Eight ways to start off your annual plan with a sharp trend analysis


If you’re reading this right now, you’re probably working very hard on next year’s plans. Most plans kick off with a chapter on trends. It’s not too hard to determine the trends in your own category: look at sales and consumer data, but how to broaden your perspective? And how to look further ahead? How to avoid the clich├ęs (Health, Convenience, Indulgence, Sustainability?)

Here are a few tips to help you along the way:

  • Download (and read) trend reports

Your regular market research agency probably supplies something, but the internet is full of it: trend reports. You can download many of them for free (in exchange for your email address). All kinds of experts give their vision on the future. A great start for your trend chapter.

  • Watch TV / use social media

Documentaries, fantasy/science fiction movies and series, YouTube videos by ad agencies from the UK, USA and China are great resources to spot the newest trends in retail. A great example is Black Mirror.

  • Look back

To get a better idea of what might happen in a certain amount of time, say five years, it really helps looking back for the same amount of time. I often do this exercise with my clients during category vision projects. I let them look back both business wise, and personally. It clarifies how much is possible within a certain time frame.

  • Travel

Travelling to other countries gives you a different perspective on how consumers behave and use different technologies. When on holiday, visit different types of stores (also online!) in the country of your choice. It might not always be possible budget or time wise, but travel shows on TV are a great replacement. Cooking contests in different countries can be a great replacement for food manufacturers.

  • Use your imagination

Your job is to stick to the facts most of the time. But for your trends chapter, it might help to use your imagination in the wildest possible way. What developments will we see? What is now happening and will expand? It helps to draw this instead of writing it down. Even if you can’t draw. Your brain will work differently, and you don’t have to show your drawing during the presentation if you don’t want to ­čÖé

  • Hire a science fiction writer

If your own imagination is too limited, hire a professional. The daily job of a science fiction writer is to shape the future, so they are excellent at it. Many companies have done this before.

  • Connect

Connect all different observations during your trends journey and share them with your colleagues. What is a common idea? What observations make people happy, or asking: “why don’t we see that yet?”. This is a great way to deduce a couple of really relevant trends. Also connect with your category analysis. What does CONVENIENCE mean in your category? Without thinking? Fast? A recipe with few ingredients? Easy to take with you?

  • Not the thing but the thinking

Most of the time, during a trend analysis you find concrete examples. Your audience will love these! But concrete examples are not trends, and they limit thinking during the next phase. Try to find (by connecting) the real insight behind these examples. How will consumer needs develop? These are your trends. You can use a few of the examples you found to illustrate/prove your trends.

I wish you lots of luck and fun developing your trends chapter. Do you need help? Please contact me for more information.