Book Review: The Next Big Thing



Sometimes I dream of leaving it all behind.
Ditching the laptop and mortgage payments. Moving to a farm, maybe raising chickens.

The closest I come to actually doing this is virtual farming virtually via MMOGs (massively multiplayer online games). Hey, you gotta start somewhere.

In a trend marketer’s view, I’m actually fantasizing about Traditionalizing (going back the tradition). Instead of acting on my fantasy, however, I am Gender Blending (playing video games, traditionally a male past time) and Coming Together (playing video games in a group).

Long before I started yearning for tradition or playing MMOGs, someone discovered that these sentiments were, in fact, widespread trends. They analyzed those trends. They helped companies build a strategy around them, so that those companies can now target people like me with relevant products. Meanwhile, the same trend marketers are busy uncovering next year’s trends.

William Higham is one such trend marketer. In The Next Big Thing: Spotting and Forecasting Consumer Trends for Profit, he has written what could be the definitive guide for companies seeking to find and exploit consumer trends.

Content

The book is divided into six very rich parts. Here’s a brief summary:

Part 1: Covers what trends are (long-term changes in consumer behavior), how they impact global commerce, and the opportunities and threats they present to a company.

Part 2: Describes what trend analysis is, why you need it, and how to formalize it into a trend marketing function.

Part 3: Details the forces that cause trends and where they happen. It educates you on the difference trends and fads.

Part 4: Teaches you how and where to identify trends.

Part 5: Tells you who creates trends, how they progress, what trends grow fastest, what influences the trajectory of a trend, and how to predict the development of a trend.

Part 6: Instructs how to integrate trends into your company strategy.

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As the summary above may indicate, The Next Big Thing is a very detailed book. Yet that detail reflects depth rather than digression. Higham leaves you with a comprehensive understanding, not just an overview, of trends.

Comments

Throughout the book, Higham uses an impressive number of examples to support his points. He integrates his encyclopedic knowledge of trends and branding into a story of what trends are, how they work, and how companies can harness them. You learn about the contexts trends operate in. Instead of being a vaguely defined mystery, trends become something more predictable, more of a science.

Even the drier parts of the book–there were several–held gems. For example, there is a chapter devoted exclusively to using statistical data. That’s not very exciting, but, among other things you do learn how to recognize when marketers are manipulating data for their own advantage.

Why I recommend this book

Our world today is crowded and wired. We cycle through trends rapidly, making it hard for companies to stay informed enough to remain competitive. Even so, the study of trends is still a very new discipline, outside of fashion. This is the first book to break them down into understandable parts.

In addition, you learn to see things through a trend expert’s eyes. When I was reading the book, the knitting clubs and plate-breaking cafe I’ve come across started to make sense. They weren’t anomalies. They were signs of widespread trends. Even human history and culture starts to take on a different hue through a trend analyst’s eyes. This new perspective, along with the thoroughness of the book, made The Next Big Thing a truly valuable read.

If you need to understand and incorporate trends into your business, want to understand how trends work, or simply enjoy a well-researched book on a fascinating subject, do not miss The Big Picture.