When facing a challenging business environment, which these days is true for almost every industry, companies don’t always have the time to make considered decisions. Agility has become a much-needed skill.
So, how can companies be better prepared for whatever the future holds?
Agility needs preparation and with this in mind, most major organisations conduct some sort of societal trend following in the hope that they will correctly “guess” what might happen. You may be one of them. So it might surprise you that I believe this is a huge mistake, especially if you think that trends alone will better prepare your organisation!
Think about it. Most companies follow the same trends, attend the same trend “shows” & conferences, and get the same or at least very similar reports.
This results in them all working on the same ideas and concepts, and eventually launching very similar products and services or campaigns, that struggle to compete effectively.
Have you never wondered why suddenly everyone is talking about a certain topic, using similar slogans, or launching equivalent offers? Now you know why!
Here’s how to avoid this and develop a powerful competitive advantage.
I want to start by sharing just one example of the problem I just mentioned. A few years ago, we started seeing many companies using the idea of “YES” and “NO” in their advertising. In Europe, these included:
- The Swiss Migros Bank: see the videos here – only in French & German, I’m afraid but still easy to understand whatever language you speak.
- Coke’s “Say Yes to Love” campaign.
- BMW 320i Campaign YES YOU CAN
These are just three examples from very different industries, but I’m sure there are many others in your own country. (If so, please share the example in the comments below.)
Clearly, the trend for more independence and freedom has been emphasised in all three organisations mentioned above. Perhaps they are working with the same trend or advertising agency? Or maybe they are buying the same external trends report. It certainly looks like it, doesn’t it?
Companies that develop concepts based upon this type of external resource alone can find themselves in a race to be the first to market when using the ideas these reports suggest.
Incidentally, it is not always best to be the first when introducing new concepts to consumers, especially when they require learning new ways of thinking or working.
So what can you do about it? The vital step that many – dare I say most – organisations don’t take, is to turn the trends they are following into plausible future scenarios.
Scenario planning ensures original thinking from which proprietary ideas are conceived, and takes the development of new concepts in-house, where it belongs.
Then, the new product and service concepts, the new advertising campaigns, and the new promotions that are designed are unlikely to be the same as those of the competition and will, therefore, have a greater chance of success.
Turning Trends into Future Scenarios
Organisations working with progressed trends have generally established their own process for turning trends into future scenarios. They all follow a similar pattern to the ten-step process summarised below:
These are some thoughts on the importance of scenario planning and how to get started, based on my own experience working with many of the major Fortune 500 companies. I would love to hear your own thoughts on the best way to get a company to move from trend following alone to the more impactful and profitable process of future scenario planning.
Don’t limit your competitiveness by only conducting societal trend following. Turn them into proprietary future scenarios. That will provide you with a real competitive advantage.