:: By Kevin Dugan, Director of Marketing

Discovering trend sites like PSFK, Springwise and Trendhunter (amongst others) changed my life. At my last job, it allowed me to keep an eye on the cutting edge and push through on seemingly unrelated items on my to do list.

But trends do impact your to do list in one way or another. So I stopped the yearly trend cram sessions headed into annual planning — the business equivalent of finals. Now trends help me year round, helping me to:

1) Surprise & Delight: When I read about a trend that connects with something I’m working on, it usually helps me see that project in a new light. Or just get all the more excited knowing I’m on the right track.

2) Punctuate Projects: Getting into a process is efficient and smart. Getting into a routine can create atrophy. Trends remind me that I always need to consider “what if” and consider test and learn opportunities to drive improvements throughout the year.

3) Filter Broadly, Iterate Narrowly: Trends feel cutting-edge, in part, because they cover broad segments most people aren’t focused on at all times. But trends are an early warning system, alerting us to the need to innovate or iterate. While scanning trends in architecture, fashion, marketing, retail and culture, remember to filter between micro and macro trends and how/if they impact your target audience.

Trend Hunter approached me and other bloggers with the opportunity to preview their annual trend dive. So here are five of Trendhunter’s 20 trends they’ve singled out in their 2011 Trend Report. You can download all 20 here. To get a deeper dive, you’ll have to pay for the whole thing.

1) Democratic Selling: I’ve been buying Threadless t-shirts for a couple of years and they’ve been around for a decade. Is this a trend? As marketers focused this year on social selling models like GroupOn to encourage purchase, this trend is perhaps a needed reminder to consider new models and approaches throughout the entire product lifecycle.

P&G’s Connect & Develop uses crowd sourcing at the idea stage, Threadless for demand-triggered manufacturing. For demand-triggered discounts/purchase we’ve got GroupOn and brands as different as Dell and Uniqlo. So if you’ve got someone on the fence about crowd sourcing in the coming year, they’d better have an amazing rationale.

2) Tangible Printing: Currently in use in architecture, health and fashion industries, I think marketers should keep it in mind for broader application. Regardless of the cost, most any surface is an ad. But this is a privilege and not a right. So let’s use these new technologies responsibly.

3) Projected Publicity: Empower’s Word of Mouth and Out of Home teams are always looking at ways to interact with target audiences in a more experiential manner. Done correctly, it gives brands a reason to talk with consumers and create offline engagement. Projected Publicity is a great example of one way you can transform an event into something much different. It also reminds me of Digital Graffiti.

4) Real-Timing: It’s all about instant gratification in our over stimulated, time-starved, increasingly mobile culture. I’m seeing mobile as the link between shopper marketing and online marketing for many retail brands. Real-Timing is on consumer trend that’s driving these developments. It also makes things like Sticky Bits all the more relevant.

5) Perpetual Adaptation: A raft of TV programs, informercials and cable TV specials remind us how people are dying to be beautiful. But this trend, for me, shines light on the need for companies to build iteration into planning. Technology is changing quickly. We can’t react annually. Much as culture is reinforcing the need for people to change their look, business should be in a state of constant iteration.

There are 15 more trends waiting for you to download, including Charitable Deviance, Brand Reversion and Tweetonomics. So check them out, let me know what you think of the trends and join the discussion. What trends and trend resources like Trend Hunter do you think are worth following in 2011?

Graffiti Wall with Stencils uploaded by Tangible Interaction
Cross-posted to my personal blog, Strategic Public Relations

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