"Fads" redirects here. For other uses, see Fad (disambiguation) and Fads (disambiguation).
A fad, trend or craze is any form of collective behavior that develops within a culture, a generation or social group in which a group of people enthusiastically follows an impulse for a finite period.
Fads are objects or behaviors that achieve short-lived popularity but fade away. Fads are often seen as sudden, quick spreading, and short-lived. Fads include diets, clothing, hairstyles, toys, and more. Some popular fads throughout history are toys such as yo-yos, hula hoops and dances such as the Macarena and the twist.
Similar to habits or customs but less durable, fads often result from an activity or behavior being perceived as emotionally popular or exciting within a peer group or being deemed "cool" as often promoted by social networks A fad is said to "catch on" when the number of people adopting it begins to increase to the point of being noteworthy. Fads often fade quickly when the perception of novelty is gone.
The specific nature of the behavior associated with a fad can be of any type including unusual language usage, distinctive clothing, fad diets or frauds such as pyramid schemes. Apart from general novelty, mass marketing, emotional blackmail, peer pressure, or the desire to "be hip" may drive fads.Popular celebrities can also drive fads, for example the highly popularizing effect of Oprah's Book Club.
Though some consider the term trend equivalent to fad, a fad is generally considered a quick and short behavior whereas a trend is one that evolves into a long term or even permanent change.
In economics, the term is used in a similar way. Fads are mean-reverting deviations from intrinsic value caused by social or psychological forces similar to those that cause fashions in political philosophies or consumerisation.
Difference between fads and trends
Sometimes people use the words “fad” and “trend” interchangeably. Fads can be distinguished from trends in three ways: their reason for rise, their incubation period and life span, and their scope. Trends have explainable rises, and are driven by functional needs. They reflect deep-rooted human desires and needs, while fads are generally driven by the emotional need to purchase. This emotional need can come from the hype that surrounds the product. Trends rise slowly over time, but fads’ popularity spike quickly and they end up dying out just as quickly. Fads might last for just weeks or months. Scope is also a factor. A trend encompasses several brands and products which can reach a large variety of people. A fad typically encompasses just one brand, or product, with limited appeal and a narrow scope.
An example of a fad would be Beanie Babies. Beanie Babies do not meet many functional needs of humans; their hype is what helped to bring in more customers, not necessarily their functionality. Fads tend to have a huge surge in popularity, and then disappear. Beanie Babies became very popular for a few years in the 1990s, but then their popularity quickly dropped, and has steadily been dropping since their peak in the 1990s. Beanie Babies were made by one company and had a narrow scope. Some more examples of fads include pole sitting, dancing the Shake, and the Tamagotchi.
An example of a trend would be handbags. Trends are driven by functional needs, and handbags were created for functionality. Trends tend to rise in popularity more slowly. The demand for handbags has steadily increased over the years. As for their scope, different types of people use handbags for different reasons: to carry things such as money, personal items, clothes, children’s things, and more. There are also many different brands and types of handbags available. Trends possess some dexterity, which allows them to adapt through the years. Some more examples of trends include healthy living, eco-friendly cars and ebooks.
Formation of fads and how they spread
Many contemporary fads share similar patterns of social organization. Several different models serve to examine fads and how they spread.
One way of looking at the spread of fads is through the top-down model, which argues that fashion is created for the elite, and from the elite, fashion spreads to lower classes. Early adopters might not necessarily be those of a high status, but they have sufficient resources that allow them to experiment with new innovations. When looking at the top-down model, sociologists like to highlight the role of selection. The elite might be the ones that introduce certain fads, but other people must choose to adopt those fads.
Others may argue that not all fads begin with their adopters. Social life already provides people with ideas that can help create a basis for new and innovative fads. Companies can look at what people are already interested in and create something from that information. The ideas behind fads are not always original; they might stem from what is already popular at the time. Recreation and style faddists may try out variations of a basic pattern or idea already in existence.
Another way of looking at the spread of fads is through a symbolic interaction view. People learn their behaviors from the people around them. When it comes to collective behavior, the emergence of these shared rules, meanings, and emotions are more dependent on the cues of the situation, rather than physiological arousal. This connection to symbolic interactionism, a theory that explains people’s actions as being directed by shared meanings and assumptions, explains that fads are spread because people attach meaning and emotion to objects, and not because the object has practical use, for instance. People might adopt a fad because of the meanings and assumptions they share with the other people who have adopted that fad. People may join other adopters of the fad because they enjoy being a part of a group and what that symbolizes. Some people may join because they want to feel like an insider. When multiple people adopt the same fad, they may feel like they have made the right choice because other people have made that same choice.
Termination of fads
Primarily, fads end because all innovative possibilities have been exhausted. Fads begin to fade when people no longer see them as new and unique. As more people follow the fad, some might start to see it as “overcrowded,” and it no longer holds the same appeal. Many times, those who first adopt the fad also abandon it first. They begin to recognize that their preoccupation with the fad leads them to neglect some of their routine activities, and they realize the negative aspects of their behaviour. Once the faddists are no longer producing new variations of the fad, people begin to realize their neglect of other activities, and the dangers of the fad. Not everyone completely abandons the fad, however, and parts may remain.
A study examined why certain fads die out quicker than others. A marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, Jonah Berger and his colleague, Gael Le Mens, studied baby names in the United States and France to help explore the termination of fads. According to their results, the faster the names became popular, the faster they lost their popularity. They also found that the least successful names overall were those that caught on most quickly. Fads, like baby names, often lose their appeal just as quickly as they gained it.
Fads can fit under the broad umbrella of collective behavior, which are behaviors engaged in by a large but loosely connected group of people. Other than fads, collective behavior includes the activities of people in crowds, panics, fads, fashions, crazes, and more. Robert E. Park, the man who created the term collective behavior, defined it as “the behavior of individuals under the influence of an impulse that is common and collective, an impulse, in other words, that is the result of social interaction.” Fads are seen as impulsive, driven by emotions; however, they can bring together groups of people who may not have much in common other than their investment in the fad.
Fads can also fit under the broad umbrella of “collective obsessions.” Collective obsessions have three main features in common. The first, and most obvious sign, is an increase in frequency and intensity of a specific belief or behavior. A fad's popularity increases in frequency and intensity pretty quickly, which is one characteristic that distinguishes it from a trend. The second is that the behavior is seen as ridiculous, irrational, or evil to the people who are not a part of the obsession. Some people might see those who follow certain fads as unreasonable and irrational. To these people, the fad is ridiculous, and people's obsession of it is just as ridiculous. The third is, after it has reached a peak, it drops off abruptly and then it is followed by a counter obsession. A counter obsession means that once the fad is over, if one engages in the fad they will be ridiculed. A fad's popularity often decreases at a rapid rate once its novelty wears off. Some people might start to criticize the fad after, pointing out that it is no longer popular, so it must not have been "worth the hype."
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Back to Current Condition articles
Mixing up fads and trends often leaves executives frustrated, confused, and – worst of all – fearing innovation. Here’s how to spot the difference.
Understanding the difference between fads and trends is critical for all organizations. However, many leaders seem to be unaware of their important differences. Today’s Fast Facts video aims to differentiate these critical concepts, and also provides a quick tip for how to spot the difference.
Both fads and trends can play an important role in an organizations’ success- but they must be treated differently. If they are not, leaders risk burning out adapting to every fad, and critical trends required for an organizations survival may be missed. Let’s start by looking into fads and trends individually.
Fads come fast and fade away
A fad is any form of behavior that is intensely followed by a population for a short period of time. The behavior will rise relatively quickly and fall relatively quickly once the perception of novelty is gone.
There are some great fads out there! Collecting beanie babies was a fad, so were pet rocks, sending spam, #followfriday, Ouiji boards, troll dolls, water beds…the list goes on. We can thank fads for basically everything that we wore in the 80s (or 90s, or 2000s…) And there are a lot of fads going on right now that may bring us a laugh twenty years from now.
Fads certainly have value and they can profoundly change organizations- consider the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge! Utilizing fads in marketing and programs can increase top-of-mind awareness, demonstrate the timeliness of your organization, and serve as a gateway for new audiences.
This is all great and important stuff but- remember – fads don’t stick around.
Trends solve problems and get stronger over time
A trend, on the other hand, gets stronger over time and does stick around. Trends have identifiable and explainable rises that are driven by audience needs. They help solve a problem for people. In the words of the forever-awesome Seth Godin, “A trend gains power over time, because it’s not merely part of a moment, it’s a tool, a connector that will become more valuable as other people commit to engaging in it.”
The increasing use of social networks is a trend (that connects us to one another). So is quitting smoking (which lengthens our lives), evidence-based medicine (that removes the guesswork in medical-related situations), and the use of mobile devices (that allow us to look up information in real time). These are things that have grown – and continue to grow – in market penetration. They solve problems. They represent new ways of life.
Organizations ignore trends at their own risk. Ignoring trends means that they will either be forced to adapt later and will necessarily be behind, or the organization will fade away.
Confusing fads and trends causes big problems
Trends inform your organization’s successful evolution. When organizations write off things like web-based engagement or data-informed management (for instance) as fads instead of trends, evolution stops. Things get held back.
However, if we approach passing fads as trends, we cry wolf on organizational change. We burn out believing that every week, we need to change our organizations structure based on whats hot right now. Treating fads like trends can lead organizations to become overwhelmed, give up on following along, and, again, stop evolution.
A trick for telling the difference between fads and trends
So how can your organization figure out if something is a fad or a trend? A helpful trick may be to consider that trends inevitably affect some form of the organization’s engagement strategy, but fads usually influence tactics. This isnt a fool-proof trick, but it can help your organization think strategically about the differences between both fads and trends.
For instance, social media use is a trend and that affects your engagement strategy, but selfies affect how you can carry out that strategy. Screaming YOLO and going gluten-free are things that folks may be doing these days – and, in order to remain relevant, your organization may benefit by embracing them for now. But these fads affect your organization’s tactics (and messages and programs), not its strategy. Data-informed management affects your strategy. Embracing transparency affects your strategy. The trend toward personalized interactions and programs thanks to our increasingly individually-tailored world is a trend and also deeply affects our strategies.
If there is growing, multi-year data demonstrating that something affects the market, then you know it’s a trend. But sometimes we need to know when and how far we should move and embrace change before theres multi-year data telling us that something is sticking around.
Both fads and trends have real value for cultural organizations, but understanding the difference may be necessary for survival. Fads can inform your tactics and help you to maintain the perception of being “current,” but ignoring trends can lead to irrelevance and create a divide between organizations and their audiences.