A Deeper Look At A Few Mass Market Trends

Friday, January 18, 2013

Yesterday, while on an errand to Target, I decided to share, via Instagram, some commentary on a few of the trends I was seeing. Some people emailed me about it, so I'm going to expand on it here.

I find mass market trends fascinating. What do people decide they like enough that risk-adverse big box chains like Target will stock it in their thousands of stores? How quickly do ideas spread? Can you trace the genesis of an idea? Does social media actually have an impact on retail product design and development? The answer to this last question is a definite yes, though it's always interesting to see what shows up and where. An example that's not included below: in 2007 Style Me Pretty started the trend of using the phrase "swoon-worthy" in relation to weddings and about two years later it showed up on a line of boxed invitations that Target carried at the time.

On to this visit: I originally went to Target to buy a Barbie doll as a gift and while in the toy section this other one caught my eye:

tim gunn barbie

This isn't officially named "Make It Work Barbie", but that's what I'm calling her. This is a brilliant brand extension for Tim Gunn, on so many levels. First, it fits his brand. Tim is a style and fashion expert and this ties in so clearly with how he is positioned. In contrast, his commercials for Expedia made little sense and were confusing.

Second, it targets the moms who love Tim and Project Runway. They have an emotional connection with Barbie from their childhood, and this is a modern spin incorporating something they love. That moment of nostalgic delight releases Oxytocin and Dopamine and prompts them to purchase the doll for their own kids and their memories. Also, if it's a show that mom and daughter watch together, the doll will later reinforce the memories of the quality time being created today. Creating memorable experiences -- even daily life experiences like a special TV program -- and gifting items that serve as mementos of those experiences is a huge priority for millennial parents.

Third, it targets the kids. There's an acronym in the world of toy marketing: KGOY. It stands for "Kids are Getting Older Younger" and refers to the fact that kids are increasingly into things normally reserved for an older age group at a much younger age. (An aside: KGOY has a huge impact on wedding consumer behavior, and if you're attending my workshop on millennials in Dallas next week, we'll be talking about it). Instead of playing with Barbies starting in Kindergarten, kids are playing with them beginning at age two or three and are outgrowing them by age seven. Designing a Barbie around a show that a second, third or fourth grader loves (not to mention, makes them feel sophisticated) is an effective way of keeping the brand in their hands longer on Mattel's part and reinforces Tim Gunn's reputation and position as a role model with a much younger demographic.

On to the next: national brands have reported that Pinterest is driving significant traffic to their sites and increasing both online and brick and mortar sales. People see a product image on Pinterest and buy. What was interesting to me was that this photo frame is an example of an idea that is all over Pinterest that originated as a DIY, not as a retail product:

pinterest and product development

The original idea was to find an old window pane and turn it into a photo frame. Don't want to go to all that trouble but like the concept? You can now buy something similar for about $35 at Target, complete with light vintage distressing, a handle pull at the bottom and a hook latch at the top. This is an example of user-generated content on Pinterest informing product development rather than just serving as a platform to drive traffic and consumer inspiration.

Up next: Chevron! Chevron is still very much a mass market pattern, even if those of us in the design and wedding industries are ready to kiss it goodbye. It is not going anywhere soon, though this design by Mara-Mi gives it a stylish update by making the lines loose and not ruler straight.

chevron napkins

Here's where styles and mass market get a bit tricky. Hexagons are the new chevron. Follow any interior or graphic designer on Pinterest and your feed will be overwhelmed with this fun beehive pattern (and seriously, why hasn't anyone invented a company like Pantone for shapes and patterns yet?). However, hexagons are still at the left side of the bell curve. They are becoming more popular on blogs and in magazines and we'll see a lot more of them at the gift, stationery and furniture trade shows this year, but they are not yet mass and won't be for a while.

So why can't a forward-thinking company like Mara-Mi or some of the others Target carries just put hexagons on the shelf and be done with it? For the simple reason that the mass public isn't educated on the style yet. Style education and saturation always precede sales. For this reason, chevron will be around for quite a bit longer. People in the trade may be tired of it, but the public isn't yet.

This is also the reason there isn't much neon on the shelves at Target right now. Colors are getting brighter -- almost a gradual introduction to the trend -- but they're not at neon levels yet. Here's an informal rule of thumb: if something's big in Brooklyn, give it at least three years before it hits mass market.

I was a little surprised to see this next trend on the shelves so quickly:

gold foil stationery trend

Gold foil on stationery, while not a new concept, is still relatively new as an attainable wedding trend. For this to be in the wedding stationery section at Target (shown here in Anna Griffin's line) so quickly means that it is something the masses are willing to buy. This trend going mass market with such speed can be attributed to the wedding blog industry more so than Pinterest.

This next one by Mara-Mi is maybe my favorite:

aspirational lifestyle marketing

It's a great color, cute pattern, but what stuck out to me the most is that the tag on the back calls this an "appetizer plate." Not rectangle plate, not party plate, not paper plate -- an appetizer plate. This is aspirational lifestyle marketing and it is a smart way to move product and build brand loyalty.

In this particular case, it is GREAT for the event industry as well. Calling it an appetizer plate allows people to imagine themselves as the type of people who throw parties. Not just any parties, mind you, but the type of parties fancy enough to have appetizers. Sure, this particular plate is for a DIY party at home, but if you can get people entertaining on a regular basis, when it comes time to do a big event outside of their scope, they are more likely to hire professionals. All because they have identified themselves as and have started to live out that they are the type of people who throw parties. Everyone send Mara-Mi a thank you note.

These cheese markers follow a similar concept. They allow people to see themselves not just as people who entertain, but who are good hosts, people who make things easy for their guests, people who sweat the details because details are a way of showing your guests they're worth taking some extra time for.

aspirational marketing to millennials

"The ability to be a good host" is one of the values that Splendid Insights measures in our global wedding study, and it is labeled as important by a significant percentage across all segments and slices, especially among millennials. This generation values being a good host and making sure their guests are taken care of at a higher rate than engaged couples of previous generations because of their priority focus on friends and family. This value translates to every aspect of their lifestyle, not just their wedding day.

This last one is a craft project for Valentine's day, more specifically a Valentine that kids can sew:


I snapped a photo of this because millennials LOVE sewing, crocheting and knitting. This is a DIY generation that grew up on Martha Stewart. For them, crafting is a creative outlet and isn't necessarily viewed as a way to save money. More than just enjoying these hobbies themselves, millennial moms are teaching their kids how to sew, crochet and knit as well. These skills are no longer reserved for home economics or home school projects as subjects that are handy to know. They are being taught as a way to have fun and be creative. If you create products for kids or their parents, pay attention to this value. It is a very big deal!

That's it for this particular field trip to Target. Mass market trends are an interesting animal and worth paying attention to if your dreams include having your own product line some day.

You May Also Like


Speaking + Training


Press + Accolades