are. That’s why you’re seeing retail spaces now where you can sit and relax on furniture you can buy, have a cup of coffee and a snack. For example Ralph Lauren has opened a chain of restaurants and you can’t even get into the one in Paris, it’s one of the most popular places on the planet.
However nobody does this better than a local merchandiser—so I would encourage local entrepreneurs to be as quirky, unique and personable as possible. Make your brand as human and individualistic as you can. People are looking for a brand that understands and reflects who they are. A large corporate brand has a hard time doing that because they have to please everyone, and today’s consumer doesn’t want what everyone else has.
We want relationships with individuals, not corporations. The brands that are going to win are the ones that can respond back in a unique, individual voice. Think about when Jenna Lyons first came to J.Crew, and it felt like the Jenna brand—we all saw and heard her voice and loved it. And as she’s faded back, the less successful that brand has been.
While we have you, we’d love to ask for some free advice. What progression have you seen in the Divine Living brand over the years, and what forecast do you see for us in the future?
You’ve done an amazing job moving the brand into something that feels established, rich, beautiful and multifaceted. Also, you’ve done very, very well to evolve the message from, “let’s make your life better,” to this idea of, “you can be absolutely anyone you want.” I’ve experienced this phenomena over the past year as I travel around the world meeting with clients—everyone is so hungry to figure out what their next role in life is. With Millennials now there’s no such thing as work-life balance, it’s been thrown out the window. It’s all about, what is my path going to be and how do I travel it best.
I think you’re sitting at a moment in time that I’ve never seen before. Everyone is trying to figure out a way to have a full life without being a nine-to-fiver, or climbing the corporate ladder. People are trying to unlock “Who am I and what do I do with it,” and that’s your craft and something you’re really talented at.
Right now we are seeing at higher rates than any time since the feminist movement—over 50% of women who were in the workforce are having babies and choosing to stay home. The reason they’re doing that is because it’s not enough to walk out the door and go to a job. So they’re trying to figure out what is going to bring purpose and meaning and money. And we’re seeing that with women in both quarter-life and mid-life, two huge chunks of women are stopping and saying, wait—what’s next? For these people, the idea is, “I’m not about work, I’m about me, so how do I do me in a way that serves society, makes the world a better place, and also generates income?” It’s a beautiful time.
We couldn’t agree more. On that note, what can you leave us with for 2016?
2016 is a time of absolute limitless opportunity. Take any dream you have and put it on steroids. If I could give everyone one gift in the world it’d be the gift of self belief—believe in yourself, your instincts, and your ability, because absolutely anything is possible, you just have to dream really big. People are so hungry to be a part of something, to grow as human beings, and we’re all in a position to serve that if we’re willing to do the work and be smart about it. And remember that often, you know your audience because you are your audience. What you love, what you crave, what you need, is so important. Everybody gets in their head about what they should be doing, but when you tune into your passion, that’s actually the smartest and most profitable foundation to build your life on.
1 Safety Dance:
Today, more people express a feeling of fear than post 9/11. They are looking to create a sense of safety, sanctuary and serenity in their lives and in their homes. Look for ways to provide products or services that allow them to achieve these states personally, and globally.
At a time where the core consumer cohort – people in their late twenties and early thirties, are finding little work satisfaction; the desire for mastery, the deep learning of a skill or talent, is at an all time high. From needlepoint, to pickling, people are looking to immerse themselves in unique and individual arts. What can you teach them?
You’ve heard of DIY, but today’s consumer is all about DIWM – Do It With Me. They move in groups, and are looking for experiences, both enriching and experiential, that they can do with their closest friends. Think of learning modules (a la book clubs), both on line and in real time; that they can do with friends, on a regular basis, feeding their desire to learn, and to be together.
Seemingly quixotic to the point above, she is also deeply committed to supporting those unique, quality establishments that define her local community. Whether that means an online service from a woman who mirrors her values and life stage, or a local coffee shop or boutique that creates and sells items organic to the geography and history of an area; places that authentically speak to craft and care on a local basis are on top of her list.
Immediate, Impulsive, Imaginative: the three big IMs mean folks today want to be surprised, delighted, and encouraged to take a leap. They are short-term thinkers – not long term gratifiers. As one consumer put it: Life would be awesome if someone would place a few piñatas throughout my day.” She is seeking bright spots of joy – how do you service that need?
6 Silver is the new black:
Despite all the constant claims of ageism, pop culture is truly beginning to embrace the silver set. This past Fall, Fashion Week saw dozens of models over the age of 30 strutting their stuff on the catwalk. Joan Didion is the face of Celine, and Gloria Steinem is the toast of the town. There is a hunger for knowledge in a time of too much information. Real life experience is golden right now – how can you exploit your own?
7 Don’t Show Me The Money:
Today’s customer is frightened of money. She doesn’t want to touch it, or to think about it. Services like VenMo or Paypal, ApplePay or VisaPay take advantage of this fear. Provide goods and services on a subscription basis that asks for payment upfront and then never again. She wants a relationship with you – not an exchange of goods or services for money. Get that out of the way, as painlessly as possible, so she can get on to the good stuff.
8 Life Lite:
Post recession, there is a hunger for what people can experience as opposed to what they can own or acquire. Home and car sales are less important than adventures and trips that feed the heart and provide instagram pics. Passport stamps and journey talismans are the new Mercedes.
After years of mobility, divorce and diaspora, people are hungry for lore and story. Mothers want to create unique family traditions, and deep memories for their families. Ritual, narrative and self-made rites of passage are top on their lists – how can you help them shape their personal family story?
10 Personal Magic:
We are all searching for meaning, and in that search, we look for those who have found it in their own lives. It really is a state of acceptance, confidence and strength. Anyone we look up to – be it
Oprah, or our amazing local florist, is someone who believes in themselves, and wants to share that strength. There has never been a better time to be of service to those who seek. Millennials and Boomers are questioning their lives, and are looking to either make their first footprint, or their last legacy, meaningful. How can you help them on this journey? They are eager for answers, if you believe in your own message. The time is really now!