Will Companies be able to Create a Trend?

Original post date February 5, 2009
What if you could create a trend that could make your product “THE” hot product? Think it’s impossible? Maybe now, but in less than two years it will happen.
I saw something a few weeks ago that gave me chills when I thought about the potential uses. The tool is…in a sense…the world’s largest and most sophisticated digital listening device. It was built to monitor chatter by those “not so friendly” folks that see the US as the “evil empire”. (Let’s just say that Homeland Security has got this one nailed.) Yes, other companies have similar tools but nothing reaches the size, scale and scope of this one (consider this, it has archived ALL the web pages in the ”www” for the last three years).
Anyway, we’re helping to develop a commercial use for the tool and I as was watching the demonstration, I couldn’t help but think about Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point. Many of the concepts he wrote about, I was now seeing play out in real life. This gigantic ear could easily determine who the “connectors” of the digital world are (in real time), “The Power of Context” as Malcom refers to it (in over 20 languages), and when something is going “viral”….all with very sophisticated algorithms and complex math.

It got me thinking, could it also determine how to create a trend? According to the team that developed the tool , it can’t yet because it doesn’t assess and/or integrate a number of important factors needed to understand the audience and what drives behavior. But if you combine the power of this tool (and other similar tools) and social networking…I believe that we are getting close.

A few days later a colleague sent me this post. Facebook is studying “sentiment” behavior. Right now it’s limited to things like how “nasty news is impacting stock” and when folks are “going out” but it can, and will evolve quickly. To this point, Zuckerberg has not really monetized his platform yet, unlike Murdoch with MySpace.

So could this be the “killer” app that drives Ad sales into Facebook? It’s too soon to tell at this point but it sure sounds good. With 222 million unique visitors sharing very personal information with most of it in the public domain this might be the next piece to fall. Throw in Twitter and marketers will soon have the ability to understand what’s “hot” or has the potential to be “hot”, who says it’s “hot”, why they’re saying it, where they like to buy “hot”, etc.So the question to marketers is…if you have the opportunity in the near future to make your product the “hottest” thing…could you? You currently have the ability to access massive amounts of consumer data today and that will grow dramatically over the next few years. What are you doing with it now and what might you do with this information in the future?
One thing is for certain, it will require new capabilities, vendors, and tools to interpret and draw out insight. Get ready now, it’s coming… and in this situation there will be a clear early mover advantage.For now, go back and re-read The Tipping Point (replace Hush Puppies with UGGs) and start dreaming about the possibilities, especially what it would take to make it happen. Think about this for a second: you could start a trend for a product that doesn’t exist…demand before supply…yea, that’s “HOT.”

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Scott is the Founder of Carbon Design Co and the former head of the Washington, DC office of gyro, the largest B2B agency in the world. Prior to joining gyro, he spent a dozen years at a professional services firm that specializes in B2B sales and marketing. Scott also writes a monthly column for Media Post and has contributed to three books on B2B Sales and Marketing. Follow him on Twitter @sgillum

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