Sometimes 140 characters is all it takes to catapult a career. Shelby Walsh learned that firsthand when Ashton Kutcher tweeted a story she wrote in 2009 about the website ThisIsPhotobomb.com. At the time, Kutcher had the largest following on Twitter and his nod to her story helped it get more than 430,000 views in a couple of days.
Walsh was then an intern writing for Trend Hunter, an online community that publishes crowdsourced content on trends around the world. The Toronto-based online publication covers topics from business (“11 Child-Targeted Retail Stores”) to fashion (“Sassy-Chic Skull Bracelets”). There are also tons of quirky stories in the Bizarre vertical (think “Animal-Shaped Coffee Marshmallows” and “Body Hair-Infused Coats”).
Walsh recently became the company’s president after a couple of years as its vice-president of operations, content and consumer research. Since she started at Trend Hunter in 2009, the site’s traffic has surpassed 1.5 billion pageviews and it gets 40 million monthly views. She has been instrumental in growing the company’s advisory service, which includes customized reports filled with insights on “what is bubbling to the surface when it comes to what consumers are interested in,” says Walsh. The company’s clients include brands like Panasonic, Intel, Crayola and Nestle.
Walsh also sits on an advisory committee that helps shape the curriculum for Seneca College’s advertising program, and guest lectures on how important trends are to all industries, from music to design. “Advertising has crossed well out of just being about selling stuff,” says Anthony Kalamut, program coordinator for Seneca’s creative advertising program. “It’s about creating cultural icons and trends and she really helps the students understand how to find a trend, jump on… and when you should jump off.”
How does Walsh differentiate between a trand and a fad?
Forgo the status quo
“A fad is a micro-trend with a shorter lifespan—a ripple of something that could have a much larger impact and meaning. My advice to those eager to awaken their inner trend hunter is that it’s important to not close yourself off from different types of people or dismiss events happening around you… It’s about opening yourself up to different opportunities and asking questions rather than going through the motions of life.”
Mind your sources
“If you look at what’s trending on Twitter, you’ll discover things that are cool, but short-term fads (like Sharknado). Alternatively, if you rely solely on old school gurus, you’ll discover the obvious mega-trends you could have seen coming yourself (like the rise of China)… Trend Hunter publishes a wealth of content from many different types of people. For example, Cowbag is a marketer in London that publishes the most bizarre trends on the site (vagina cupcakes, anyone?). GoingLikeSixty is a retired baby boomer that has an eye for concept cars and hyper-luxe yachts. ”
Walsh also shared some trends to watch for in 2014.
“Companies such as Cadbury and Kraft Foods as well as activist organizations have already used faux, tongue-in-cheek videos to target the millennial demographic. Increasingly, brands are looking to speak with young adults using Gen Y’s preferred dialect: communication that’s web-based, satirical and sarcasm-filled.”
“Memberships to food subscription services for those with busy lifestyles along with discerning culinary tastes. The popularity of these services, as well as the niche products they deliver, speaks to consumers who wish for convenience as well as an air of exclusivity, a combination that could provide a valuable opportunity for businesses in a variety of industries.”
“Instead of mundane billboards or bus stop ads, experiential campaigns give consumers a reason to engage with a brand’s message physically and mentally. Whether it be protection from the rain or added ease of travel, functional out-of-home ads, have a higher likelihood of unaided awareness.”
For profiles on each our of 30 Under Thirty finalists, one-on-one conversations and insights from the brightest young minds in the industry, visit the 30 Under Thirty microsite