Marketing is about communicating with people and getting the word out about your brand. In order to effectively communicate, a marketer must know what the people they are talking to are into. This subject normally brings about a conversation on trends. Trends are intangible concepts that represent a collective ideal. More plainly, they are an interest or group of interests that have a following in the community. They can last anywhere from a few months to years, depending upon whether people stay interested or not.
It is the job of a marketer to identify trends that apply to their business and find ways to use that community interest to their advantage. Some trends are industry specific, and some transcend multiple industries, and even cultures and societal demographics for that matter. A problem arises for some marketers when trends change. They usually change organically with public interest, but sometimes there are other forces that regulate change. Staying on top of change means you are staying on top of trends, and that leads to marketing gold.
A Quick Case Study
We are going to use the fast food industry as a miniature case study for our purposes. The fast food industry has profitably taken advantage of a fast paced lifestyle and a need for quick gratification. Depending on whom you ask, some people will consider these two distinct trends, while others see them as the same. Regardless fast food restaurants have tailored their offerings to meet these needs and done it very successfully. The down side is that their offerings are extremely unhealthy. Healthier food made from quality ingredients has emerged as a trend in our society, and it has slowly gained steam for many years now. Couple that with our nation’s obesity epidemic, and you have a trend that many people can get behind.
This is turning into a real problem for the industry. It hasn’t drastically affected their sales yet, but as the trend grows it has potential to be detrimental. Nearly every grocery store in the Tampa Bay area has an organic section. Additionally entire grocery chains have popped up dedicated to better quality food. If people get used to these food sources, a Whopper simply won’t taste good in the end, regardless of the time one can save in getting a meal.
The current answer seems to be an all-out marketing blitz. Reports state that so far this year, the fast food industry has pumped $4.2 billion dollars into marketing. While continued sales indicate that this strategy might be working, nothing is for certain. Local governments are even coming out against the industry. The City of San Francisco recently passed legislation banning toys in unhealthy kid’s meals. Toys were an obvious marketing effort, giving the meals something extra to appeal to kids.
Maybe the problem for fast food giants isn’t the freedom to serve the products they prefer. Maybe they aren’t properly identifying the trend and directing their products and efforts accordingly. McDonald’s has had success with their smoothies, which are arguably healthier than a burger and fries. Maybe they should keep looking in that direction. They already have salads; now maybe they should have their culinary experts (Yes, believe it or not chains that serve shakes and burgers actually employ chefs to run their test kitchens) find ways to make their salads taste better and incorporate more low-fat dressings.
The chains are there–they have the brand names, the distribution and the price points. All that needs to be adjusted is the product. Yes, this will affect price, but basic scaling dictates that when you decide to sell a few thousand of anything per day you can bring the cost down. Spending a little up front to leverage a trend is worth it. It definitely beats the other potential option of going out of business.
An immediate shake-up of the entire product line would not be good. It would happen too fast and let’s face it: millions of people still prefer grease with a side of ground beef over healthier alternatives. Slowly integrating healthier products that taste good would be a great way to stay on top of changes in dietary interest. It might also be a good way to keep some impending regulation off their backs.