In Defense of The Uncool


Despite having worked in the business of trend forecasting for nearly 15 years, I’ve grown increasingly reluctant to identify myself as a trend forecaster. When I do, it nearly always elicits the dreaded follow up question: “So, what’s cool and trendy right now?” (if not a completely confused look), but mostly because the immediate connotation that people tend to draw -- that trend forecasting is all about chasing what’s new, next, and cool -- couldn’t be farther from the truth. Or, at least the truth I’ve come to know, practice, and preach over time, which is that it’s a fool’s errand to constantly be on the hunt for what’s new and what’s next without any concern or consideration for what’s now. And that putting too much stake in tastemakers, trendsetters and influencers can be dangerous without having any interest in, or understanding of normal, baseline consumer behaviors and attitudes. What’s happening now can provide crucial context. What’s considered normal can deliver insight into what might come to pass.  Keeping one’s finger on “the now and the normal” may not sound as cool and catchy as having a finger on “the pulse," but they are one and the same….and if you are out of touch with today’s pulse, good luck predicting the pulse of the future.

It’s an attractive proposition for those of us working in creative industries to think that we can (and should) thumb our noses at the mainstream population in order to place ourselves above what we deem to be the perpetuation of the status quo. Many times, it is more interesting to train your focus on that which is cool, progressive, novel… avant garde in the insatiable quest for inspiration and innovation. But, experience has taught me that knowledge of the ordinary is a necessary tool in realizing the extraordinary, and that undesirable outcomes often occur when companies, brands and organizations choose -- whether by design or indifference -- to ignore widespread cultural cues and disregard under-or-over represented segments of the population in favor of what seems “cool”, progressive or innovative.

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