Fad versus Trend: How to Identify & Leverage Both

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Many people use the terms “fad” and “trend” interchangeably. Those words, however, have very different meanings. Fads have short lifespans while trends have true staying power. Whereas fads are discovered by influencers, receive mainstream adoption (usually after intense media coverage) and then die off, trends take much longer to be cultivated. Once embraced, trends put down cultural roots and grow stronger.

Just because a fad lives for only a short time doesn’t mean that they’re “bad.” Restaurants, hotels, casinos, cruise lines and other hospitality and service industry companies can certainly profit off of fads. The key is to not spend more dollars than the fad is worth. Fads aren’t normally worth a significant investment; in other words, proceed with caution.

Another thing to bear in mind is that some fads are worth leveraging even after they drop from the spotlight. While they may no longer be a craze, they may maintain enough popularity among enough people to still be worth a small investment.

Trends, on the other hand, are worthy of long-term investments of time (research and training) and money (orders, menu placement, marketing and promotions). Not only can embracing a trend attract customers, it’s expected of brands in order for them to be perceived as relevant. They’re also an effective way of engaging with customers in person and via social media.

As some experts have said, trends affect your overall strategy while fads affect your tactics. Similar to how fad and trend are often used correctly, “strategy” and “tactic” tend to be thought of as synonyms. A strategy is an overall plan (such as customer engagement); a tactic is a means of executing on that plan (Facebook posts, Tweets, Instagram videos, etc.). Social media is both a trend and a strategy; it’s the apps, features and how they’re utilized that are fads and, therefore, tactics. Does something that appears to be a cultural phenomenon or shift seem like it could influence a brand’s engagement strategy? Then it’s likely a trend. Will it more likely be implemented as a tactic to achieve goals within the strategy? It’s probably a fad. That isn’t an exact science but it’s one way people can try to identify the differences between fads and trends.

Examples of Fads*

  • Use of insects
  • Foam
  • Wedge salads

Examples of Trends*

  • Hyperlocal sourcing
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Authentic ethnic cuisine

*According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2016 Restaurant Industry Forecast.

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