via the Economist

via the Economist

We often rely on formal market research to measure attitudes, values, lifestyles, and other measures of culture, yet given that culture touches everything around us we often don’t need to look far for other signs of a shifting culture.

Trends in one area can easily show insight into another. For example, the increasing sales of natural and organic products could suggest an interest in where food comes from, sustainability, local agriculture, or health. Vacation cruises held up strong through the recession suggesting that not only do people still need/want vacations, but that they’re too busy to even plan one and instead opt for effortless cruises (i.e., one ticket to everything).

There are many different domains with potentially useful trend information. Consider the following  sources:

  • Demographic trends… increasing minority populations, an overall aging population, waiting later to get married and have kids, etc.
  • Consumption trends… what are we buying, selling, investing, etc.
  • Social trends… technology adoption, how people choose to recreate, changes in where and when people work, etc.
  • Media and art trends… what type of music are we listening to, top TV shows, best sellers in books, etc.

Or take this example from Hallmark, a company that carefully studies social trends.

Sometimes the trends uncovered from this type of scanning is all you need.  Other times it may just add depth to your other research or point to areas for further investigation. So, the next time you’re shopping for a greeting card, take a look around and see what social trends you can see.