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The art of predicting trends

The creative team at Condé Nast set up an exclusive one-on-one with global trend spotter and Senior Vice President of Communications at Philip Morris International, Marian Salzman.

This week the Mother City hosted one of the most empowering and enlightening trends talks of the year. Based at the Inner-City Ideas Cartel located on Waterkant Street in the heart of Cape Town’s CBD, The Evolution of Women in Pop-Culture & Innovation 2019 and Beyond featured a panel that included global trendspotter Marian Salzman.

In an exclusive interview at The Westin Hotel, Salzman shared her insights on the art of trend spotting, her trend forecast of Reality Meets Virtuality for 2019 and what we can expect in the year to come. Take a look at the quick Q&A below.


What are the factors you look at for predicting an outcome?

The methodology for trend spotting is pattern recognition. So, I look in the immediate rear-view mirror. What was published in the last hour and the last day and the last week?

I also look at pop culture factors. The density and velocity of what’s taking off. Is it taking off? Is it sticking? How fast is it moving? And then, I think in my old age as a trend spotter, I have this gut and I kind of know look at this and don’t look at that or hear about this and don’t hear about that.

For example, someone spoke to me a couple of years ago about a DJ named Black Coffee. I couldn’t really put my finger on it then, but I thought yeah, this is really going to make it.

Another pop culture figure I am really high on and have been for 20 years is Wyclef Jean and even though the Fugees, are over I think that Wyclef Jean as an entertainer, now in his like 40’s, has really matured with the market.

I also look at places where things are hip and happening. I have always argued that South Africa is a very interesting place to look at trends because of the whole rise of genuine diversity and the rise of true multi-cultural fashion. Also, your vibrant use of colour here.

But I travel the world and I never really know what I am looking for before I see it. And then when I see it, I tend to become slightly obsessed. I went through a phase of being obsessed with famous chefs but now I am onto something else. I don’t know what it’s going to be yet. Probably interior design.


How does reality meeting virtuality affect the workplace and the way we work?

Disruption is pretty much the coolest thing happening in both the marketing and design space, and I think it is re-thinking absolutely everything.

Why do we have a dining room if we have a kitchen? Why do we have a living room VS a living space? So, I think design disruption is breaking down all of the old assumptions and challenging them.

And then I think obviously in a much more theoretical way. This is an incredibly transformative field, we as humans’ dull things down to something that we can actually understand and explain but I think to design is actually at the very centre of cultural and life transformations that are happening.

What is life and what is work? It’s all blurred together and I think we are now going to design new ways of managing those things into one lifestyle.


In 2004 you forecast that sleep is the new sex, does 2019’s forecast mean that sex has and will become a more virtual concept?

I’m going to argue that sex became a virtual concept about 15 years ago and people just didn’t realise it. But the number of people who have great sex, great frequent sex, great everyday sex has been diminishing since computing came into our lives.

The only things one can give up to have extra time for social media and being online is sleep and sex. I mean I think we may not even low what sex is anymore. I mean, Bill Clinton didn’t even know what sex is, remember he said that he didn’t have sex with that woman. So maybe we all don’t know what sex is, is sex something that involves a physical exchange or a psychological exchange? And thus, it can be expedited by your phone or your computer.


How do we ensure that we communicate effectively?

Communicating means I have got to talk with you and you have got to talk with me, and then that’s not a monologue and it’s not even a dialogue anymore. I argue that it is a trialogue or more than that.

Meaning, if I tell you something and you think I am interesting and then you need to go home and tell your friends, your mom or your next door neighbour about this woman, the value of the conversation is no longer between you and me, it’s the value between you and whoever you share it with and how they share it.

It is like the infamous game of broken telephone. So, accuracy, we can’t hold on to, we can’t micromanage, we can’t be control freaks.

But great communication is starting a great story, living that story and doing that story.


Have you ever been way off or wrong about a trend forecast?

I have definitely been wrong on trend forecast. I have a funny story where I was wrong but also kind of right. So, way back in the 1990’s when I was kind of a young trend spotter and probably a hipper trend spotter than I am today, one of the things I said was that celebrities weren’t actually dead, they were actually a work in progress since celebrities would change over time. And then I said but there is one celebrity who I know will never be dead, OJ Simpson, because he is so appropriate for Avis Cars. And then four days later he took off in the white Bronco and it ran on best news bloopers for a whole year. That was really dumb of me.


Do you think this shift will bring more racial and cultural transformation into the creative design and arts industry?

In no way am I expert to comment on politics or living styles in South Africa. What I think is really amazing is South African branding and the bold and the in your face advertising messages that are the norm here.

I think South Africa represents the future is not white, the future is not upper middle class. The future is much more urban and street. The future is much more travel on your feet and I think of South Africa as the ultimate travel on your feet country.

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