Fast-Breaking, Ongoing, and Macro Trends: Which Ones Are Worth the Chase?
You might be skilled at capitalizing on macro trends in the food industry, like healthy eating, certain sauces and condiments, or flavor pairings. Fast-breaking trends? Not so much. When you do identify a trend on social media, it feels like you’re late to the party. And by the time you figure out how it fits in with your brand, your audience has moved on.
Just like a healthy balanced diet, it’s important to incorporate all manner of trends in your brand strategy to increase your visibility and relevance.
Here are three trend categories and tips to effectively evaluate when to take action.
The 3 Types of Trends
The first step in determining which trends are worth the investment is identifying them. The more you understand their hallmarks, the sooner you can determine how to use them, if at all.
Fast-breaking trends tend to be very specific movements that tie into a recent event, a pop culture moment, or a seasonal fad. Sometimes they’re borne of a seemingly meaningless movement that went viral online. (#girldinner, anyone?) When you see these trends, act quickly because they disappear just as quickly as they appeared.
Capitalizing on fast-breaking trends requires your marketing team to evaluate its longevity, create content, and publish — sometimes within 24 hours.
Take butter boards, for example. If you’re scratching your head, that’s okay. They were a short-lived trend on social media. Butter boards are basically the maximalist’s version of charcuterie boards, but with — you guessed it — butter. Here’s one we created for California Walnuts.
Butter boards weren’t a “thing” for long. Our team made the most of it with California Walnuts’ version of the viral charcuterie moment with a slight spin on how to make it relevant for their health-minded home cooks audience.
If you follow pop culture at all, you know singer-songwriter Taylor Swift is often the impetus of online buzz. When she was pictured eating a piece of chicken with ketchup and what seemed to be ranch dressing, we knew it was a match made in heaven for our client Alexia® Foods, a popular bake-at-home frozen potato brand.
These trends stick around longer than fast-breaking trends and signal what is at the forefront of consumers’ minds. Often, ongoing trends spring from a situation or moment that has captured the attention of a mass audience for a sustained period of time.
Take the Martinelli’s Mocktails series. As younger generations continue to shake up the status quo and experiment with sober-curious or sober-conscious lifestyles, we knew Martinelli’s apple juice and sparkling cider had a role to play. So we introduced a digital content series showcasing a creative spin on mocktails based on well-known cocktail recipes, making everyday moments even more fun to celebrate.
Another example is the “Grown in Idaho Spud Sign” series. What do frozen fries have to do with astrology? More than you may think! Maybe you are a waffle fry lover, a steak-cut fry connoisseur, or a die-hard crinkle-cut kind of person. No matter which one you are, there’s a high probability you’re curious to know what that says about you, right? Hence, the creation of an ongoing potato zodiac social series.
Will mocktails replace alcoholic beverages in popularity? Or will audiences smash the “like” button on astro-memes forever? Unlikely. But these trends had just enough of a hold on mass audiences that it was worth the investment to increase the brands’ relevancy.
Unlike fast-breaking and ongoing trends, macro trends are the most durable. They indicate major shifts in consumer attitudes, behaviors and values and have the potential to impact culture for years to come. Macro trends often influence brand strategy beyond marketing and are the catalyst of innovation in product development and emerging audience segments.
Let’s use plant-based eating as an example. The concept isn’t new. In fact, the Mediterranean Diet is one of the oldest diets, dating back hundreds of years. Yet plant-based eating is a hot topic among certain consumers. The conversation continues to evolve, especially when talking about meat alternatives.
That’s when EHY started working with a handful of strategic chef partners to experiment using walnuts as a plant-based ingredient to replace or enhance ground meat in popular dishes, like tacos, pasta sauce, and pizza toppings. Just a few simple ingredients (walnuts, water, beans or the legume of your choice, plus seasoning) can create a hearty plant-based ‘meat’ that has a similar taste and texture to traditional ground meats.
To capitalize on this innovation, we started promoting the walnut ‘meat’ recipe applications for our client, California Walnuts. When famously vegan Lizzo posted a video creating a meal with her own walnut meat recipe, we knew the plant-based macro trend had a permanent spot in their brand strategy.
Nah this was delicious… Brussels nachos 😜
How to evaluate and monitor consumer trends and eating trends
The first step to determine whether a trend is right for your brand is to engage in social listening. To stay apprised of trends on social media, you need the proper tools and resources to track all conversations online — in captions, comment sections, alt tags, etc. It’s no longer just about hashtags.
We often hear from clients (with small to mid-scale brands in particular), that due to the small size of their in-house marketing or PR teams it’s challenging to act on fast-breaking trends or create a strategy for longer-term trends. By contrast, bigger brands may have a beat on ongoing or macro trends but are less keyed into flash-in-the-pan trends that increase their relevance. Here are some suggestions for staying on top of trends and knowing their value to your brand strategy.
Tools for Social Listening
Digital platforms like Google Trends or subscriptions to consumer market research reports (e.g., Mintel, Kantar, or Innova) can give you an edge in tracking trends. Most trends originate or “break” on social media, so tools such as Hootsuite and Sprout social, provide insights into trending topics on social platforms (e.g., Instagram, TikTok, Meta, X, YouTube, etc). These tools track brand-centric keywords and phrases, send notifications about trends, and can help your team collect intel to predict where trends are going and how to act on them.
And don’t undersell your own social media usage: organic social media usage can shed light on trending topics or memes among users or large brands. You can also actively check the “trending” or “featured” page on these platforms for insight.
Partnering With a Food Marketing and PR Agency
If you don’t have a robust in-house team to track fast-breaking trends, or you just want your food brand to play a bigger role in the cultural conversation, a food marketing and PR agency like EHY can help. Our team of experts can support you with strategies to increase your brand’s visibility and relevance in an increasingly complex and competitive landscape.
Curious about which trends make the most sense for your brand? We’d love to talk!