TRENDS IN THE
Successful companies recognize and respond profitably to unmet needs and trends. Companies could make a fortune if they could solve any of these problems: a cure for cancer, chemical cures for mental diseases, desalinization of seawater, non-fattening tasty nutritious food, practical electric cars, and affordable housing.
Enterprising individuals and companies manage to create new solutions to unmet needs. Club Mediterranee emerged to meet the needs of single people for exotic vacations; the Walkman and CD Man were created for active people who wanted to listen to music; Nautilus was created for men and women who wanted to tone their bodies; Federal Express was created to meet the need for next-day mail delivery. Many opportunities are found by identifying trends.
■ A trend is a direction or sequence of events that have some momentum and durability.
One major trend is the increasing participation of women in the workforce, which has spawned the child day-care business, increased consumption of microwavable foods, and office-oriented women's clothing.
■ K More and more workplaces and child-care centers are installing monitoring setups such as the "I See You" equipment from Simplex Knowledge in White Plains, New York. Not created to monitor child-care providers, the system allows parents to see their children at different points throughout the day. Via still photos taken by a camera in the child-care center and posted on a secure Web site on the Internet, working parents who long to spend more time with their young ones get reassuring glimpses throughout the day.2
■ a a Although shopping malls are in decline, there's been a boom in niche malls that cater to the needs of working women. Shops at Somerset Square in Glastonbury, Connecticut, is one such open-air shopping center. It features a customized retail mix of specialty shops, targeted promotions, and phone-in shopping, in which shoppers phone ahead with sizes and color preferences while store employees perform a "wardrobing" service. Many of the stores also informally extend hours for working women who find time to shop only before or after work.3
We can draw distinctions among fads, trends, and megatrends. A fad is "unpredictable, short-lived, and without social, economic, and political significance."4 A company can cash in on a fad such as Pet Rocks or Cabbage Patch dolls, but this is more a matter of luck and good timing than anything else.
Trends are more predictable and durable. A trend reveals the shape of the future. According to futurist Faith Popcorn, a trend has longevity, is observable across several market areas and consumer activities, and is consistent with other significant indicators occurring or emerging at the same time.5 (See the Marketing Insight "Faith Popcorn Points to 16 Trends in the Economy.")
John Naisbitt, another futurist, prefers to talk about megatrends, which are "large social, economic, political and technological changes [that] are slow to form, and once in place, they influence us for some time—between seven and ten years, or longer."6 Naisbitt and his staff spot megatrends by counting the number of times hard-news items on different topics appear in major newspapers. The 10 megatrends Naisbitt has identified are:
1. The booming global economy
2. A renaissance in the arts
3. The emergence of free-market socialism
4. Global lifestyles and cultural nationalism
5. The privatization of the welfare state
6. The rise of the Pacific Rim
7. The decade of women in leadership
8. The age of biology
9. The religious revival of the new millennium
Trends and megatrends merit marketers' close attention. A new product or marketing program is likely to be more successful if it is in line with strong trends rather than opposed to them. But detecting a new market opportunity does not guarantee its success, even if it is technically feasible. For example, today some companies have created portable "electronic books" in which different book disks can be inserted for reading. But there may not be a sufficient number of people interested in reading a book on a computer screen or willing to pay the required price. This is why market research is necessary to determine an opportunity's profit potential.
causal interactions, because these set the stage for new opportunities as well as threats. For example, explosive population growth (demographic) leads to more resource depletion and pollution (natural environment), which leads consumers to call for more laws (political-legal). The restrictions stimulate new technological solutions and products (technology), which if they are affordable (economic forces) may actually change attitudes and behavior (social-cultural).
The first macroenvironmental force that marketers monitor is population because people make up markets. Marketers are keenly interested in the size and growth rate of population in different cities, regions, and nations; age distribution and ethnic mix; educational levels; household patterns; and regional characteristics and movements.
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