Trend vs. Fad: What's the Difference, and Why Does it Matter?


Sheryl Connelly is the head of Ford's Global Trends and Futuring Division, where she separates trend from fad and helps the auto maker determine what global changes will influence the market in years to come.

A full transcript follows the video.

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Brendan Byrnes: I assume it's a pretty tough job, trying to separate long-term trends from maybe short-term fads. Is there a specific way you do that, or does that come with experience? How do you separate the noise?

Sheryl Connelly: I have a really specific illustration I always use, talking about the difference between trends and fads. I talk about denim, or blue jeans.

Blue jeans have been around for 150 years. In the early 1900s, it was often used as a work uniform because it was inexpensive, highly durable, the more you wear it the more comfortable it became. But it was associated with this lower socioeconomic status.

Today, blue jeans are high fashion. You wear them to the office. Some designers within Ford tell me they spend more money on their blue jeans than they do on their suits, and indeed people will pay hundreds of dollars for a pair of blue jeans.

Over the last hundred years our values, our attitudes, and behaviors toward denim has changed. That's a manifestation of a trend. By contrast, styles of blue jeans -- high rise, low ride, colored denim, skinny leg, acid wash -- those are fads, and those change with the season.

For our purposes within Ford, if the things that we watch are changing that frequently, that's our first clue that we're watching the wrong things. Part of that is driven because our product cycle is three years out, so we always have to make sure that we're pushing ourselves to have a long view.

If we were doing something different -- if we were in cell phone technology, which changes much more rapidly -- then maybe our lens would be shorter.

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Brendan Byrnes owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends Ford. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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