Fashion is a funny thing. What might be everyone’s cup of tea one week, might be the target of disdain the next. Fashion dictates not only clothing and style, but also marketing. How can you stay ahead of the most changeable zeitgeist there is? Spoiler, you probably can’t!
In marketing, there’s nothing more dangerous than standing still. Doubling down on something while it’s in style is one thing, but to continue pushing a tired or worse, cliched message is death to marketing working. For example, wearing last year’s fashions years later despite it not fitting or fraying at the edges can seem lazy and it's the same in marketing.
All you need to do is search for past trends on YouTube. Remember the Harlem Shake? Yes, 2013’s trend of getting everyone dancing in an otherwise normal location for the likes. Now considering people are still making that video, who is watching that now? You’d be right in thinking it’s nobody.
Conversely, there’s value in looking back and borrowing from the past. There’s been a trend over the past few years to decry and devalue the worth of physical or place advertising, billboards or advertising hoardings for example. Now we’ve come full circle and now as creative and bold design is affordable and in demand, we’ve seen endless creative triumphs, meaning physically imposing or clever versions of this. Take the blending of technology with such stunts and you get the now popular 3D billboards that make products or adverts jump out at the general public, it’s all becoming very familiar.
Perception is everything when it comes to celebrities too. Your favourite singer or Netflix star wearing a certain item of clothing or drinking a certain brand of beer can rocket sales and it’s then up to the brand to capitalise on this. It’s not just products, but activities too. See the success of The Queen’s Gambit for example. Chess, a complex and often maligned game saw an upsurge in younger players and sales of chess sets went up in its wake. There’s an often logic-defying perception that comes from seeing things as popular. Who would have thought that the fashions of the mid-90s would make a comeback for example? Fashion designers claim to strive to create something new, but more often than not they are borrowing and cherry picking the best styles from the past. There’s something of that in marketing too. We’ve seen the rise of podcasts, video, gamification and more in recent years, but they all come from a proven track record of similar, less technological successes in the past.
Podcasts? Radio shows and curated CD or cassette tape giveaways on magazines.
Video? The long and varied history of television and film.
Gamification? Gambling, fairgrounds and games arcades.
What is cool now will be again, and that’s what marketing needs to keep up with. Are you part of what’s cool? Don’t hang around until you meet the trend on the way back, it can take decades.