One of the best futurecasters was Steve Jobs, the former co-founder of Apple Computer. He knew what people wanted before they did. He didn’t believe in focus groups. He went with his gut, and his vision of the future. Jobs was inspired by a Xerox prototype (the Xerox Alto 1973 Prototype Workstation to be exact) and he took it from there to combine technology with his own love of minimalist form and function.
Can you learn or acquire the ability to futurecast? Absolutely. The level of expertise in execution can be a combination of luck and talent and this eventually turns into a skill. Successful futurecasting and applying learned evaluated knowledge causes others to see you as innovative and fresh- it doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel or copying. When you see a new product announcement, look closely and see if you can identify the inspiration or the trend. When you start observing the everyday products you use you will begin to notice subtle updates in color and type or packaging. Sometimes this change is announced with bold lettering, or the print on the front label panel announcing that the formula is “All New!” or “Improved!”. Often times it is just subtle and changed along the way so it looks fresh and timely.
The trick is to find inspiration and constantly study what is going on around you. Futurecasting is not a sudden bolt of lightning- although it feels like that. It is usually observations stored in your memory that all come together in an instant by a seemingly unrelated spark or impetus. Somehow your brain reaches inside and pulls it all together sub-conscientiously. This is why brainstorming is so great – it is free-form relating and it can spark great ideas. The skill is to learn how to be in the moment and objective at the same time. Try and apply abstract thoughts to the central idea and see how what develops. Once you start reading the market- it becomes innate and you will be able to see your own bath and body line in a new light.
Why It’s Valuable
It’s important to stay ahead of what is happening with consumers in your target market and know what future trends are coming. Why? Because from that birds-eye view you can deliberately develop and market new products to appeal to a growing trend for great success.
Here’s an example: Since consumers are still “cocooning” (spending more and more time at home) and spending less time in stores shopping for gifts, one way to futurecast is to think in terms of how this applies to gift-giving. Most of us are spending less time in stores purchasing gifts and mailing them to friends and families for birthdays or other special occasions. Instead, we’re looking for internet “solutions” or gifts that we can buy online and simply ship to the recipient. We can do this with our feet kicked up watching our favorite television show instead of driving store to store looking for the perfect gift.
Now that we realize “cocooning” is still prevalent in the U.S. (a trend that began before the economy’s collapse in 2008), we can understand the popularity of such technological conveniences as the internet, home entertainment, cellphones, smartphones and other advances in communication which allow for work-at-home options. With that understanding, we apply that thought to how it relates to our bath and body customers. Get inside the customer’s head. If they are spending more time at home, what does that say about their purchasing habits? Perhaps more of their bath and body products are bought online. Better yet, how about putting more time and development into providing gift-giving solutions to online consumers? If they are spending more time at home, we now understand that there is a need for convenient gifts that can be sent to a recipient with the click of a mouse or a few keystrokes versus getting in the car and driving to the nearest retail store to pick out a special gift.
In Part Two, we'll continue this discussion and also share tips on how to update your beauty products.
This article is republished with permission from the May/June 2012 issue of The Saponifier Magazine. It is written by Jennifer Kirkwood and Marla Bosworth. Jennifer Kirkwood is the founder and owner of La Dolce Diva, Inc. (www.ladolcedivainc.com/) a bath & body novelty gift boutique collection. She is also an award winning activewear designer and for 25 years has been reading trends and designing into them as an in-house designer and as the president of her own design consulting firm. She has worked at length with companies such as Callaway, Hanes, Disney, Russell Athletic, Soffe, LA Gear, Target and Spalding as well as for the Atlanta Olympics.
Marla Bosworth is the CEO and President of Back Porch Soap Company (www.backporchsoap.com), a wholesaler and retailer of sea-inspired bath and body products. She is also an independent bath and body business consultant and teaches soap, natural cosmetic formulation and bath and body business classes in Boston, NYC and San Francisco. She is a market research analyst and has worked with companies such as Apple, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Canon and Xerox.