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On Pattern Recognition And Trend Tracking

When I began with FutureVision over four years ago, I was immediately struck by how trend spotting was already an ingrained, organic practice within the R/GA community.

Contributed by:
Karyn Riegel, R/GA FutureVision Associate Program Director, Mobile and Social Platforms, R/GA NY

Across email lists, on our internal Yammer network, and in office hallways and conference rooms, there is a constant dialogue about breaking news in technology and society and how trends are shaping the future. Trend awareness is crucial to our social currency. It’s not limited by department, seniority, or discipline — executives, interns, technologists, creatives, strategists, analysts, producers, and account leaders are all engaged in the conversation. Our culture creates a unique opportunity for FutureVision to leverage a very small team to map a very broad perspective on the marketing landscape.

Clients who have experienced FutureVision events and workshops are no doubt familiar with the words that begin each presentation: “The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.” This quotation from the author of Neuromancer and Pattern Recognition speaks perfectly to his oeuvre as well as to the challenges FutureVision addresses on a daily basis. Bleeding-edge trends that are a few years away from the mainstream are already a living practice somewhere in the world. For example, it’s been years since our Nike digital sports team (the folks behind Nike+ GPS and FuelBand) began to observe how early adopters were using portable devices to measure athletic performance and applying that information to understand themselves and to perform better. We call this trend the quantified self. We’ve worked with our Nike digital sports team to identify key platforms and insights and share them in trend briefs. In turn, teams for clients such as Goldman Sachs and MasterCard have translated this trend into exciting new work of their own. Retail tech like LCD supermarket price displays and mobile interactive OOH may not yet be mainstream in North America, but colleagues at R/GA Singapore share how these technologies are part of daily life in their city.

At its core, FutureVision is a set of open-source, client-agnostic resources that everyone across the agency can access, customize, and share with stakeholders. Our team curates and redistributes knowledge and ensures that the learnings from one project can be securely transferred to the next.

 To produce our monthly trend briefs, FutureVision is powered by human eyes and machine algorithms. We rely on R/GAers around the world who make trend spotting a small part of their daily routine. We’ve built a system that tunes into the tweets shared by hundreds of R/GAers and culls the most important trend links. We gather, filter, and channel these spottings into a powerful digital trend archive. The knowledge base we’ve collectively assembled makes it easy to identify innovation, inspiration, and opportunity that will impact our clients.

In our networked, info-saturated culture, knowledge about virtually anything is available to anyone who seeks it. Curation and pattern recognition make information valuable. Similar to dedicated trend spotting agencies such as Contagious, PSFK, or Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve, R/GA FutureVision monitors culture and technology and applies pattern recognition to connect diverse global trend manifestations. But since the program is integrated across all of our diverse capabilities, the trends we identify plant seeds deep within our work, positioning our clients to define tomorrow’s trends.