Seeing Trends through a Robots Eyes

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In a digitally-driven world, you can’t simply know what’s trending. Anymore, we rely on Twitter to tell us. You have to know what’s coming, and be prepared.

By the time the Internet came out, LEAP was prepared for businesses to ask for websites, while other agencies believed the web was a passing trend. Now, 20 years later, we’re still on the cusp of digital trends.

Throughout those 20 years, we stopped relying on humans to recognize trending technologies and starting relying more on technology itself to tell us what’s up and coming.

We do this outside of the office, as well. We ask Alexa for the weekly forecast, the scores of a basketball game we missed and to catch us up on current events.

Of course, it’s in LEAP’s nature to stay atop digital marketing trends in order to ensure your brand has a competitive advantage. When we rely on humans to spot trends in the digital landscape, we’ll either miss a trend or simply spot a fad. And if we rely on technology to spot a trend, you may miss it because it lacks the emotional connection needed to garner attention.

In order to spot upcoming digital developments, you need both humanistic instinct and technological advancements to determine the difference between a fad and a trend.


We ignore it daily: the message in the top, right hand corner of our computer alerting us a new update is available. Nobody has time for that.

But that simple update is our technology telling the user a new, possibly more efficient method of completing tasks, is available. And in order to ascertain the necessary update, that piece of technology has been tracking what steps the user takes when using a certain app or software. The technology spotted the need for a new trend.

While data can provide that information, it cannot sort through it to determine what is missing. Without that human touch, technology could only tell us if a trend was a trend or a fad after it caught on, according to a drop – or continual rise – of data.

Robots also miss a crucial part of why consumers pick up on fads and turn them into trends: emotion. Digital, or automated features, can instill a sense of emotion within a human consumer that makes the trend stick.


Amy Webb, an adjunct professor of strategic foresight at the New York University Stern School of Business and founder of the Future Today Institute, follows a six-step approach to trendspotting:

  1. The Fringe  
    Observing and harnessing information from the fringes of society or a particular research area
  2. CIPHER –
    uncovering Hidden Patterns
  3. Questions
    Asking the  right ones to determine whether a pattern really is a trend
  4. Calculate the ETA 
    Ensure the timing a right both for the trend and for your organization
  5. Write Scenarios
    Possible outcomes and how you will deal with them
  6. Pressure-Test the Future
    Test that the strategy is- the right one for the future

Webb says not only does this help her determine what is coming down the line, but also allows for businesses to see if a certain trend is right for them.

Businesses are even adopting a trendspotting role in their offices. We see titles such as the CIO, which uses the I for  Chief “innovation” or “imagination” Officer. Part of their role is to spot upcoming trends, but it is also to build business.

Larger companies are also adopting bimodal IT processes into strategy and trendspotting planning. Aside from the CIO role, this process takes a team and splits them into two parts: data-sf-ec-immutable=”” one group of human employees to implement new pieces of digital technology, while the other group “climbs to the top of the trees” to see what might be coming, according to David Schatsky, business and technology trends research and strategy advisor and senior manager at Deloitte LLP.

The difficult part for the team who’s heads are above the trees: determining the difference between a trend and a fad. Michael Noice, writer for Entrepreneur, said one sure way to determine the difference is to talk to the consumer group.

But that comes down to finding the human staff. Forty percent of CIO’s told Quick Base Inc. they don’t have the staff to keep up with the quick-changing digital landscape.

Despite all these tips and tricks, as humans, businesses will be late to a trend, or miss something entirely. In that case, Schatzky said it’s important for businesses to have a model where they can act quick and be flexible. It’s never easy to play the catch-up game, but it will happen.

No matter if a business saw a trend before it’s coming or had to play catch up, Schatsky said “Above data-sf-ec-immutable=”” all, it needs to be understood that technology is there to serve the business.” In a game of playing catch-up or lack of execution to the new trends, a business must first understand its own objectives in order to stay on top of what’s coming.

Working Together

In today’s fast-paced digital world, humans can’t both gather and analyze data quick enough to spot a trend.

And robots can catch a trend, but can’t interpret the data themselves to spot a trend.

Humans need to analyze the Big Data provided by robotic means. Decisions can’t be made without the data, and trends can’t be spotted without the interpretation.