Harnessing Cyclical Market Trends for Sustained Innovation in Emerging/Multicultural Economies

08 Jan 2008|Miguel Winebrenner

You’ve probably heard of the enormous sales growth of the Prius in 2007, which more than a car has become a badge of sophistication. But the environment isn’t a fad- there are many documented examples proving that this particular phenomena has transcended “trendiness” and has become not only a lifestyle choice but also an economic imperative.

Most trends, however, do not have that kind of staying effect and fade away quickly, many times representing a loss for companies that innovate only to see their efforts reach minimal depth. Take the beer industry for example- as Mike Beine described in his Brandweek article from December 3 “A-B, Miller and Coors Craft Image of Being the Little Guy”– the beer industry has gone through multiple trends (“like low-carb, ice, red and dry beers”) and more recently craft beers like Fat Tire.

Not that these fades don’t have returns on investment, but the emergence of new economies (multicultural in the U.S. and emerging markets like Brazil, China, India, Russia, etc.) could represent an opportunity to increase the shelf life of new products and services- in any industry- by having business groups like marketing, product development, innovation and marketing collaborate together to keep social and economic pulses on these economies. If, for example, a new packaging or product could have a cross-over effect and go deep into China, then that would certainly make it a more worthwhile investment.

But what are the cultural and social nuances, as well as brand development considerations, of that actually happening?

Aside from the typical questions that need to be asked when assessing a business opportunity to meet any trend, there need to be additional questions given the growth of multicultural markets within in the U.S. and the importance of emerging markets abroad, and those are:

a) What trends are happening in these markets that could affect the mainstream U.S. market?
b) Will mainstream trends catch on within these markets and yield a higher life expectancy for the investment?
c) Can marketing make these trends catch on within these markets or is it just something that doesn’t stand a chance?
d) If the trend will hit these markets, how do we calibrate our innovations for other markets- like “Light Coke” instead of “Diet Coke”?

Clearly most industries go through cycles that are affected by consumer/social paradigms, and while certain trends- like the environment- have been transformative, the reality is that most trends are short-lived. This volatility, coupled with the undeniable importance of multicultural and emerging economies as a path to organic growth, are compelling reasons to align insights, marketing and innovation under these two key premises in order to increase the shelf-life of products and services that could otherwise extinguish before the return on investment has fully peaked.

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