Better, Faster, Stronger: How to Quickly Find Your Best Ideas and Turn Them Into Profit
Today’s business environment is ruled by disruptive technology and rapid change. If you want to stay at the head of the pack, you have to remain hungry and competitive. Here, I talk with Jeremy Gutsche, CEO of Trend Hunter and author of Better and Faster: The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas, about what it takes to be successful in the modern world.
In this interview, Jeremy and I discuss:
- How to find your best ideas, faster
- Why chaos leads to opportunity
- The difference between trends, fads and ideas
- The benefits of crowd wisdom
- The importance of recognizing patterns
- Understanding the farmer vs. hunter mindset
Watch the video, or download it as a free podcast on iTunes and see below for key takeaways and extended notes.
You can also listen to my interview with Jeremy here.
There’s certain wisdom to embracing our inner child, even (or perhaps especially) in the workplace. Children aren’t afraid to abandon proven patterns. They let their curiosity and creativity run away with them, and that’s when the real magic happens. Drawing on the expertise he’s developed over many years and several books, Jeremy outlines why innovators must look beyond overarching trends and passing fads, in order to spot the real ideas – the sparks of inspiration that lead to great success.
Here’s the big secret: Once you achieve that success, be prepared to throw it all out and start over again. Many business leaders who hit the jackpot tend to adopt the farmer mentality of becoming complacent, repetitive and protective. Don’t make that mistake. It’s essential to think instead like a hunter. You have to perpetually adapt your ideas and be willing to destroy old prototypes in favour of creating something new. Then, success will be yours – now and in the future.
Michael: So in my early days, I worked in the world of innovation. My very first job, in fact, out of university was with an innovation company, kind of before innovation became cool and trendy and really as strategic and as important as it is for most organizations now. We did a pretty good job. We spent a lot of time talking to consumers and focus groups and we kept a kind of nominal lookout on the world. I would go out occasionally and read different and interesting magazines to kind of keep me hip and trendy and kind of knowing what the young people were doing. But the truth is we didn’t do a whole lot of that. And what I realize now, and what would have been really powerful, is actually just a way of understanding what were the trends that were sweeping the world and influencing the way people and products and services get designed and created, and how could we tap into that kind of wisdom of the crowd?
And when I met my guest today, Jeremy, I went, “Oh, if only I had Jeremy on my side when I was in that world of innovation!” Jeremy is the CEO of Trend Hunter, which is really a collective—he’s going to tell you a bit more about it, but kind of a collective wisdom of the crowds around, “Here’s what’s happening. Here’s how what’s happening in the world can influence the way you innovate, think differently, have better ideas, and implement better ideas.” And he’s also the author of this terrific book, Better and Faster: The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas. So we’re going to dig into that. We’re going to understand the difference between a farmer and a hunter and the six different mindsets that can really help you innovate. So, Jeremy, awesome to have you here.
Jeremy: Well, thanks for having me on the show.
Michael: And what’s cool, of course, is you can tell Jeremy and I are in the studio together here in Toronto, so he’s also a Toronto native and we always love to have Canadian content here with us around it. So before we get into the book, which I really loved, tell me just a bit. How did you get into Trend Hunter? Well, I don’t know how you got there, so tell me, how did you get there?
Jeremy: Well you know, if I really dialled back, today Trend Hunter has become the largest website for trends, but actually it’s almost a bit of an accident in how I could describe this story, which is that all I ever wanted to do was to be an entrepreneur, ever since I was a little kid, but I could never quite find the right idea. And by the time I was going into university, I was almost upset. Like, “Why didn’t I have my entrepreneurial business yet?”
And then I became a management consultant to see how big companies worked but I still didn’t find my business. Did the MBA, the CFA, still struggling to find what maybe could be my little dent in the world, and then I started running innovation and analytics for a bank.
And when I was there, it was a cool chance to work with other people’s money and maybe figure out how to find my idea, build an idea pipeline.
Michael: So lesson number one, always work with other people’s money, okay? Whenever you’re doing anything, work with other people’s money.
Jeremy: It’s a better way to start it off.
Michael: It’s a better way to start.
Jeremy: And actually, by the end I grew them a $1 billion business line, my team as well, you know, working on some really cool stuff. But in a way, for me, that was a reminder I still hadn’t found my calling.
Jeremy: So I wrote a book called Exploiting Chaos, which was about how chaos creates opportunity and what I had learned up until then. That was around 2008 and the world became very chaotic.
So I had this unique opportunity to start working with, over time, about 400 brands, CEOs, even about a dozen billionaires, on how they could reinvent in that time. All that sounds great. There is this long expertise in innovation, but it’s still accidental because all I’m trying to do is find my own idea.
So it’s, like, painful. It’s a struggle and I’m frustrated. I felt like I burned my 20s not finding my idea. And so, I started a website called Trend Hunter where people from around the world could share ideas. And in a way, I thought maybe some trend hunter in South America or a trend hunter in Europe would contribute to my inspiration, but as the views turned from thousands to millions to billions of views, it became obvious Trend Hunter is the idea. And now, what we’re doing is using it like a giant, 100 million-person focus group to help people find better ideas faster. And that’s our mission: how can I help you find your better idea faster so you don’t spend your 20s or 30s or whatever it might be looking for an idea for as long as I did?
Michael: So I love the—one of my favourite sayings is “Inspiration is when your past suddenly makes sense.” And if you were like that at that moment for you, where you suddenly went, “D’oh! Of course! That’s why I have all that experience. That’s why I worked at the bank. That’s why I had that interaction with chaos and various people.” Suddenly, what is obvious becomes kind of apparent to you.
Jeremy: It’s interesting you say that. I mean, I kind of look back and I think of a lot of the businesses that I thought of doing or that I evaluated, and I think now, “Wow, those made no sense relative to this world I’ve spent hunting ideas.”
Michael: Before we get into Better and Faster Ideas, let’s talk about chaos and change, because I think—so you wrote the first book, Exploiting Chaos, in 2008. That is just about when everything went to hell in a handbasket, right? So what’s useful about understanding chaos?
Jeremy: Oh, chaos is change, and people, especially in an economic downturn, they get all worried and upset about the gloom and doom and they sort of become more conservative and that’s our human nature. But chaos is change and that creates opportunity. So if you, back in history, Disney, CNN, Hyatt, MTV, Fortune Magazine, IBM, all of these companies were actually founded during periods of global economic recession. And the reason why is that when everybody else becomes conservative, the world is changing, the consumer mindset evolves, it creates new needs, and if you can spot those needs then you’re going to thrive.
And so, what my study is about and my whole career, effectively, is that by better understanding chaos, you can see all those little opportunities around you. And Exploiting Chaos was a lot about the mindset and how change creates ideas, and the new book, Better and Faster, was a little bit more rooted in a lot of the work I’ve had both working with the companies we were advising and then Trend Hunter as this giant focus group, to say, “How can I actually give you a better understanding of chaos to really better adapt to change and faster find your idea?”
Michael: Okay, so let me ask you about the community behind the website because that’s fascinating for me. Because there’s a lot of conversation out there about building your community and engaging people, and it strikes me that people are better talking about that than actually doing it. So what insights have you learned about how do you enroll and engage and really sustain such a vibrant community like Trend Hunter?
Jeremy: I think ultimately what you’re realizing in the world is that there are other people with the same weird, niche interests as you. And I think along the way, there were lots of times when Trend Hunter could have been tempted to not just look for ideas but to sort of look at perhaps what Pinterest or Buzzfeed was doing and get into things that aren’t about the ideas. But if you look at any article on Trend Hunter, each little article is about one specific idea, and then what we’re looking for is how people interact with all these concepts to roll up into some bigger patterns that are more interesting. And that concept doesn’t appeal to everyone, but to people looking for an idea, to innovators, marketers, business professionals, entrepreneurs, it’s actually really exciting.
So we have this group of insatiably curious people that are hunting and, you know, using the website to find their next inspiration, or maybe that cocktail conversation about whatever’s new. So I think boiling it down, you don’t want to try and be something to everyone, you want to be irresistible to a specific group of people.
Michael: And so, on the website you’ve got people who are there looking for the ideas and the trends, but you’ve also got people who are kind of curating them or contributing them. How do you get those people involved?
Jeremy: So anybody could contribute to Trend Hunter, and over time we’ve learned that there are three groups of people and one very motivated corporate type that’s different. So for the people, you have bloggers and students and industry professionals. And bloggers want to try and feature their content and drive attention to their own blog and their personality, and that’s great. And you know, I think of someone like on our team now, a young woman named Jana, and Jana had written thousands of articles for Trend Hunter but had her own blog, and this helped drive attention to that blog and sort of established her credibility in the world of fashion, and her millions of views helped get her to the fashion shows.
But you also have students, and students are people who want to sort of set themselves out from the crowd and get that key job when they finally graduate. And then we have industry professionals, and I think of one guy named Mark, where he was a 60-year old guy and he had written thousands of articles for us that were in industries different from his own career.
So it was sort of a chance to, like, you know, interact, prove he’s the guy in the know. And sort of have this outlet for other aspects of his creativity. And then the last, more corporate type is that you’ve got all the PR companies in the world who send in, you know, 300 or 400 articles a day and they want everything featured.
Michael: So what’s the difference, if there is any, between kind of ideas and the trends? I mean, you implied there’s something about ideas, but really what’s interesting is when they roll up to become a bigger trend. Tease out the difference for me.
Jeremy: Yeah, we often will choose to use the word “idea” or “insight” because the word “trend” itself has been more or less bastardized by uses ranging from mega-trends all the way down to the fads, like what’s trending on Twitter.
As an innovator, it’s really important to up your game and understand the difference, especially if you’re trying to innovate in a time of chaos and change, because the big, well-known, broad trends like social media, the rise of female purchasing power, China, outsourcing, everybody knows these, including your competitor, so they don’t create competitive advantage.
On the other hand, the little, tiny trends, let’s call them, like what’s ‘trending’ on Twitter, are too inconsequential to actually add up to what you’re trying to do. So in the middle, you’ve got what I would call ideas and clusters. Ideas are any little thing that’s inspirational. Let’s say it’s caffeinated soda, like ten years ago, which is Red Bull. But then, if you started seeing caffeinated chocolate and caffeinated gum and caffeinated potato chips, you would have what we would call a cluster.
Michael: Wait, are there caffeinated potato chips?
Jeremy: There absolutely are.
Jeremy: That is correct. So if you start seeing a whole bunch of examples of something new and interesting, you might start getting at alternative caffeination, and that would be the cluster you’re after. And I know I’m throwing a lot at you …
But the idea is becoming more sophisticated about the concept of trends and change so you’re not just looking at megatrends, you’re not looking at fads or individual ideas; you’re looking for these clusters which are the sweet spot, and that’s what Trend Hunter is sort of built to find.
Michael: And what I love is—and I can imagine that’s where the kind of collective wisdom is so useful, because you get a lot of different, similar dots of colour and suddenly you go, “Actually, it’s the blue thing. It’s caffeinated, cool caffeination,” or whatever it might be.
Jeremy: I guess the other thing that’s very different about Trend Hunter is that it is this giant lab that 100 million people have come through, where traditionally trend research would be something that some guru in Europe tells you is cool. And if I think of myself, perhaps you could classify me as a guru, and that means that I’m not as good as the crowd.
So if I tell you in 2007, let’s say, when Twitter came out, I thought Twitter was ridiculous, right? “Okay, I don’t need to be a part of this.” Years later, okay, apparently it’s a thing. Well, in 2007, before people or critics or gurus or marketing professionals started adopting it, we can already measure on the site that it was interesting, so we were already advising our clients, “Hey, there’s this thing,” and Twitter marketing and we were doing that within the first few months that this thing is being launched.
So I think that’s an example of where the wisdom of the crowd, which we see in so many other industry examples, is just faster and more insightful at helping you see what’s interesting and what’s not.
Michael: And gets beyond just confirmation bias. And you know, the whole essence of expertise is you’ve got a bias to seeing some things and a bias to missing other things, and when you have that input you don’t have that bias kind of affecting what’s actually happening.
So, Better and Faster. One of the things you talk about in Better and Faster is a really clear distinction between two different mindsets. One is the farmer, and one is the hunter. And I mentioned that they’re both useful, but I’m just curious: set out what the farmer role is and then perhaps its pros and cons, and then we’ll get into the hunter piece.
Jeremy: Well you know, you consistently will see in the world that there are many smart people, successful companies, that fail to realize opportunity. BlackBerry, Smith Corona, Blockbuster Video, all these examples that you’ve heard before. What I find interesting, what I’ve been studying, is based on the concept that after 10,000 years of evolution as farmers, once you find your field of opportunity, which is your career, your brand, your product, your go-to way to manage a team, once you find that way to put food on the table …
You’re pre-wired to repeat and optimize whatever led to last year’s harvest. So by understanding the neurological traps of the farmer, you can better understand some of your hunter instincts. And I’m not trying to, let’s say, get you to abandon everything it is that you’re doing, but to get you to realize the distinction of what’s holding you back versus what are the things that keep you evolving so that you can better understand how to create that environment for new ideas.
Michael: Okay, so what are the neurological traps of being a farmer then?
Jeremy: So once you find your field of opportunity, once you become successful, and I usually like to tease this out with stories, but you become, first, complacent with your success. You lose that hunger that you had when you had nothing.
You also become repetitive in that you know the formula or the test or the program or the market strategy that worked before, and so you repeat it trying to optimize and recreate what happened before. And then the last is that you become protective; you’re very bound to that insight that led to your fortune or your success, which is why you’ll consistently see in organizations it’s tougher for a brand new Millennial to have their idea about digital marketing, let’s say, heard by the seasoned CMO who wants to return to certain principles. And you know, I’m not saying the CMO has to abandon their history. But this idea of understanding your traps leads you to try and see the good in what is new.
Michael: So the language we use, of course, at Box of Crayons is the difference between good work and great work. Good work is the day to day stuff. It gets you your quarterly results, it’s proven and successful, but it’s also a place of a bit of a comfortable rut as well.
And the challenge is to go, “So how do you find the right balance between good work and great work?” So great work being the work that has more impact. Also for us, the work that has more meaning for people as well, so they’re doing work that kind of engages them and lights them up. And it strikes me that probably the attitude of the hunter is perhaps a way of accessing great work, so tell me about what the hunter piece is.
Jeremy: Well you know, even just to motivate the reason for why, what I like note as a stat is in the 1950s, the average lifespan of a corporation was 75 years in the Fortune 500. That’s how long you’d stay on the Fortune 500 list. And today, that’s fallen to 15 years and it’s expected to fall in half.
The reason why is that that farmer idea, which is to find an insight or something about a brand that’s great and repeat and optimize it, doesn’t work in a world of disruptive technology and rapid change and the pace of business today. So the hunter instincts that exactly contrast the farmer traps would involve instead of becoming complacent, being insatiable. So creating a mindset that basically says, “We’re never done testing. We’re always trying to find something new.” Instead of being …
Michael: Can I stop you there? Because it’s an interesting language you used, which is “We’re always trying to find something new.” That I get, but “We’re never done testing.” So just unpack that phrase for me. It sounds interesting.
Jeremy: The traditional way of business would be that you would evaluate and find a new concept, and then you would spend a little bit of testing time, and then the winning idea is your rollout, and that’s what you’re going to try and market and exploit for the next couple years.
And if we take an example like fashion, the traditional concept is that a retailer designs a new dress and they take twelve months before that dress is in stores and they super market that dress. They put it on the billboards, they put it in all the editorials they can, and that one dress they have a lot riding on it, and if it works they can ride it out a bit longer.
The new model of hunting and insatiability would be more like Zara and H&M. If we take Zara, Zara takes only 14 days from when someone designs the dress to when it’s in store.
By compressing that timeline, they make 10,000 SKUs a year, so they have all different dresses. They’re not banking on any one of them to succeed, and if one of them doesn’t, “Well, they made it two weeks ago. Let’s just move on to the next one.” They don’t have time for billboards. They don’t have time for runway shows, but they’re in a new mode where they’re perpetually adapting. And all that’s led good old Amancio Ortega, the CEO and founder, to be worth, you know, $60 billion today.
But the idea that is different for people to get around is that they think, “Okay, we’ll do a bit of innovation and then we’ll be done and we can go back to the way business works. We’ll learn how this digital marketing thing works and then we’ll market that way for the next year.” It’s a different mindset to say, “No, we’re putting in things to perpetually adapt.”
Michael: Everything’s a prototype. Everything’s just a prototype before the next prototype.
Jeremy: That is correct.
Michael: Okay, got it. So that’s the first of the hunter frameworks. What are the next two?
Jeremy: Well the next, I’ll do, and in the true spirit of Box of Crayons I’ll do the next one in a fun way. So the next one is being repetitive as the trap versus the hunter instinct of curiosity. And when I say fuel your curiosity, people think, “Oh, that’s fine, we’ll make an—you know, I’m curious. This is great. Our company can do it.”
So what I like to do to almost level people is I like to do a fun, little exercise. I got all sorts of them, but one of them would be taking a paper clip and just ask your team, “How many uses can we come up with these?”
“Okay, we could make a lock pick. We could eject a CD-ROM.”
“Those are old. They don’t have them.”
“Okay, we can make a toothpick.”
“Ah, that hurts,” right?
“We could fold paper.”
“You can replace a button.”
And people, adults, will generally get to about 14 uses.
But the thing is that all the examples I gave you were failed responses. They’re not good and I only got to 14, but the reason why they’re not good is because a kindergarten child can actually get to 200.
And the reason they can get to 200 is that they don’t stay confined with what they’ve done in the past and they don’t confine in the same dimensions of space and time.
“So what can we do with a paper clip?”
“I don’t know, you can make a giant playground out of it. You could make a sail for a sailboat.”
Like just there, I played with size, but a kindergarten kid will just keep ripping them out, and then you start to realize how you are, in fact, limiting your own creativity. So there’s actually a lot more depth to understanding your hunter instinct of curiosity, but it’s certainly something an organization or an individual can better fuel.
Michael: You know, if there was a thing that summed up the work we do at Box of Crayons, it’s give a little less advice; have a little more curiosity, you know? And that price you pay for expertise, which is that it kind of shuts down opportunities, is exactly what you’re speaking to. Alright, the very third piece around the hunter?
Jeremy: The third one is the toughest, which is that the farmer habit of being protective of whatever you’ve done means that whatever led to last year’s success is what is defining me, and the way out of it is to be willing to destroy. And this is really difficult, so in my book I go into a lot more examples of what an organization does. I’ll give you a couple examples.
So one would be in Eric Ripert’s kitchen in New York, he’s the longest-running Michelin Star chef in North America, and the reason why is that when someone comes in and they ask him, you know … “I love your dish. I’d like the chicken cordon bleu.” Then he comes out from behind the kitchen and says, “I’m sorry, we’re not doing that anymore. Would you like a different chicken dish?”
“What do you mean? Like, that guy over there has the chicken!”
“I’m sorry, but you ruined it for everyone and I’ll never make this again.”
And he believes that it’s more difficult to keep your Michelin Star than it is to attain your first one, and if he’s known for a signature dish it’s a trap. So he throws away anything a person recognizes, goes back to the kitchen, forces himself to make a new chicken dish based on his new combinations of flavour, and returns it to them, and they love it. And at first it seems painful to throw away that great recipe that could have been an anchor. Other restaurants could have built their empire on that. But for him, he’s now experimented with thousands and thousands of flavours, just as Amancio at Zara has experimented with thousands and thousands of different combinations of clothing.
And that makes both of them much more structured to continue adapting. And if you decided which chef you would bet on for the next 20 years, you’re going to pick the one that knows how to adapt.
Michael: Yeah, it reminds me of some of the language and studies about what creates resilience and the ability to have—the ability to decouple is one of the key elements of a system that can be resilient. And I think what you’re pointing to is that ability to keep destroying and creating new things is a decoupling away from, “I’m building my empire on chicken cordon bleu.” And then when in two years’ time there’s a revolt against chicken cordon bleu, your empire is over. But you’ve left that behind if you’ve decoupled yourself from that kind of requirement of it’s all about that thing.
Jeremy: Yeah, it’s like the mythical legend of the phoenix, the mighty bird that destroys itself and recreates out of its own ashes. And actually, you know, we even use that sort of iconology in a couple different places. Because I was going to do a book called Willing to Destroy, so I can go a lot deeper in it, but people don’t like titles about unaspirational things like destroying. They like things like better and faster.
Michael: Rather than, “I can crush any idea. Anything you’re doing at the moment I can destroy it.”
Jeremy: But I do find it fascinating when you dive really deep and see things like the Renaissance period emerged out of the bubonic plague. The reason why is that the bubonic plague allowed social structures to collapse. New creativity had to happen, and then that actually caused a change in science and art and culture. And you can actually see similar things when you look at what has happened in Hiroshima or Dresden where they were, you know, devastated in the wars and then became highly productive places, and there’s just hundreds of corporate examples that you can get into.
But when you’re in that position, it’s very difficult to abandon what happened in the past. Actually there’s a guy; one of the interviews we did at Trend Hunter was for a guy named Mic Lussier at Adidas and he said, “You know, people always talk about failure but it’s really tough to do.” So at Adidas where they must keep evolving, what happens is if you have a creative come up with a great idea and it doesn’t work, they still try and sneak that idea into the next meeting.
And you hear that, like, “Oh, geez, I remember doing that myself at one time or another.” In their case, they will actually hold a product funeral and the funeral is a party where we celebrate the work that you’ve done.
We’re actively celebrating the failure but the triumph of it as well, and it also means once you’re done, we can move on. Now we’re focused on what’s next.
Michael: Got it. I love that. So you set up the hunter and the farmer, which you’ve explained beautifully, and then you go into—and the bulk of this book is about these sort of six different patterns of opportunity. And you kind of alluded to them when you had the kids playing with the paper clip … about some of the ways you can play around with that. Why don’t you give us a kind of headline of what the six are? And then let’s pick one to go a little deeper into.
Jeremy: Yeah, absolutely. So if I were to say, “Go innovate. Be creative,” people go and try to be creative. But oddly there’s not much methodology that’s put into something like creativity when there could be. And so, when I think about chaos, chaos is change and change creates a specific series of patterns of opportunity. I like to think of any big innovation like a splash in water. So if we took Facebook, Facebook was a big splash. It impacted a lot. And if you were trying to take Facebook head on, which let’s say Google did, Google could look at Facebook and say, “We wish to do the same thing.” But it’s actually too complicated to just go make Facebook, so they started doing it in 2007. Google tried again in, you know, ’08, ’09, and ’10. They just kept on trying and they could never quite recreate Facebook.
So if we rewind back to 2007 when Facebook made that splash, what is it? A site for friends to archive photos of their everyday life. So if we just break down those three and take one pattern, which is divergence, the opposite of that splash, if Facebook is just for friends there is now an opportunity for a site that’s not just for friends. That’s Twitter. It’s later. If Facebook is allowing people to archive their life and their photos, maybe I don’t want my future employers and my parents to see all of my party photos. Something needs to be the opposite, less permanent. That’s Snapchat. Tens of billions of dollars, years later. And if Facebook is allowing people to share their everyday life, now your Facebook stream is single-handedly ruining the art of photography with everyone’s photos of their food. Something needs to bring the love of photography back. That’s Instagram. Twelve people made it, sold it for a billion dollars, and that all happened, like, seven years after Facebook
So the idea is that by teaching yourself to understand the patterns, the six in this case that I’ve provided, you can add a new layer to how you look at your competitor so that you’ve not trying to take them head on, but every time you see a big action or you look at a market and you see a big trend, you can see the six other ways you could attack it.
Michael: I love it. So in some ways, what you’re saying is so don’t just sit in a room and go, “We’ve got to come up with ideas.” It’s about a more structured, disciplined approach to it, going, “Look, there are ways of zigging when other people are zagging, and there are six different ways to do that.”
Jeremy: Sure, and being a bit more calculated to say that those ideas are actually fuelled by something else. So it’s not a creative framework that’s simply kind of splitting your mind in a couple of ways, it’s saying, “Actually, no. When there is a trend or force, that trend or force creates six different sets of opportunity.”
Michael: So the one—the trend that caught my attention, which I like in part because I’m a very, very bad amateur magician, is the redirection one. Because in redirection there’s language in the magic world where you go, “Look over here, everybody!” And everybody looks at your hand. And in the meantime, your other hand is doing something cunning with the trick. So tell me what the redirection trend is about and then how it might be applied.
Jeremy: So redirecting is refocusing, surprising, gamification, and it’s the idea of trying to, you know, reposition what a product or a value proposition might be. And I can give you a couple fun ones, but I’ll start off with the—you know, you and I both fly all the time.
So we were talking just before we started about Aeroplan points and Air Miles and all these different reward programs. Those are an example of redirection because the act of flying, to be a businessperson flying away from your family, is not fun. To sit cramped up for seven hours is not fun.
Michael: Right, and we’re both big, tall guys, so you’re like—exactly. And there’s a direct correlation between how tall you are and how likely the person in front of you is going to recline their seat.
Jeremy: Pretty much, right? Exactly. So the act of Aeroplan points or Air Miles are really interesting because now suddenly I wish to be on that plane. I am enjoying it, and there are people, all sorts of people, that love it so much they’ll take the extra flight leg. They’ll take the extra trip just in order to build up their miles to hit their next status.
In Vancouver, you can take a 15-minute flight to Victoria. And at the end of the year, all the people that didn’t make their points just bang back and forth and they do, like, 15 flights because you could do it in a day.
So that’s an example of repositioning, using that redirection tactic where the airline has taken something which would otherwise not be enjoyed but they have provided a game around it that has layers of status that makes you happy that you spend way too much time on a metal bus with wings.
A different example, though, that I use in the book, which was my favourite one for pure entertainment value, would be imagine you retire and you move to Amsterdam and you just want an easy life. You’re a creative person, so there you are. And you …
Michael: Wait a sec, you move to Amsterdam for an “easy life”? Okay.
Jeremy: Okay, maybe it wasn’t exactly that. You move to Europe. You end up in Amsterdam. But you get a job and you’re working at the local canal. And every day at the Queen’s Day Parade, you start realizing that people, a million people flood the streets, and many of them start peeing into your canals. Now, you’re the one that works there, so you measure it and you realize 8,000 litres of urine actually went into the drinking water, the canal in six hours.
Michael: I loved this story in the book. Yeah, yeah, right.
Jeremy: And that canal, again, it’s the drinking water. So you could—you’re now faced, as the city’s water utility, with what do you actually do? It’s sort of an obscure problem. It sounds, like, rude or whatever, but it’s your actual thing. You work for the government: fix it. And if you put up signs that say, “Don’t pee in our drinking water” …
Michael: Everybody goes, “Okay, I’m now going to pee in the drinking water. Thanks for the challenge.”
Jeremy: Yeah, and they’ll take a picture of themselves peeing on your sign. If you say it’s illegal, that just adds to the fun, and now you still got a million partygoers and it’s going to go viral. So what they actually did is they created 200 competitive urination stations around the city, each one with four urinals facing each other and a giant game that digitally showed who was winning in any group of four, just like those water pistol games that you have at a carnival.
And that actually caused the winning person of the four to get their diploma. They’d run around the city all excited and the diploma has the stamp of the water utility on the bottom to remind yourself, “Oh, yeah, when you peed in the drinking water, that was a really bad idea.”
So you have this thing where you have an unstoppable force but you’re able to rechannel it because, in this case, you provided a bit of a game and you actually seem cool. Suddenly the water utility company is one of the coolest in the city.
Michael: I love it. That’s fantastic. So because we can’t keep talking for another three hours, although that’s kind of where this conversation is going, and because I also think there’s actually nowhere to go after you’ve talked about the urination competition.
Jeremy: I sunk this ship!
Michael: Yeah, I know, you’ve sunk that ship. Exactly. So, look, for people who are interested in the book and interested in you, where can they find out more about the book and more about Trend Hunter?
Jeremy: Well, the easy place to go for the book is betterandfaster.com. I’ve got a couple different videos on there you can watch with all sort of visuals, where you can see a little bit more about the patterns and you can learn what we’re up to. And then at trendhunter.com, we have hundreds and hundreds of thousands of new ideas, and as you start finding the categories you like it can be customized to show you the concepts that will inspire your next big thing. And if you’re in the corporate world, we actually pair brands with advisors in our office to help you find better ideas faster.
Michael: And just to throw it out, because you and I were talking about it before we started, you had an upcoming conference?
Jeremy: Yeah, we are super excited. In Toronto we’re going to be hosting Future Festival, and it’s going to be paired at the same time as Nuit Blanche, which is end of September, beginning of October.
But the idea is we’ve got about 150 brands that we advise that are all over, mostly the U.S. We’re going to bring them to Toronto, to our home base, and we’re going to have a day of trends, a day of workshops, culture safaris in the city, and a one million-person epic art festival.
Michael: Jeremy, thank you. That was a great conversation.
Jeremy: Well, thank you very much for inviting me.