Small cog hipster trend makes big wheels turning

Fixed Gear bike. Photo by wa.pean

A micro trend can ignite a macro trend, which is the topic for this article. By now, most of us are aware of theories regarding tipping points, early adopters and chasms. What I am going to bring up is how sometimes a big latent trend can ignite through a fad.

My observations are from Sweden. Lately there has been a huge hipster culture micro trend popping up in terms of fixed gear bicycles. By now it is fading away already. It has been with us since 2009 more or less.

Now instead we have a massive classic sport cycle trend in general. It was like a latent lust for bicycles did exist. But it needed a spark to get going. That spark came from hipsters on a retro trip.

The funny side of it is that fixed gear is not just a bike; it’s an attitude and a life style. Which means the identity factor of fixed gear culture is strong. But fixed gear people and normal sport cyclists ride for different reasons.

And even though they do have understanding for each other when it comes to enjoying a bike ride, I believe they have very different views of what is cool.

Sport Cyclist. Photo by Ed Yourdon

But it doesn’t matter. The fixed gear group made sport biking cool again. So the people with 21 gears, full athlete suit and desire to compete against anyone who dare being in the way took their chance.

The well known life cycle and the theory of the chasm. Image borrowed politely from http://www.relativelydigital.com/

This is something we often see with new trends. Old latent trends gets a spark by a group of cool trend setters doing their own thing with it. But the mass will interpret it as now it’s cool to enter… (when trend setters actually seek authenticity by turning to something old and proven). Then, when something jumps from early adopters to early mainstream, it becomes uncool. When you hear someone say – I really feel like a hipster riding a fixie! Then you know the cool factor is dead in the head of the originators, but in the minds of early majority it will take years before they realize that.

By then it has already hit the masses, which in itself holds enough momentum to grow yet further. The early adopters will be one the move to the next thing. Reason? Identity and search of meaning.

So what could you do? Well, if you are into a category that has long since fell asleep. Look for something true in its origin and build on that. You can’t just introduce the old stuff like its new. You will need to innovate on it. This is what we call soft innovation,  I think it was Seth Godin who coined the expression.

I figure latent trend spotting is a true gold mine. But, like always, you need to understand the true value of your target group related to your business. You can’t ask questions or make surveys to find out. So how do you do? Ethnographic market research, worth every penny if you can afford it.

Here are a couple (hypothetic) latent trends out of my head:

  • Windsurfing (just imagine how many old windsurfing boards lay around peoples houses without being used)
  • Golf (same reason as windsurfing)
  • Boot Cut jeans (yeah, I hate them too at the moment)
  • Special kinds of cell phones with few functions just like in the old days. But this time carefully chosen.
  • Old computer games, like Commodore 64.
  • A new beverage ritual. Like beer mixed with champagne.

 

What do you think? It needs something that is true, a behavior, which the majority could easily adopt, something new or distinct that is cool.




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