Have modern day trends lost their meaning?

Trends appear to be harder to grasp and move faster than ever before. Whereas traditionally, trends described meaningful social change in people’s behavior, attitudes or values, modern day ‘trends’ are often characterized as fast-fleeting fads that most people have never even heard of.

A 2023 research by Reddit and Attest among 1.500 people found that out of the 10 trends most discussed by marketers online (think of Cottagecore, Barbiecore, or Indie Sleaze and Permacrisis) 43% of people hadn’t heard of a single one (!). 

And with many brands operating under the notion that it is essential to keep up with trends nowadays to remain relevant, this poses a problem. Firstly, because brands are allocating a lot of resources into (marketing) activities that ultimately barely matter to most people. And secondly because these ‘trends’ provide little to no strategic ‘weight’ for brands to base the direction of a company on.

That is why Matt Klein, Reddit’s head of global foresight, argues three reasons why we should go back to the basics (understanding potential, people, and business):

Firstly, modern day trends are exhausting. About 64% of people feel the pace of culture accelerating (“the backlash to the backlash to the thing that’s just begun” – Bo Burnham).

Second, they are futile. Around 66% of people believe brands try too hard today.

And third, these trends are empty—devoid of meaning. These trends often mean very little to people and going viral is not as special or rewarding as it maybe once was. Nearly 75% of people believe algorithms can make anything go viral nowadays.

We strongly agree with the view that trends should be more than just fast-paced, digital fads or hypes. We look beyond to understand the underlying needs that drive these trends and hereby identify more meaningful long(er)-term changes in people’s lives that allow brands to make substantiated strategic decisions to remain relevant in the lives of their customers. Now and in the future.