Back in the 90s, people used instinct to identify cool people and speak to them individually. It wasn’t about identifying what was already being consumed by the masses, but what the coolest kids saw happening next. It was all about human instinct and spotting something in people that no algorithm could spot.
Now cool hunting has moved and changed form, but holds the same principles of trying to determine the next biggest trend, however because the speed of trends has increased exponentially, the way we hunt for trends has moved away from using instinct to using numbers and algorithms. If you go onto the explore page of Instagram, you’ll see the first hints of major trends that will eventually trickle into the mainstream. You’ll also see trends that won’t ever leave the explore pages. Whilst agencies still use focus groups to speak to people face to face, there’s no longer such a focus on using people’s instinct to find trends.
This means that not all the trends identified are successful and come to fruition.
When you are not using instinct to identify trends, but then invest money in pushing them, you often push trends that have a lot less quality and longevity. The quick pace of things becoming uncool can be put down to the paradox of cool, but also because the trends are not being correctly identified and pushed and so weaker trends that don’t have enough substance for longevity are being pushed and when they die quickly, it’s a waste of marketing money.
The beauty community on Instagram has a reputation for churning out strange trends, seemingly out of nowhere that sometimes have the ability to introduce products into everyday makeup routines, such as the highlighting trend that has seen highlighting products become a staple of any teen girls makeup bag. But a trend that has done the beauty industry no good is the fad of using unusual objects as blending tools. From tampons to chicken fillets, beauty grammers and YouTube gurus have been using anything they can get their hands on to blend their makeup. Because these videos are unexpected and funny, they are easy to tag friends in and share and so algorithms pick them up as having high interaction which means they end up on the explore pages for millions more to see. Brands pick them up as ‘trendy’ and have started to produce their own novelty blending tools like this silicone heart shaped sponge. The gurus use these novelties and whilst the numbers and algorithms read as successes as millions see the product, people aren’t adapting these tools into their own beauty routines in the long run because this trend is about entertainment, not improving beauty and it’s a trend that has already ended on Instagram, with the hundreds of novelty blenders sitting on shelves with nobody buying them.
The coolhunt needs another regeneration where numbers and personal instinct are combined in a better way than simply using numbers alongside the occasional focus group so that the correct trends can be used to the advantage of brands. We need to have a regeneration of trend identification so that trends for entertainment are not misinterpreted by algorithms as trends that can benefit companies in sales when they take them on.