Fads versus Trends

Fads versus Trends

I enjoy teaching people about the Diffusion of Innovation Theory (which you can watch below and read about here) because it always sparks interesting questions about larger social shifts we see happening around us.

As I describe how trends and behaviors grow, I sometimes note that fads will fizzle out after the Early Adopter phase and not progress further.

Recently someone asked me if there’s a way to predict what will become a fad instead of a trend, or if it’s only identifiable in hindsight. A great question!

While it’s not always possible to perfectly predict what will stand the test of time, and there are many contributing factors to successes and failures, there are some key ingredients that separate fads from trends.

The below short video from Trendwatching explains this difference very well.

In essence, an initiative is more likely to become a fad if it’s only jumping on the bandwagon of emerging social shifts (a.k.a. drivers of change) without fulfilling a basic need of the audience.

Meaning, it might be cool and novel and interesting, but ultimately it doesn’t solve anyone’s problem or add value.

Therefore, it fizzles out after an initial burst of interest.

Examples of fads

Goat Yoga

Although improved health & wellness and having unique experiences are two big drivers of change, goat yoga is a fad.

Goat yoga does not meet a basic need within the health & wellness space, and as a unique experience, well…I hear it’s not even that pleasant.

It’s a novelty activity that will likely end up in a Buzzfeed listicle 5 years from now with the click-bait title of, “22 things Millenials forgot existed during their twenties.”

Some (most?) CBD products

We’ve seen huge growth in the use of Cannabidiol (CBD) which stems from the growth in health & wellness as well as the growing desire for natural, plant-based products.

While CBD is likely to stick around for the long-haul, I’ll go out on a limb and guess that CBD-infused hair gel and CBD-based pet products will fizzle out.

Actually, I may be wrong about the pet products – domestic pet pampering is also a driver of change.

As these social shifts emerge, like the embracing of Cannabis and its related elements, businesses will try a variety of tactics to jump on the trend. Yet only those innovations that fulfill a need will see growth.

Impossible Whopper???

There’s no doubt that plant-based eating and meat substitutes are part of a rapidly growing trend, due to the dual social shifts of health and sustainability.

Yet, I’m not 100% sure the Impossible Whopper itself will stand the test of time or fizzle out as a fad (like Crystal Pepsi).

It’s quite possible that the Impossible Whopper as a product will become a fad, but the larger trend of offering more vegetarian and plant-based options at fast-food restaurants will stay.

Ahead of its time

Hindsight comes in handy when a fad is actually a product, service or behavior that’s just too ahead of its time.

Most people thought the concept of Google Glasses was ridiculous when it came out. There was NO WAY we’d walk around with those on our face!!!

Yet it definitely helped pave the way for AR (Augmented Reality) to become more acceptable, comfortable and normal.

AR is not going away and we’re seeing an increasing number of applications for it: virtual museum visits, nature immersions, video game simulations, learning applications, and more.

While writing this, I learned that Google Glass still exists and is used mainly in manufacturing, healthcare and logistics. A smart pivot to fulfill a need.

Therefore, it’s worth paying attention to some of those zany ideas that emerge, as there could be an important, larger social shift underscoring the innovation.

You can play fad vs. trend at home, too!

Fun for ages 12 and up. Minimum of 1 player needed. Batteries not included.

Check out the ads you’re seeing, especially on social media, and see if you think the idea or product will stand the test of time or fizzle like a fad.

I see an ad in my Facebook feed right now for a Kimono robe that features a wine bottle-sized pocket.