I Spy With My Little Eye… The Next Big Thing

How the Smart Marketers Spot Trends Before Anyone Else

Everyone loved those “I Spy” books in my elementary school. They consisted of pages crammed with themed objects and asked readers to find the hidden ones. Very satisfying for our human brains that love a challenge.

Spotting a trend can be just as satisfying. Unfortunately, there is no key at the back of the book to tell you what product or service is going to be a hit. Yet with some observation and data, you can discover a trend before it’s right in front of your nose.

Micro-influencers are better guides than Swift or Jenner

When it comes to trends people are always looking for the next cool thing. While sometimes this comes from influencers with huge followings, often you’ll discover it firsthand through micro-influencers on different subcultures of social media sites.

One reason is that though many follow someone like Kylie Jenner and buy a shirt with a tiger on it that she promotes, it doesn’t mean much. They are her loyal fans, but this isn’t a sign that there will be a stampede of fashionistas breaking down shop doors to grab big cat clothing items.

Micro-influencers are more likely to develop their love of a trend organically. Their audience will see their passion for something and want to incorporate it into their life too.

The authenticity is what makes a trend more likely to spread.

Let’s look, for instance, at cottagecore…

While the term has been around for a decade – an offshoot of other “non-mainstream” fashion choices like farmcore – the term only recently gained widespread popularity. But anyone watching that corner of the internet would have seen a boom in the homespun look.

It makes sense. Cottagecore celebrates the fashion and crafts of our grandmothers, as well as peacefully living with nature. As sourdough pictures were shared in the beginning of quarantine, many were exposed to the addicting images of pastoral bliss. Then those snapshots became aspirational images. Many bought linen dresses with gusto, desperate to get outside and run through whatever grass they could find while also keeping 6 feet away from other people.

So though Taylor Swift brought it to the public’s attention, after her Folklore release spawned several news articles and think-pieces, the trend was already in full swing.

Micro-influencers in different subcultures are the ones who generally start the trends, you just have to figure out which one is catching people’s attention.

Cottagecore example

Is the trend actually part of a larger trend?

The worst time to get in on a trend is after it’s already hit the crest. Those early to the game are the ones who get better word-of-mouth marketing and name recognition.

For example, right now YouTube hosts a growing number of sewing videos. If you only watch a few you may think that there are some serious young dressmakers out there. But a closer look reveals that many of these sewing machines are less about intense dress-making and more about altering old clothes they’ve found.

In fact, some countries reported sewing machine shortages after the quarantine took effect.

This doesn’t mean we are about to see more young people buying expensive fabrics. Those sewing their clothes seem to be trying to get their fashion both ethically and affordably. So we really have to think about what the trend is and where it is going.

The sewing boom may end, once teens are back in school and able to go about living “normal” lives. But the desire for thrifty ideas and ways to express their style won’t go away.

So if you were trying to get in on that trend you might create a service where you send a box of fun fabrics once a month; something that companies would have to throw away anyway so will be available for pennies.

This will appeal to the market’s desire for both thriftiness and environmental consciousness.

Or those with machines might require cheap patterns for popular styles of clothing. Making and selling sewing machines and materials to non-serious sewers might not work, but giving them what they need to continue their hobby is a good bet.

With all that in mind, consider…

Right now we’re seeing a lot of parents coping with homeschooling for the first time. Knowing schools probably weren’t going to be able to safely open, many startups started to pop up, offering online classes for a child or their pod. They saw a need in the parents who weren’t satisfied with their child’s teachers, and those in over their head with homeschooling who were looking for professional teachers to help build a curriculum.

How will this trend develop and change in the coming months and years? What opportunities might this open up for the smart entrepreneur?

Use data to find proof of your theory

Your search shouldn’t be based purely on an “I’ve got a feeling” based endeavor. Particularly when you have to sell this trend to others. Use Google Trends to double-check your hunch.

Has the amount of people searching the term, “toad kitchen decorations” gone up? Do you see a visible uptick in search terms related to your trend idea?

If not you should either try to gather more evidence, or accept that it is not as wildly popular outside of a small circle of those who are super into it.

Remember that cottagecore trend? Here is the graph for that

The trend was growing steadily throughout quarantine and had a huge spike once Folklore was released. Though there is a sense that the craze has died down, now that it’s “too cool”.

And if there is anything trends hate it’s being beloved by nearly everyone. The trend of “simpler times” is probably here to stay for a while though.

Be wary of your own preferences

When looking for the next big thing it’s really important to take yourself out of the equation. Whatever your feelings on mullet skits (ugh) if you see them more and more they have a legitimate chance of being popular.

You can also wishfully believe that something you admire will be a viable market product only for it to never happen.

Our own opinions and preferences can have a profound effect on how we view trends. Keep an open mind, don’t judge, think of the target market, and work from there. And always use data to offset any personal beliefs.

Follow trend-hunting blogs and publications

Think of how fast things change. If you don’t know what is happening, you can’t determine unserviced marketplaces.

But nothing happens in a vacuum. By keeping up with updates to your industry you will know if something is lacking or needed.

Following blogs like Trendhunter, for instance, is simply a smart move. Those people are professional and will give you a sense of whether a trend they are featuring is fresh or not. You’ll also pick up ideas that you might not have thought of if you were brainstorming out in the wild.


Trends don’t wear a striped shirt with a red hat, but they are still incredibly hard to find. Still, with solid observation, the use of data, and the ability to separate your own opinions from the facts, you can find a trend before it crests.

Getting out there first has a big impact, so don’t wait. Start searching.