How to write a trend document

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How to write a trend doc

A couple months ago, at work, the new group-level European head of social media challenged me to come up with a couple of ideas that could form part of a trend document for the New Year – ‘We need a trend on one slide, and then maybe a slide on what to do about that trend after – can you do that?’.

Yes, was the answer. Of course. And the end result can be seen on the Social@Ogilvy blog with supporting slides on Slideshare.

But the thing is, whenever I try to come up with new ideas, I always start with words. Yes that’s right, WORDS.  Yes they might end up in a presentation at some point, but I never start with Powerpoint. Ever.

I start with a blank page, a clean browser (eg: no tabs open except search), some questions, and normally one idea that I’ve been noodling to get me going.

The clean page and browser were easy. The questions? They’re as follows:

  • What’s the trend?
    Does it have a name? What’s the angle?
  • What are the key drivers?
    Aim for three. If you have less, think of more. If you have more, reduce.
  • Examples?
    Again, three is the magic number. If there are no examples, then your trend is a prediction [and not wanted here; save it for another document].
  • Implications?
    The inevitable question: what it does this mean for brands?!

Using those four guiding principles, it’s relatively simple. I ended up writing a few for Ogilvy, two made the final cut, and I’ve developed a couple more for publishing elsewhere. But for the benefit of this post, I’ll just show you the first draft document that went onto underpin the aforementioned final presentation.

Copied and pasted direct from Word –




The Content Churn
With content marketing the buzz term of 13/14, every brand (and their corresponding agencies) is on the hook to constantly create content. Continuously churning through idea after idea, meme after meme… The desire to continually satiate the online hunger for more, more, more means that the content created in turn becomes smaller, and quicker to consume.

Unsurprisingly, this inevitably leads to mistakes. Which in turn leads onto our next driver…

Tweet & Delete
With the inevitable errors that happen in 24hr news rooms content hubs, the chances of a piece of work slipping out of the door without the correct sign off increase. It happens in all parts of the marketing industry, this isn’t new to social media.

However, unlike an offensive print ad, or a sexist TV commercial, social channels allow media owners to reach into the past and delete the offending content – as if it had never existed in the first place. This, of course, comes with as many risks and it does rewards. The latter in that it can be missed by many; and for the former? Post-deletion infamy on the Buzzfeeds and Reddits of this world.

Speaking of infamy…

Teens’ ever reducing content legacy
With the advent and subsequent global penetration of social media, the professional adults of today are finding that the penchant for over-sharing that was so new and exciting is slowly coming back to haunt them. Well, we’ve got news for you on this: the kids are wise to this one. The generation growing up RIGHT NOW is unlike no other before. This is the generation that has never known a world without the Internet (can you even imagine that now?) and they don’t want the selfies of today messing up the job interviews of tomorrow.


Snapchat [Platform Example]
It’s an obvious choice but it simply cannot be ignored. Given the voracity at which teenagers have embraced the platform and its mission-impossible-esque way of dealing with messaging, it’s no wonder brands are also getting in on the act.

Brand Example 1: 16 Handles was first with its voucher offer.
I like this.

Brand Example 2: Taco Bell + Snapchat collaboration = Burritos.
First(?) example of ‘mass broadcast’ from B2C.

Brand Example 3: Doritos for Halloween
UK example, unsure of purpose/ROI – but interesting as it mentions additional support from other social channels.

Brand Example 4: Charmin / Thor 2
One more than needed, but want to keep it as it fits with/proves ‘Tweet & Delete’.
Plus: it’s brilliant.


The marketing strategy goes by many names. From agile to reactive, from responsive to real-time – but the preparation and commitment required to make throwaway content such a success remains the same.

Preparation, preparation, preparation
Chance favours the prepared mind, and to get that viral smash, you need to have the approval processes sorted, the brand guidelines locked, and the right people in place to execute. Speaking of which…

Want an A game? Recruit the A team
Too many times do we see headlines that ostensibly blame young talent for social media errors – ‘The intern did it!’ or the like. The mistake here isn’t with the monkey, but in fact with the organ grinder. You need damn good talent to make great content that’s worth missing; so put your best men and women on the job. When it comes to the ephemeral, it’s time to get incredible

Be quick, be nimble, be agile
There’s no point in having the right processes and the right people if you simply don’t have the prowess to get it done promptly. Speed is of the essence.

REMEMBER: Your content is one thumb swipe away from being wallpaper. The trick is making that wallpaper stick.


Unfinished ideas and other sources/thought starters

Guardian piece on messenger apps vs Facebook
TechCrunch on THE WHY of ephemeral media

Defining ephemeral media-
Amazing ideas from friends – which led to this
Good stuff from Amelia too (she should write more)


And that’s about it.

Some structure, some research, and some words.

Do that a few times over, employ a couple of trusted friends to do the proof reading, and et voila: one trend document (here’s another example from 2012). If you’re really lucky, someone might even turn it into a presentation for you.

Oh, and this is by no means the definitive way to write these things, it’s just how I do it.
I hope its useful. 

Never-ending enjoyment (for a limited time only)

Consumers are craving the unique and brands are catching on…

— the following article is a trend-spotting piece that I wrote which ended up not being used. It is published here, with permission, and totally unchanged. Enjoy —

In this time-pressured digital age, the modern city-dweller has to be militant with their time allocation.

Friends (and family? maybe) come first; obviously, but how can brands break into the hallowed ground between 7pm Friday and 6am Monday?

Word of mouth marketing has never been stronger, yet while false scarcity isn’t any new kind of rocket science, all across the globe brands both big and small are coming ‘round to the idea that to be there today, you need to be gone tomorrow.


Time Pressure
“Time Pressure is an almost universal experience for residents of modern cities” says Associate Professor at the School of Physical, Environmental, and Mathematical Sciences, Dr Paul Tranter – and he’s not wrong. Cities everywhere suffer from the same issue: scarcity of time. There is simply never enough time for consumers to do or see everything. Commuting, working, commuting, sleeping; the cycle never ends.

They are in what the New York Times refers to as ‘the busy trap’.

The race to be ‘different’
‘Be different’, ‘the Amazing, every day’, ‘Challenge everything’, ‘Make the most of NOW’ – Brand taglines are constantly falling over themselves to be unique, to stand out – two brands share at least one of the slogans above.

Been there, done that
Ever connected, the global village is now smaller than ever. Finding that one cool venue, or that amazing trip, that no one on Twitter or Facebook has seen or done is now more difficult than ever before. Consumers not only want the amazing, but they also want the kudos of discovering the remarkable – a thirst for being first, if you will.

Combine these three elements and you find yourself in a whirlwind of one-off experiences that are continually attempting to better what’s gone before…


1. The rise of the Speakeasy
From New York to London or Sydney to Shanghai, knowing what secret door to push at exactly what time and on what street is the true mark of a local’s ‘knowledge’. You can find whatever you need on the streets of the world’s busiest cities, from Cocktail Clubs to Breakfast Clubs; the speakeasy of 2012 has it all.

The Mayor Of Scaredy Cat Town, London
Situated behind a fridge door of a greasy spoon in London’s Spitalfields district, this underground cocktail bar serves up Bloody Marys and bites for those that ask for a meeting with the Mayor upon arrival. He’ll be seeing you shortly.

Crif Dogs, NYC
A greasy hot dog takeout store somewhere off the East Village is the destination. Cunningly named ‘Please don’t tell’, the bar itself is hidden through a hidden panel inside the restaurant’s phone booth. Once inside, the drinks are classic and the crowd are cool.

Eau-de-vie, Sydney
Hidden away at the back of the Kirketon Hotel, is a similarly themed destination. Deriving its look and feel from the prohibition-era United States of old, getting down down-under has never been easier (or more incognito).

2. The pop-up shop, bar, restaurant, hotel, play
The ‘pop up’ is king (and already fairly well-known in the retail space). However bigger brands are getting involved and the retail trend is evolving into other spaces, spreading its unparalleled wings and setting course for the exclusive.

— Branded stores
Coca-cola, Marmite, IKEA, Louis Vuitton – all these brands and many more have each experimented with temporary locations. Mainly located in areas distinctly matched to their audience (Apple’s iPad store at SXSW springs to mind), they all deliver in very much the same pattern: iconic style, on-brand personal experiences and, more often than not, high-end transactions for consumer of today, keen not to miss out on what’s before them.

— Theatre: You, Me Bum Bum Train
A play for the individual, sold out within 10 minutes of tickets going on sale late last year. Each audience member is sworn to secrecy, and then taken through their very own version of ‘the bum bum train’. Designed to provide the epitome of unique experiences – the train’s passengers never have the same experience twice. Ever.

— Hotel: Papaya Playa Project
85 cabanas make up this Mexico-based, eco-friendly pop-up hotel. With its ‘stay’ only scheduled for five months of the year, bookings are drying up fast and, as with nearly all examples here, the attraction is in the unique. A Berlin-based ad-agency has been brought on board to fill the cabanas with stories… but only while it stays.

3. The one off, to never be seen again
‘Did you see that?’ – ‘Did you hear about this?’ – ‘Wait, you actually WENT there?’ – these are the questions that’ll be asked about our next batch of examples. The crazy, the out there, the experiences that everyone wishes they were there to experience. Instead, they just read about it on Facebook and hope they make the next one…

— British Airways Olympic Restaurant, ‘Flight BA2012’
While this example should probably be in the ‘pop up’ section, the sheer exclusivity of the execution has pushed it into the ‘one offs’. Only open for a mere six days in April 2012, the 54-seater British Airways ‘cabin restaurant’ served food from celebrity chefs and based its dishes on the menu from 1948, in homage to the year the country last hosted the Olympic Games.

— Bompass & Par, Truvia
B&P, jelly mongers by trade, are becoming known for their food-based brand tie-ins. As recently as last summer, they flooded the roof of London department store Selfridges for the launch of a calorie-free sweetener known as ‘Truvia’. 45min trips to the top of the building (pre-booked, WAY in advance, naturally), promised a true ‘journey of discovery’ the likes of which have never been seen before and will doubtfully ever again.

— Projection Mapping Madness
From Nokia to Angry Birds, electro-cars to 80s pop songstresses – the use of Projection Mapping is almost passé in its usage. But nothing signifies the ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ nature of the one-off experience than really well executed piece of projection mapping. The Vivid Light Festival at Sydney Opera House is a recent favourite…

Be there, or watch it on YouTube.


Without a doubt, brands are experimenting with experiences. While they might seem like just more YouTube fodder to the cynical, unique branded encounters are what today’s consumers CRAVE. They strive to be different and, to cater for this hunger businesses are getting in on the act.

If Apple is getting into the pop-up marketplace, then one may wonder if this trend has already jumped the shark. But, as the research shows, the notion is already evolving; cross-category, cross-market and cross-borders. Brands will work harder, and innovate further to get into the eyeline (and mindshare) of the paying customer.

Which brings us back to our consumer: time-poor, cash-rich. Give them something special, premium and – dare we say it again? – unique, and they’ll cancel tea with their own Grandmother just for you.