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Harnessing trend intelligence: Louise Lloyd, Cirkle

By tapping into emerging trends that resonate with consumers, brands can develop even more meaningful relationships with them, stay ahead of the game and, ultimately, influence loyalty.

Consumers are more discerning, fickle and cynical than ever, thanks to years of being exposed to a plethora of life choices and brand messages on a daily basis.

We live in a 'stuffocation' world, where we are getting smothered by so much stuff and offered too much variety. Whether we are buying tea bags or a TV, the choice on offer, and availability of conflicting advice, can be overwhelming. For brands to create cut-through that will drive consumer devotion and build long-term, sustainable relationships, innovative PR campaigns that don't rely solely on column inches, and which add value for the audience, are a must.

Brands can stay steps ahead of their competitors by anticipating trends and really understanding how their consumers will respond to them. Monitoring trend intelligence allows agencies to shape consumer PR campaigns and give clients the competitive edge by positioning them as innovative early adopters in tune with their target consumer.

As part of our forensic examination of a brand and the landscape in which it exists, we work with trend forecaster LSN Global/The Future Laboratory to identify relevant trends and exploit them in our PR campaigns.

'Homedulgence' - which started as a way to cope with the credit crunch - is the trend of staying in as consumers transform their homes into multi-functional entertainment spaces (the lounge is becoming redundant in favour of open-plan kitchen living as more people host dinner parties and concerts at home). This trend was at the heart of our 'Kitchen theatre' campaign to launch Russell Hobbs' premium food-preparation appliances. It positioned the consumer as a culinary 'performer' in their own kitchen; the kitchen as their 'stage'; cooking appliances as their 'props'; and guests as their 'audience'.

In an era of conversations, marketers and PR people need to create ultimate engagement, intimacy and loyalty between brands and their consumers. Ten years ago, who knew that social networking would be a global phenomenon that would change the world by becoming a crucial extra layer connecting consumers and brands?

According to LSN Global, the new layer is gaming (think of Cadbury's 'Spots v Stripes' campaign). Over the next 10 years, gaming will make an impact similar to that of social networks before it. This is not about traditional Xbox-style gaming, but experience, play, collaboration, status and reward, as a generation of social-media-savvy consumers turn to gaming to learn about, and engage with, the world.

Look forward to the rise of what LSN Global calls 'ubiquitous gaming culture', where owners apply 'gamification' to their brands by incorporating game-play elements into non-gaming applications, products and related services. Foursquare and Nike+ are great examples of virtual reward and 'badgification'.

From Marketing's PR essays supplement October 2011

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