Are you a Trend Leader or A Trend Follower?

Editor’s Note:  This is a guest post by Heather Argo, National Trainer for Medallion Cabinetry.  This article is based on a recent training presentation by Heather at national conference for kitchen & bath dealers & designers.


You don’t need a crystal ball, there’s no secret society to join, it’s not a magical gift from the design gods; understanding trends can be mastered. Thank goodness, right?

With trends, we all want the same thing: to know what they are, how they got there, and how to make the most out of them. Lucky for us, there’s a pretty logical reason why they happen, and how to make trends work for you, not against you.

This week, we’d like to focus on who’s making trends, who’s buying in, and when is the best time to get involved.

How long do trends last?

Trends move as fast as 3-5 years, or take as long as 10-15 years.  Dark Java finishes on shaker or slab doors with bar pulls was a shorter trend cycle, peaking simultaneously with an economic downturn.  It fit the times as an affordable option, easily mass-produced by importers.

Shortly after, white designs arrived as a glimpse of a hopeful economic future peaking around 2010 and quite literally has remained there since.  I first wrote about the “White Hot” trend in 2007, it had been an emerging trend for a few years at that time.

How Do They Start?

Consider Skinny Jeans:

Love them or hate them, they’re certainly a trend, and one that just about everyone is accustomed to. Do you remember when they were new? *Pause here for deep thought…*

Was it love at first sight? Did you seek them out?  Or, were you blindsided to find them as nearly your only option in the stores?

The first time trying them on, most felt uncomfortable in the dressing room, much less in public, until they see more of their peers wearing them. But over time, we all acclimated.

This is the perfect segue into putting Buyer Personas into perspective. These are different groups, that each have a role in trends. Our Buyer Persona Pyramid represents the size of these buying groups, and how it relates to kitchen color choices. Notice how much more innovative the palette is at the top of the pyramid, and how “safe” it becomes near the bottom:

On either side we have Mavens, those who make a trend, and Late Majority, the last holdouts of a trend. There are more of the latter than the former, but that’s because Mavens crave risk. Being the first to try something new is exactly what appeals to them—something unique and exciting!  This independent confidence comes with a low need for peer validation.

On the flipside, the majority are comfortable blending in, and waiting until the “new thing” is widespread enough to adopt. The more a style is copied, photographed and advertised, the more comfortable it becomes, therefore lowering the associated risk. The larger the pyramid section, the more buyers.

Leaders and Laggards are important in the trend cycle, but the hottest buying group is in the middle.  This bell curve is an example of trend popularity in relation to buyer personas.  Can you guess where white and gray kitchens are on this chart?

BELLCurveAnimation.jpg

If you guessed somewhere on the early slope of Late Majority, you’re a winner.  It feels like all we’re selling is white or gray due to it’s position in the trend cycle. By now, white has been a dominant trend for over 15 years.  Having run its course as a leader, white paint sales continue strong due to the buying power of the late majority, but they are subtly waning to colors like Blue, Green and Gray. The Finish Folio Collection incorporates more of these trending colors, and the orders we see coming in show a changing of the guard for kitchens and color.

The Trend and Timing Dilemma

1980s Kitchen in "Euro" white
21st Century White Kitchen

Even though we strive for “Timeless”, there will always be a “Time Stamp” on designs to some degree.  If we look at a white kitchen from the 1980’s or 1990’s they distinctly look dated from their respective periods.  If we hop in our time machine and go 20 years into the future, a safe guess is today’s white kitchens will seem the same.

From a real-world perspective, “Timeless” and “Trend-Forward” are always going to be at odds. As designers, read the risk level of your client, and use what we know about trends (feel free to steal the charts!) to help guide them towards a place they call home.

For your showroom, the “Goldilocks Zone” is when all the early adopters have bought in, and the early majority is just starting to catch on. This is when the trend is the most popular, with the largest audience, and is showroom ready.

The best thing you can do for clients is to keep a timeline in mind for the trends we’ve already seen emerge, and look forward to the newer ones we can see sticking. Doing this, however, begins to feel a bit more like a mystical skill rather than simple research. Here are a few ways to take the guesswork out of trend hunting.

Scouting for signs of peaking trends and new emerging trends

One of the easiest ways to spot a trend’s trajectory, is to focus on the medium a trend is presented. Where a trend is featured, like in print, blogs, TV, or Social Media, can give you clues to how soon you should be adopting it. Below is a list of different buyer personas, and where they will feature trends that appeal to them.

Mavens

Medium: Interpersonal Conversations, Designer’s Social Media

If you are looking to befriend a Maven, get networking.  Follow influencers on Instagram, invite local influencers to your showroom (especially if you have just remodeled it!), follow architecture & interior design awards, hospitality design, fashion and Furniture Market, European Style (Eurocucina).

Early Adopters

Medium: Product Launches, Dealer Showrooms, Houzz, Blogs

For Early Adopters, broaden your lens a bit. Look to manufacturer’s new product launches for trend direction, metro markets, and other dealer showrooms. This is typically the stage you should consider integrating a trend into your brick and mortar; Images will begin to appear in editorials such as Elle Décor, dwell, KBDN, Instagram and Houzz as well.

Mass Market

Medium: Television, Magazines, Online Ads

Chances are, if a big network is featuring it, even for a second, they’ve done their homework, and you can copy it. Curl up with some popcorn, watch Married Couples fix other Married Couple’s homes, and see what is popular to the masses. However, there is a caveat; remember what we saw with the bell curve? If the late adopters are even dipping in, chances are the novelty, and popularity are past their prime, and the expiration date looms.

So, there you have it. A Cheat-Sheet for Trends. What have we learned? Trends are temporary, ever-changing, and driven by risk-reward for those willing to go with them. There’s a trackable cycle for most of them, and as a designer, you can put a timer on certain fads you think will be a flop.

What do you see on the horizon?

What are you being asked for?

What’s your hottest take on trends in lieu of the white kitchen?

Leave a comment below and tell us what you’re seeing in the market, and what you’re hearing from your clients.

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