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Sam Hill, the new guru of Marketing Trends

«We will see the industrialization of thinking»

Sam dislikes mega-trends. He prefers "smaller" trends that you can understand in practical terms and do something about as a business man or a professional. Trends or counter-trends - for each trend there's a counter trend, remember always this warning by Sam! - are windows of opportunity for your career or for your company. His most recent book 60 Trends in 60 Minutes (he lies obviously, you have to read for some hours or even some days the more than 200 pages) is a must. If you are interested in strategy or marketing you have to read it.

Jorge Nascimento Rodrigues, editor of Gurusonline.tv, and Catarina Nunes, marketing and advertising journalist of Expresso, a weekly portuguese newspaper, review 60 Trends in 60 minutes, the most recent book of Sam Hill, the founder of Helios Consulting in US

© Gurusonline.tv, 2003


What's the meaning of the title "60 Trends, in 60 Minutes"?

THE IDEA IS YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO QUICKLY TAKE A LOOK AT ALL THE IMPORTANT TRENDS AND SORT OUT WHICH ARE MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU. THAT'S DIFFERENT FROM MOST TREND BOOKS, WHICH SAY THESE ARE THE SEVEN OR TEN OR TWELVE BIG OR MEGA TRENDS AND THEY'RE IMPORTANT TO EVERYONE. I DON'T BELIEVE THAT. I THINK SOME ARE MORE THAN OTHERS, DEPENDING ON WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU'RE TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH.

Anyway, for you what are the 10 main trends?

AGAIN, I THINK IT DEPENDS ON THE PERSON. BUT I CAN TELL YOU MY TEN PERSONAL FAVORITES: INTERCONNECTEDNESS, ONE EXTRA LIFETIME PER PERSON PLEASE, ITSY-BITSY (NANOTECHNOLOGY), SWARM TO WARM (DOWN TO THE WARM SOUTH IN US), DOWN IN THE DATA MINE, NICHE PICKING, A POUND OF RISK TO GO, FAUX AUTHENTICITY, ESCALATING EXPECTATIONS, AND PARAPROFESSIONALISM. IS THAT TEN? BUT SOMEONE WHO IS SELLING SOFT DRINKS MIGHT WELL BE MORE INTERESTED IN PETER PANISM OR THE CONCRETE CONSUMER. I REALLY DO THINK IT DEPENDS ON YOUR AREA OF INTEREST.

Where and how do you get the inspiration for the trends?

FROM TWO PLACES. FIRST, ONE OF MY CLIENTS ASKS ME A QUESTION I CAN'T ANSWER, AND IN THE COURSE OF FINDING THE ANSWER I LEARN ABOUT NEW THINGS, AND SECONDLY, I READ VERY WIDELY AND VERY MUCH, AND IT INSPIRES ME. I'M ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO THINKS TOO MUCH.

MOST TRENDS THAT WE THINK ARE VERY NEW HAVE BEEN BUILDING FOR A LONG TIME, LIKE THE TREND TO WIRELESS COMMUNICATION. IN GENERAL A TREND BUILDS ABOUT TWENTY YEARS, THEN LASTS FOR AT LEAST THAT LONG, BUT THE FIRST TEN YEARS OF THE BUILD UP IS OFTEN UNDER THE SURFACE AND HARD TO SPOT.

What are the main characteristics to become a trend?

TWO CRITERIA. IT HAS TO BE IMPORTANT AND THE DATA HAVE TO SUPPORT IT. FOR EXAMPLE, I HAVE AN IDEA THAT THERE MAY BE A TREND TOWARDS PICTURES AND AWAY FROM READING, AND THAT READING ATROPHY MAY BE REPLACED BY HEIROGLYPHICS AND VIDEO STREAMING. I CALL THE TREND PICTOGRAPHY. SOUNDS CRAZY, I KNOW, BUT I HAVE A WHOLE FILE SUPPORTING IT AND I'VE WORKED ON IT WITH A COUPLE OF CLASSES AT NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY. BUT I DON'T HAVE QUITE ENOUGH TO CALL IT A TREND. SO I'M STILL GATHERING DATA.

Does a trend have a time limit? Why and how long?

LONGER THAN YOU THINK IS THE ANSWER. MOST TRENDS THAT WE THINK ARE VERY NEW HAVE BEEN BUILDING FOR A LONG TIME, LIKE THE TREND TO WIRELESS COMMUNICATION. IN GENERAL A TREND BUILDS ABOUT TWENTY YEARS, THEN LASTS FOR AT LEAST THAT LONG, BUT THE FIRST TEN YEARS OF THE BUILD UP IS OFTEN UNDER THE SURFACE AND HARD TO SPOT.

What are the trends that could be more related to the European reality? And Why?

I THINK MOST OF THE TRENDS IN THE BOOK APPLY TO EUROPE, HOWEVER, I THINK THE TIMING MAY VARY. FOR EXAMPLE, WHAT ME WORK, POLYTHEISM AND THE CONCRETE CONSUMER ALL HAPPENED IN EUROPE TWENTY YEARS AGO, AND AREN'T NEW. BUT ALL THE TECHNOLOGY TRENDS ARE THE SAME AS IN THE UNITED STATES. BY THE WAY, I THINK IN GENERAL EVERYONE SORT OF ASSUMES THAT ALL TRENDS START IN THE US, THAT'S NOT THE CASE OF COURSE. IT'S JUST THAT THE US PRODUCES SO MUCH OF THE WORLDWIDE MEDIA THAT THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THE US GET MORE ATTENTION THAN THINGS THAT HAPPEN ELSEWHERE.

As a trend maker, in 10 years from now how you see Europe? Where geographically speaking stops the European union project?

I THINK EUROPE TEN YEARS FROM NOW WILL BE SIMILAR TO EUROPE TODAY--TRYING TO GRAPPLE WITH THE TRADEOFFS BETWEEN NATIONAL AUTONOMY AND CROSS-BORDER COOPERATION, AND I THINK EVERYONE IN THE WORLD IS WATCHING TO SEE HOW YOU DO IT. THE QUESTION OF WHERE THE UNION STOPS GEOGRAPHICALLY IS A FASCINATING ONE, SINCE WITH EVERY ADDITIONAL COUNTRY, IT GETS A LITTLE HARDER TO MANAGE, AND THE COSTS OF UNION(BUREAUCRACY) BUILD.

On your book I'm not sure if you have mentioned the 9/11 event as
something that could generate trends. Why?

I ACTUALLY LOOKED PRETTY HARD TO SEE WHAT EFFECT SEPTEMBER 11 HAD ON AMERICANS, AND TO BE HONEST COULDN'T FIND MUCH. YES, IT MADE US A LITTLE MORE ISOLATIONIST, BUT WE'VE ALWAYS BEEN ISOLATIONIST. AND IT CAUSED A CRACKDOWN ON IMMIGRATION, BUT SO DID BOTH WORLD WARS, AND AFFECTS PROVED TEMPORARY. AND EVEN THE TREND TO SELF-PROTECTION HAS BEEN GOING ON A LONG TIME, AS MY TREND BARBARIANS AT THE GATED COMMUNITY DISCUSSES. SO WHILE I THINK SEPT 11 IS A PROFOUND EVENT AND AFFECTED ME AND EVERYONE I KNOW AT A DEEP EMOTIONAL LEVEL, I THINK SINGLE EVENTS RARELY CREATE TRENDS.

WE NEED TO BE VERY CAREFUL WITH HUMOR IN MARKETING, STILL TODAY. AND SECOND, WE NEED TO BE VERY CAREFUL WITH ETHNIC MESSAGING, SINCE THERE'S A LOT OF SENSITIVITY ON BOTH SIDES.

How and in which ways does 9/11 impacts the marketing?

THINK IN TWO WAYS. FIRST, OF ALL, WE NEED TO BE VERY CAREFUL WITH HUMOR IN MARKETING, STILL TODAY. AND SECOND, WE NEED TO BE VERY CAREFUL WITH ETHNIC MESSAGING, SINCE THERE'S A LOT OF SENSITIVITY ON BOTH SIDES.

Do you think globalisation is bringing to the world economic scene transnational clusters?

ABSOLUTELY. IN MY BOOK I TALK ABOUT INTERCONNECTEDNESS, WHICH I THINK IS A MORE USEFUL WAY TO THINK ABOUT IT THAN JUST AS GLOBALIZATION.

In 10 years how you see Asia Pacific?

THERE ARE AT LEAST FOUR ASIA-PACIFICS--MUSLIM-CENTRIC ASIA, CHINESE-CENTRIC ASIA, INDIAN ASIA AND JAPANESE-KOREAN ASIA. THERE COULD ALSO BE A FIFTH BUILT AROUND AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND AND THE ISLANDS. THE OUTLOOK FOR EACH IS DIFFERENT. I THINK THE MOST EXCITING IS INDIA

Can we talk of a trend of real emergence of China and India?

BACK TO INTERCONNECTEDNESS. BECAUSE OF UNDERPRICED LABOR, CHEAP
COMMUNICATION AND TRANSPORTATION, CHINA AND INDIA ARE NOW BECOMING THE WORLD'S FACTORIES, AND NOT JUST FOR PRODUCTS, BUT ALSO FOR SERVICES. MANY CALL CENTERS FOR US COMPANIES ARE NOW LOCATED IN INDIA, WHERE THE WORKERS ARE TRAINED TO SPEAK WITH AMERICAN ACCENTS AND READ AMERICAN NEWSPAPERS EVERY DAY SO THEY CAN CARRY ON A CONVERSATION WITH CUSTOMERS. AGAIN, I THINK INDIA MAY BE THE MOST EXCITING PLACE IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW.

Genomics, cloning and biotech in medical and pharmaceutical will generate a new economic era?

WELL, I THINK THE BIGGEST TWO EFFECTS IN OUR LIFETIME ARE THOSE THAT I CALLED BIONICISM AND ONE EXTRA LIFETIME, PLEASE. I THINK PEOPLE IN RICH COUNTRIES ARE GOING TO LIVE LONGER, ALMOST PERFECT LIVES, AS DISEASES BECOME MORE AND MORE TREATABLE AND WORN OUT BODY PARTS ARE SIMPLY REPLACED, LIKE A CAR. RIGHT NOW, REPLACEMENTS ARE MOSTLY MECHANICAL,
LIKE TITANIUM HIP JOINTS, BUT I HTINK WE'LL SEE LAB-GROWN BODY PARTS FROM CLONING EVENTUALLY. AS FOR BROAD-SCALE FULL HUMAN CLONING, I HOPE THAT'S OVER THE HORIZON, OVER MY HORIZON AT LEAST, SINCE TAKEN TO IT'S LOGICAL EXTREME, IT CREATES A PRETTY NIGHTMARISH WORLD.

What's next in big business: will we assist to de-mergers of big conglomerates of the so-called "convergence" of the 90's?

FASCINATING QUESTION. THE TRUTH IS THIS COMES IN WAVES, CORPORATIONS GET BIGGER, THEN THEY SHRINK BACK, THEN THEY GET BIGGER IN NEW WAYS, THEN THEY SHRINK BACK. REMEMBER THE BREAK-UP OF STANDARD OIL? WAIT, WE'RE TOO YOUNG, I MEANT DO YOU REMEMBER READING ABOUT STANDARD OIL? THE LONG TERM TREND I THINK IS BIGGER AND BIGGER. AND BY THE WAY, THE BASIC CONCEPT OF CONVERGENCE IS REAL IT'S JUST A MATTER OF WHEN. WE SHOULDN'T GIVE UP ON CONVERGENCE JUST BECAUSE OF THE BAD IMPLEMENTATIONS OF VIVENDI AND AOL TIME WARNER.

What will be the impact of the knowledge workers in the workplace?

THE SHORT TERM IMPACT WILL BE HIGHER WAGES AND MORE INTERESTING WORK, THE LONGER TERM IMPACT WILL BE THE INDUSTRIALIZATION OF THINKING, AND KNOWLEDGE WORKERS WILL ESSENTIALLY BE THE FACTORY WORKERS OF TOMORROW, WITH ALL THAT IMPLIES.

Has you ever been confront (or even processed) with a client who did follow your trends and failed in his strategy?

A COUPLE OF TIMES. FOR EXAMPLE, TWENTY YEARS AGO I THOUGHT WE WOULD BUY CELLULAR HANDSETS AND THE SERVICE WOULD COME FREE, BUT IT TURNED OUT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. HAVING SAID THAT, NEILS BOHR REPUTEDLY SAID, "PREDICTIONS ARE VERY DIFFICULT, ESPECIALLY ABOUT THE FUTURE." AND I'M SURE I WILL BE WRONG IN THE FUTURE. THE BEST I CAN DO IS TO DO SOUND ANALYSIS AND THOROUGH DISCUSSION AND HOPE THAT TAKES MY CLIENTS TO THE RIGHT PLACE.


SAM BY HIMSELF
A BRIEF PORTRAIT

I'm 49, and received my engineering degree from University of Georgia in 1981 and my MBA in marketing from University of Chicago in 1985. I live all the time in Winnetka, which is just north of Chicago, although my youngest graduates from high school this year and we will probably move to either Colorado or Utah next year. I travel around fifty times a year, sometimes more, and some years less. I usually combine pleasure and business. I tend to like the countries where I have travelled a lot--Australia, UK, Mexico and France, although there are a few countries I have been to I don't like. In terms of time, most of my work, say 70%, is consulting, 20% writing, and 10% speaking. In terms of income, 85% is consulting, 10% speaking, and 5% is writing. Retirement is a strange concept for me, but I think the truth is consultants and trend analysts do have a retirement date, and that's mid-fifties. After that, the travel and the effort it is just too wearing. But I think I will continue to write for another twenty years or so, I have a long list of books I want to finish, and I may even teach at some point--I've received several invitations over the years.

Sam can be contacted by email: sam_hill@heliosconsulting.com
His company website: www.heliosconsulting.com

 
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