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Q&A with Trendmaster Robyn Waters
What is a Trendmaster?

First of all, let me explain the difference between a Trendmaster and a Trendspotter or Coolhunter. Trendspotters and Coolhunters are always on the lookout for what’s next. They tend to furiously scavenge for “the next big thing.” A Trendmaster, on the other hand, is aware of all of the new trend options in the marketplace, but they realize how important it is to translate the trends into something that resonates strongly with their customers’ values. Trendmasters care more about what’s IMPORTANT than just what’s NEXT.

What do you mean when you say you practice a philosophy of “Trend from the inside out?”
Most trend gurus look outside, to the marketplace in general, and use statistics and analysis to try and tell you what’s next. A Trendmaster looks inside, into the hearts and minds of the customer, to determine what’s important. They care more about what’s going on in their customers’ lives, and less about what the competition is up to.

Enjoy Robyn’s insight on your next cup of Starbuck’s brew.

Do you have a trend process that you can share with our readers?
I don’t believe there’s a formula or process for trend tracking. I do, however, have some strong opinions about the philosophy behind tracking and translating trends successfully into sales and profit.

Trends are merely signposts and indicators pointing to what’s going on in the hearts and minds of your customers. A Trendmaster knows how to translate the trends into meaningful products and strategies that connect to their customers’ hearts, lives, and desires. My book, The Trendmaster’s Guide, is an A to Z handbook of philosophies that I developed after 30 years in the retail business. It’s filled with tips, hints, and stories that will help anyone become a better Trendmaster.

You talk a lot about “the soft stuff.” How do you measure those things?
You don’t. The”soft stuff,” in my opinion, is the important stuff, and there’s no way you can measure heart, soul, desire, or passion. I’ve been on a crusade to bring a little bit more of the right side of the brain to the trend and product development equation – the left brainers have been in charge too long.

I like to quote W.C. Fields: “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is important, but what they hide is vital.” I urge my clients to think about that whenever they are plowing through piles of data and analyzing and crunching numbers, they should stop and take a minute to ask themselves – what are the numbers hiding?

Any tips on what the next big trend might be?
I believe there isn’t just one “Next Big Thing.” In fact, for every “Next Big Thing” out there, I can point to a countertrend at the opposite of the spectrum happening at the same time that’s just as valid.

For instance, are cars getting bigger and more in your face (the Hummer) or smaller and cuter (the Mini)? Both, right? Is food getting more indulgent, or healthier? Both. Where are people finding spiritual sustenance? By meditating and going inward, or attending a Mega Church with 15,000 other spiritually minded people? Again, both.

My next book The Hummer and the Mini: Navigating the Contradiction of the New Trend Landscape (due out October 5th from Portfolio) is about trend/ countertrend. It has to do with the idea that oftentimes, the answers are not simple or concrete. Instead, unique answers and opportunities can be found in the middle ground, the grey area. I think we have to be careful about trying to make our world too “black and white.” That’s just not how things work anymore.

Robyn is a national speaker, author, and hired gun visionary for corporate America. She inspires audiences here and abroad with her unique message that simplifies and demystifies the art of trend tracking. Fast Company magazine recently featured her as one of the top twenty ‘Creative Maverick’s’ in their Masters of Design June 2004 issue. As Target’s former Vice President of Trend, Design, and Product Development, she helped a small regional discount chain become a national fashion destination known better as “Tarzhay.” She is the author of The Trendmaster’s Guide: Get a Jump on What Your Customer Wants Next.