Why *Not* Chasing Marketing Trends Is the Best Advice You Can Get

Nitish Menon

“Let’s include TikTok as part of our marketing strategy this year.” Working in the field of marketing always keeps you on your toes. A large part of your work involves staying on top of ‘marketing trends’. Marketers need to focus on being quick, timely, smart, and creative while drafting out their new campaign or strategy.

Trends are inevitable in the field of marketing (or any industry for that matter). It’s as popular as the infamous New Year’s eve quote, “I’ll go to the gym next year” — of the marketing world. It sounds promising but often comes back to haunt you.

I’m just as guilty for chasing trends in the past. I’ve eagerly researched the latest trends in the industry, just to implement when back at the office. That’s only until I wised up lately. The majority of the trends being peddled by outlets today are generalities and honestly are a lazy attempt at building thought leadership.

Great Brands Don’t Follow Trends

On a monthly or yearly basis, we discover new trends that have the potential to disrupt the way we connect with our customers (or so we believe).

However, an article by Forbes disagrees with the idea of chasing trends. It states, “If you want to build a great brand, stop following trends. While there are short-term benefits to riding the coattails of another brand’s innovation, that approach won’t lead to significant growth.

There’s massive truth behind this statement. As marketers, we are guilty of making snap decisions with regards to marketing trends without worrying about the outcomes. It’s not the right approach. It’s like purchasing a pair of sneakers online that looked cool, only to learn that it makes your feet look clunky in reality.

As coined by Gartner, we get sucked into a “marketing hype cycle”— where the general premise is that people get excited about new shiny objects, when these objects really need to continue being just a hype.

Great brands must engage in a constant dialogue with their consumers to know them more intimately. This information will help them discern what’s right for them instead of creating what’s right for the masses.

More importantly, in this journey brands must ensure they remain true to the values of the brand and what it stands for. And make sure their path does not restrict them from constantly innovating.

Trends Distract You From the Immediate Problems

Let’s be honest, would you rather focus on the impact AI could have on your marketing efforts or the laundry list of problems that currently need fixing? Probably the latter. You’d likely want to address and make improvements (even if they are slight ones) before jumping to the next shiny thing.

For example, simple metrics like conversion rates for your website, click-through rates from your email marketing, insights from your paid social media campaigns, etc. are elements that can impact your progress today. Focus on them.

There’s always scope for a certain level of improvement in the campaigns we run. It’s about taking action by leveraging these metrics to create a better experience for our customers. If we choose to ignore them, we only fail to understand what our customers would like to see from us. Hello, churn rate!

Trends Make You Act Like Sheep

What’s your most important job as a marketer? To stand out. However, chasing trends makes you do exactly the opposite. We focus on trying to blend or fit in with the masses.

We try to create strategies and tactics around these trends to try and fit with a mass audience that may not even care about our brand. This one mentally transports me back to my school years, when all of us were being asked to follow the guidelines of the “school uniform”. A mighty few challenged it from time to time, only to be greeted by severe punishments later.

The point is we need to focus on creating content that stands out and creates value for our customers at the same time. We don’t have to be ushered into trends that drive us towards blending in. Let’s look at a few examples:

  • How many “how-to” blog posts do you find online? My Google search results are filled with them (even when I’m not looking for them).

  • How many online video podcasts have you listened to recently? My LinkedIn timeline can never have enough.

  • How many motivational workout videos by “influencers” featured on your feed? My Instagram could use a breather.

  • How many of the creepy retargeting ads have you encountered? I might just delete my Facebook account.

This is an indication that trends can go from being something unique to overly saturated real quick. The focus should be to stay true to your brand and not get carried away by the new shiny object on the horizon.

Trends Have Their Place

I hope this thinking doesn’t sound inane to you. The point I’m trying to drive home is that before taking trends at face value, we must force ourselves to critically assess each one of them to ensure they align with our brand.

Only owning a nebulous title in marketing does not do you any favours. We need to be able to act on them accordingly. A few questions we need to ask ourselves during the process of assessing trends may be:

  • Does this trend resonate with my consumers?

  • Does this trend help us truly stand out in the market?

  • Have all my immediate problems been addressed?

  • Will using this trend open doors to new customers?

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely trust that brands should experiment with new tactics and constantly track emerging consumer behaviour patterns. As a marketer if you don’t do justice to this, you’d probably be out of a job.

However, always critically assess the trends you’d like to include in your strategy. Don’t just do it cause it’s the new fad. If you constantly ask yourselves the questions above, you won’t be distracted from what works and what doesn’t for your brand. And follow this up with performance tracking and you might just have a winner.