Trendy Leadership

It is tough to plan if you are in a trend-based industry. You need to respond to trends as they emerge. Depending upon what you are providing, your response time could be fast or slow, and the duration of a popular trend also varies, so you may get a lot of use out of what you create, or you may instead have to move on quickly to the next.

Your customers’/clients’ demand for trends also varies. The fashion world may be always looking forward, but when it comes to hair, for example, some clients will want the latest and greatest while many others stay with a tried and true style. You need to understand how your particular market is affected by trends.

The really successful firms will be those that shape the trends rather than those that follow them. Simply put, if you are the one creating new trends, you can be the exclusive supplier to the market while your competitors are catching up. To be the most successful in a trend-based industry, you need to be the one setting the trends.

First, and most importantly, you need talented Creatives. All the marketing in the world will not serve you well if you do not have talent underlying it. Yes, you may sell stuff, and you may have the ability to shape trends in the short run, but you will not have staying power once people realize there is nothing behind the hype. As you hire, look for people who can create something that is both unique and commercially-viable. Graphic designers who produce abstract art may be incredibly talented but if you cannot use that artwork in your profit-making business then it does you very little good.

Next, your Creatives need to be pretty intuitive, in that they can see potential trends before others do. They cannot be hiding in cubicles, but instead need to be pretty well plugged into their field. Professional reading, whether academic journals or GQ, needs to be a part of their jobs. Networking with others in their field and knowing what other Creatives are up to, and what ideas are percolating out there in their peers’ minds as well as customers’, can give them the insight to make the right moves to shape the thinking out there.

Shortening the development process is key to being the first in the market with new ideas, and in general, that means streamlining your organization and reducing the bureaucracy. If it takes 17 levels of approval to get a new idea out the door, you will always be behind. Yes, you need to have some oversight of the creative process, but if you trust your Creatives to do good work (and if you don’t, why do they work for you?), you should try to minimize that oversight as much as you can.

You need to have a good relationship between your Creatives and your marketing folks (of course, in a small firm, YOU may be the marketing arm). If you want to be out in front of the trends, you can’t simply have your Creatives come up with something new and then turn it over to the marketers to figure out how to sell it. Your marketing people need to be part of the creative process so they can provide a sense of what is commercially viable, and also be figuring out how to introduce it to the public. Limit your use of stovepipes, and instead have your Creatives and your marketers working together.

In the end, even if you have the right organizational structure, and everybody is talking to each other, being a trend-setter for your field comes down to one thing: being creative. You need Creatives with more than just technical skill; they also need passion and vision and a desire to do new things. Without that, they may be able to do a great job of doing the same old thing — and if that is enough for you, then all right — but they will never be out in front.

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