Forecasting Trends: Who Defines the 'New Black'? What is the origin of a trend? Who determines the "must-have" color scheme for each season? Trend forecasters and consumer behavior analysts discuss how fads are born and perpetuated within a culture.
NPR logo

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/17814979/17814968" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Forecasting Trends: Who Defines the 'New Black'?

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/17814979/17814968" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

And let's begin by stipulating that every listener to TALK OF THE NATION is uniquely individual, a person whose choices are completely unaffected by marketing. That being said, for 2008, bottled water is out, spicy food is in. There's a streamline trend in fashion, so pencil skirts are hot, pleated minis, so last year. Even if you don't subscribe to Vogue, you cannot avoid the latest trends. But where do they come from? Who decides what's the new black in fashion, food or music and how do companies sell us those images?

Later in the program, we'll talk about the next big thing in ideas for 2008 and what will thinkers contemplate in the New Year and how will they do it.

But first, the making of a trend. How do you know when to buy uggs(ph)? How do you know that the new black is black? Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. E-mail us, talk@npr.org. And you can comment on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation.

We begin with Douglas Rushkoff. He's a trend watcher and author of "Get Back in the Box: Innovation from the Inside Out." He's in our New York bureau. Happy New Year.

Mr. DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF (Author, "Get Back in the Box: Innovation from the Inside Out"): Hi. Good to be with you.

CONAN: And how our new trends identified or developed?

Mr. RUSHKOFF: Well, I guess it depends what you mean by a trend. I mean as far as I'm concerned, a real trend would be like people are using e-mail or people care about the environment. You know, those are trends. In a way, what we're talking about more are fads, you know, like…

CONAN: Okay.

Mr. RUSHKOFF: …wearing crocs or something like that. And oh, there's a few ways that these things happen. I mean sometimes, they're identified almost randomly and then fed back to the culture through advertisements and then they actually become more popular. So…

CONAN: Well, then let's go through that again. Identified almost randomly, how does that happen?

Mr. RUSHKOFF: Like a - let's say you've got an area of the city that's considered cool. You know, you've got poor artists living there. And they buy their clothes at thrift stores because they can't even afford regular clothes. Well, the clothes that will be most worn on the street in the area are going to be whatever was trendy, probably 10 or 12 years ago and is now ending up in the thrift stores.

So then one of the trend watching agencies will send some college kids out with Polaroid cameras to find out what's the new trend, what's happening on the street. And then these kids will go around and take pictures of the artsy people in the cool neighborhood wearing stuff from the thrift store from 10 years ago and bring it back.

Then those photos will get scanned onto a Web site and then the makers over it, you know, Levis and H&M and the Gap, the people that are, you know, trying to come up with what fashion is going to appeal to kids in the future, will base their fashions on those pictures that they've seen. And then all of a sudden, what some person bought at a thrift store ends up being in an ad in Rolling Stone and looked at by impressionable kids and told basically, that's what you're supposed to wear or that's what will end up on the kids, you know, on the "Real World" on MTV or on MTV's "Spring Break."

CONAN: So because of the jeans that somebody wore 20 years ago, 15 years ago are now are torn, so many buys them and were advertised now, torn jeans.

Mr. RUSHKOFF: Right. I mean it can happen that way, where something sort of random is just fed back into the culture. Sometimes, there's something - a genuine trend or a movement like say, the grunge movement in Seattle in mid-'90s. You know, that was actually a movement that was about resisting trends. So kids wore the most, you know, beat up and non-commercial, non-trendy clothes they could find until, of course, you know, clothing manufacturers decide well, that's what we're going to make our clothes look like.

And, you know, once everything hit the thrift stores has already been bought up that looks like that, now you've got to go to the mall and buy it from, you know, from a manufacturer.

CONAN: And there are some areas, I guess, like that, where it seems what people are looking for, the manufacturers are looking for some degree of authenticity. This is sort of real. On the other hand, you look at, well, couture and they'll have none of that. Their trends don't come from the street, they come from the minds of highly paid designers.

Mr. RUSHKOFF: Well, it depends. You know, sometimes some of those highly paid designers are paid because they are able to interpret, you know, the bottom up fashion from the street. That's precisely their skill. I mean I think there will always be interest in it and a market in designers who actually design. I mean very few, you know, sportswear companies or even music companies, record companies, and, you know, most of our cultural production now does not result from an expert in that form coming up with something, but rather, a group of marketers trying to figure out what can we sell.

And, you know, it's kind of a sad state for culture that there are so little. And if there is something, you know, if there is a new cultural idea, a new kind of music, a new kind of design, usually, marketers or a major company will jump on that so fast that it doesn't really have time to develop into what it could've been had it had time to really germinate and develop.

CONAN: So by grabbing it and then mass marketing it, you sort of frozen it in time and it will grow from there.

Mr. RUSHKOFF: Right.

CONAN: Uh-huh. And is it possible that these sleek marketing machines can sell us almost anything?

Mr. RUSHKOFF: Well, yes and no. I mean I think it works about half the time, you know, which probably means that they're not really any better at selling anything than anybody else. But, you know, sometimes, I would argue, sometimes things do catch on that may not have caught on were they, you know, had they not capitalized on something else. And most of the time, the people who are marketing trends are marketing trends by piggybacking them on another trend.

So, you know, I'm trying to get people to listen to a new kind of music or use a new product or wear a new make-up. I'm going to look and say, well, what are kids doing today? You know, well, today they're on Facebook. Yesterday, they were on, you know, on MySpace. The day before, they were on, you know, Namester or, you know, who knows what it was. You try to find the thing that is the trend and then hop on that, you know, and become associated with - be the first person to market in whatever that new space is.

You know, and sometimes you can. I mean I think the net effect is kind of that the cumulative effect of all these marketing is more interesting to me than any particular one. I mean what does it mean if the parties you go to in college are frequented not just by friends but by friends who are being paid by a sneaker company to wear a certain shoe, or friends who are being paid by…

CONAN: Which would be viral marketing.

Mr. RUSHKOFF: Right. What they're calling viral marketing is not really viral so much. It's as just really diffusion marketing, getting cool kids to do things in the hopes that it's going to diffuse down to other kids. I mean what's the net effect of that on culture? What does it mean to be, you know, to be watching television where really every decision of every character, whether they're in a fiction show or in a so-called reality show, is really based on who is paid for that decision to be made.

You know, what does it mean when our consumer choices themselves are the things we think of as trends rather than our personal choices. When what we have in common is people really are these giant national brands that we're going to subscribe to rather than whatever might be going on, you know, in our town or between us.

CONAN: Our guest is Douglas Rushkoff. He's the author of "Get Back in the Box: Innovation from the Inside Out."

If you'd like to join the conversation, our number is 800-989-8255. E-mail us, talk@npr.org. And let us know where do you find trends - are you marketed, too, and does it work? How do you know when to buy uggs? When is it the right time to decide that black is the new black?

And it seems to me, Douglas Rushkoff, you're still saying the decisions are being made in big companies.

Mr. RUSHKOFF: Yeah. I mean I think there is a feedback loop going on where big companies are trying to mirror what they think, for the most part, young trendsetting people want. And young trendsetting people are sort of desperately perusing media for reflections of themselves. They want to see themselves in there. They want to get on TV. Now, you want to get on the real world. There's this sort of an aspirational loop that goes on where they pay, you know, young people a lot of money to go figure out what's next. And young people are spending a lot of time and energy trying to figure out what's next. So in some sense, they're chasing the same thing. What I'm kind of calling for in my own books and my own work is some human intervention in this. In other words, what about someone making a more conscious choice about what kind of music do we actually want to make, you know? And those people are kind of few and far between right now.

CONAN: Now, let's get a caller on the line. This is Kevin. Kevin calling us from Knoxville in Tennessee.

KEVIN (Caller): Hi there.

CONAN: Hi there.

KEVIN: I want to note that some ideas seem to generate almost spontaneously. They're mean like ideas. And I think they come about because certain elements of the culture have led (unintelligible) people independently to come up with the same thoughts, the same concept.

CONAN: Give us a for instance, Kevin.

KEVIN: Yes, I do. Years ago, back before - I'm a computer programmer. And back before Windows, about four or five people came up with the idea of creating programs that would allow you to draw a data entry screen on a computer. And I was of those people and unfortunately, I was about six or seven months late. But nevertheless, it was just suddenly that these three or four programs burst on the scene all at the same time, almost simultaneously, and from people who weren't working together. It's just these things had suddenly coalesced to a point where it became an almost obvious idea.

CONAN: I wonder. Is there - are there examples of that, Douglas Rushkoff, in the…

Mr. RUSHKOFF: Oh, yeah. I mean, in those - those are what you would call true trends. In other words, those are that kind of simultaneous realization. Very often, it requires a trigger point. I mean, I wrote a book back when early '90s - called "Media Virus," which kind of created this whole viral marketing thing, which I regret. What I was really looking at was how ideas really do almost spontaneously emerge and how they become contagious when the conditions are right. And all it really takes then is sort of one galvanizing event, one trigger point. And then a whole bunch of people realize that they've been thinking the same way.

I mean, at the time, the virus I was writing a lot about was the Rodney King tape. You know, the Rodney King tape where a black guy is getting beaten by white cops in Los Angeles. It wasn't even that that image was so terribly unique or provocative but that there was a growing sense that the plight of young urban blacks was similar in a lot of different places. I mean, it ended up leading to rioting and, you know, 12 cities across America. It was a trigger point.

KEVIN: Well, it also - excuse me.

CONAN: Go ahead.

Mr. RUSHKOFF: Go. Go ahead.

KEVIN: I was going to say it also links to the idea that video cameras had suddenly appeared. And so it was possible to do that.

Mr. RUSHKOFF: Right. So that's the reason why the story spread. I mean, this is the (unintelligible) I said the other thing wasn't really viral media. The reason why this was truly viral media was the thing that let that story spread what that a camcorder had been used. There was great one-page - a full-page ad for, I think, it was Sony camcorders after that it happened that showed a black hand holding a camcorder saying the power is in your hand. The reason that story spread was because there was a camcorder that caught a remarkable scene, not just because the guy was getting beaten.

CONAN: Kevin, thanks very much for the call. And next time you get a great idea, jump on it.

KEVIN: I will.

CONAN: We're talking about what's hot but how do you know what is hot. We'll talk with Irma Zandl and Tina Wells. They're both experts on the telling the temperature of a trend. And we'll take more of your calls at 800-989-8255. E-mail is talk@npr.org.

Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We're talking about trends this hour, and where they come from. Some food trends to watch out for in 2008. Carbs are the new uggs(ph). French fries are back and crispier than ever. So is caffeine. You can get in your donuts, your bagels and your potato chips. Our guest is Douglas Rushkoff. He's a trend watcher and author of "Get Back in the Box: Innovation from the Inside Out."

Of course, we want to hear from TOTN trend watchers. Join the conversation. 800-989-8255. E-mail, talk@npr.org. Trends are especially important in the world of marketing. But when Fortune 500 CEOs need an image facelift, they don't pick up the latest copy of Elle, they hire someone.

Irma Zandl is principal of the Zandl Group, a research firm that specializes in trend forecasting. And she joins us today from her office in Manhattan.

Nice to have you on the program.

Ms. IRMA ZANDL (Founder, Zandl Group): Thank you.

CONAN: And how do you forecast trends?

Ms. ZANDL: What we - you know, it's not just one thing or where we go out in a street, we look for what's cool. I mean, basically, we have a large network of really forward-looking tastemakers who we've worked with for, you know, a long period of time. So we rely on some of the things that they tell us. We also have a sort of a group of people who were like experts in different areas who we consult with. And then most of our work that we do with our clients - we have a very high level client involvement. So when they are, you know, sitting across from, you know, tastemakers or experts, they are able to really sort of see things that maybe are missing in their own businesses or, you know, trends maybe that they've been aware of but they're not aware of how these trends may be evolving. So it's, you know, it's not something that you dip your toe in and just once. It's something that's really an ongoing…

CONAN: Is tastemaker an official job title, I mean, on their IRS forms? They've, you know, occupation: taste maker?

Ms. ZANDL: No. I mean, that's a term that we use for certain people who, you know, we just feel whether it's, you know, in food or in like night life or, you know, fashion or hospitality or whatever. I mean, people who put up certain hotels or whatever. And just people who've consistently sort of been ahead of, you know, where the rest of us are. So I just think of those are great people to tap into.

CONAN: In your experience, where are most trends originating these days? Is it, as Douglas Rushkoff was telling us, in some cases that they're found on the street and then promptly promoted?

Ms. ZANDL: I mean, some things happen that way. I think one of the - I mean, I've been doing this for over 20 years now. And, I think, one of the things that has really changed over time is that trends used to just come sort of I mean, more or less sort of like a pyramid. You'd have like the top of the pyramid. Whereas, I think, now, I think trends are much more - it's like more like a Petri dish, where, you know, because everyone has access to information now. I mean, you can go online. Everyone's going on Wikipedia. Everyone is finding out really eclectic bits of information about everything. So I don't think it's straightforward anymore. And certain things can come from the bottom up. And then other things really still come, you know, top-down.

CONAN: And does it vary in terms of - are the more extensive things necessarily the top-down things?

Ms. ZANDL: Not always. But I mean, obviously, you know, certain things you do have to have an amount of money in able to be, you know, in order to be able to participate to those things. But…

CONAN: Well, obviously, yachts, but you know, and high fashion. In terms of food, though. I mean, would you represent, for example, a snack food company?

Ms. ZANDL: I mean, we have worked with snack food companies.

CONAN: And how was it that, you know, is the trend to have garlic licorice this year as oppose to just plain old Doritos?

Ms. ZANDL: Well, I think, actually, it's sort of interesting with food. And people's taste in food take much longer to change than, for example, you know, what they're going to wear. But we are finding that more - sort of mainstream food companies are looking for more faddish things because I think they tend to, sort of, you know, juice up, you know, their line-up and maybe make it like a little more exciting than in the past. And so - and while, for example, we know diet has always been sort of a long-standing trend. I mean, it's always been, for a long time, sort of a like an obesity problem. But what I think about the sort of the fads in the category are also different diets that come along. So, you know, one year, it's cobs and then one year, it's this. And year, it's the next. So those are really sort of the trends that - I mean, the trend you see of obesity and people wanting to be, you know, fit and healthy. And then the fads within that are the different approaches people have to losing weight.

CONAN: And let's get some more callers in on the conversation. And we'll go to Bob in Boulder, Colorado.

BOB (Caller): Yeah. Hi, Neal.

CONAN: Hi.

BOB: Thanks for taking the call.

CONAN: Thanks.

BOB: My observation is that - and this is mostly about fashion and music trends and that kind of thing in the pop culture. And it seems to be based on - our society has this obsessive pursuit for coolness or hipness. And often, it's…

CONAN: And for youth. I think you could throw that in there.

BOB: The youth, very much so. And it's often based - being cool is based on something superficial or external that we find rather than something that we accomplish or do like our clothes or what music we're into, what latest pop star we've discovered that no one else discovered. And the thing that I'd be interested in hearing a comment on is that the print and electronic media seems to both feed off of this looking for what it is they're - that we're discovered and then reporting on it. And then that somehow it acts as an accelerant and sees it kind of like whatever is in the media - because it's in the media - is important. It's got the cycle going.

CONAN: Douglas Rushkoff, let me ask you about that sort of self-reinforcing loop that I think Bob was talking about.

Mr. RUSHKOFF: Yeah. I mean, I definitely, I would agree. I mean, the fact is, you know, we've been trained as a culture to consume to feel cool, as opposed to produce to feel cool. You know, that's really what, you know, what America has been about. You know, since the Second World War - is to create a culture of consumers so that, you know, we don't feel - you can't just be, you know, without buying CKB. You know, you have to have something in order to be - in order to feel cool.

That is superficial. The interesting about the Internet to me, is that, you know, as of our media consumption and our consumptive behavior ends up either being or maybe just looking like, you know, production. And also, you know, Time magazine, we'll put a little mirror on the cover and say, you know, we've been successful. We're the person of the year now. And you know, you've had your revolution but you know, what are we really doing? Well, now, we're paying the same corporation to, you know, go online and have server space in order to create media instead of just, you know, download or watch media. So in that sense, I mean, we're really always consuming in order to establish an identity in order to have some way of really interfacing with other people in a fashion that seems cool or it with or…

CONAN: Let me ask Irma Zandl about this. If there's, for example, an advertisement with the picture of a person, the agency, and the company all decide it's very cool wearing a watch is the idea that you can acquire a certainly degree of cool by buying that same watch.

Ms. ZANDL: Well, I mean, yes. That goes without saying. Because, I mean, you're more like - I mean, I think most of us are more likely to maybe buy some thing or somebody who looks, you know, cool or nice or whatever. But I want to make sort of a distinction between like cool and a trend. I mean, there are certain trends that are cool. But there is a lot of trends that have nothing to do with cool, per se. Because, I mean, obviously it's a trend that we have an aging population and everything that that entails. But that's not necessarily, you know, in that sort of cool vernacular. So I mean, I think there's a distinction. But normally, the media, when they talk about, trends, it sort of automatically turns into - well, of course, this is like whatever the latest pop culture trivia thing is. And…

Mr. RUSHKOFF: Right.

Ms. ZANDL: …there is a difference.

BOB: Yes.

Mr. RUSHKOFF: And that's important. That's important - it's an important distinction. It's what I was trying to draw at the beginning. And then how corporations relate to that distinction is important too. So if a responsible trend watcher says, look, people are really concerned about the environment now. Now, it's up to the corporation to decide, well, do I want it now appeal to that sensibility to that trend by making things that feel green or that act green or that make you feel like you're a part of green? Or do I want to help people actually be green. And, you know, that's really up to the corporation that a trend person advises more than the trend watcher himself.

CONAN: Okay.

Ms. ZANDL: You get to (unintelligible) in that - I mean, I think for every -almost every company that's out there. There is going to be and in every category, there's going to be - they're going to tap into trends maybe it's the same trend in a different way, based on, you know, whether it's a very mainstream company versus somebody who is like a more, you know, it's more niche. Or whether or not, you know, it's maybe you'd like more high-priced that tends to often be more maybe forward than, I mean, you'll see certain things at Whole Foods before you go in to see them, necessarily.

CONAN: At the A&P, you know?

Ms. ZANDL: Exactly.

CONAN: Yeah. Bob, thanks very much for the call.

BOB: And thanks for taking it, Neal.

CONAN: And here's an e-mail from Kim(ph) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I just want to know, dear God, when will Ugg boots finally be out?

Ms. ZANDL: Oh, my God, they are so back in. It's so horrific to me. There's a new Ugg store in SoHo and I was walking down the street and there's a line about 50 people. I'm like, goodness, what is this line for? And it's so for Ugg boots.

CONAN: Is the Yeti look, adds Kim, really that hot? And I guess for some people, it is.

Ms. ZANDL: Yeah, I think so.

CONAN: Okay. Irma Zandl, thanks so much for your time today.

Ms. ZANDL: You're more than welcome.

CONAN: Irma Zandl, principal of the Zandl Group, an expert on consumer behavior and trend forecasting, with us from her office in New York. And let's see if we can get another caller on the line.

And this is Sunny(ph). Sonny with us from Benton Harbor in Michigan.

SUNNY (Caller): Hi. Well, I'm 18 and I perceive fashion with - (unintelligible) that. There is nothing new under the sun. Fashion often recycles and trends often occur such as - like the high-waisted jeans, the leggings, tunics and I think that marketing is extremely successful in influencing the consumers' (unintelligible) tendencies of my generation's demographic. Like for example, all of my friends own Ugg boots, there Ugg knock-off boots and I agree with the previous e-mailer, and I think, also that cracks me (unintelligible) as well. Personally, I try to shy away from them. I'm a huge aficionado of J.Crew classic styles. And I think the telling factor is that my mom often comes to me that she wore the same garments that I want to buy in the store in the '70s. Also lastly, I disagree that one has to be financially well-off in order to be considered trendy.

CONAN: Oh no, on some things. I think we are talking about, you know, high-scale watches and that sort of thing. I don't think that she was talking about things in general.

But let me ask you, Douglas Rushkoff, the point that just to dispute you, just to (unintelligible) a little bit, Sunny, not all trends come back. I think the narrow jacket is safely placed away in history. But Douglas Rushkoff, she's right, a lot of these things do tend to recycle.

Mr. RUSHKOFF: Well, because of there are so many things. I mean, the object of the corporations who are attempting to lead trends is not to somehow make people look sexier or to fulfill people's need for appropriate fashion but rather to keep people buying clothes, you know? The idea with these even food companies, you know?

The reason they want to come out with more new trendy fad food items is because they have shareholders that are looking at the metric of how many new products do they get on the shelf, how many successful launches were there this year? It's not about feeding people or sustaining their company. It's about meeting certain target metrics. So if share prices are going to go up based on how many new product launches there were, then they've got to launch a new product whether people need a new food product or not. So that's going to mean finding in a new marshmallow, you know, jelly.

CONAN: Sunny, thanks very much for the call.

We're talking about trends today on TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's hear from another trend forecaster.

Tina Wells is CEO and founder of Buzz Marketing Group. She joins us today from her home in New Jersey. Happy New Year. Nice to have you on the program today.

Ms. TINA WELLS (Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Buzz Marketing Group): Happy New Year to you. Thank you for having me.

CONAN: And I'm - I guess we're continuing to ask the question where do trends come from? How do your research them?

Ms. WELLS: Well, I am lucky enough to have a network of 9,000 youth all over the world. It's called our buzz spotters that helped me track trends so, you know, my network is based in 20 countries.

CONAN: And if 75 percent of them suddenly realized that everybody is wearing red plastic handbags, then that's certainly a trend?

Ms. WELLS: Well, it's a start of one, you know. I think that a lot of what I do is sort of studying - you know, micro and macro trends. I'm looking at, you know - for years, we've seen the trend of iPods but I think the bigger trend is something I would call massclusivity, which is noticing that now, mass products are made, taps and sort of exclusive value so it's that idea that everyone can have the same thing yet it's just for me.

CONAN: And I understand you also work with focus groups that can include girls as young as seven years old.

Ms. WELLS: Yes, we do.

CONAN: How come?

Ms. WELLS: We work with a lot of toy companies and, you know, younger tweens(ph) are really interesting when it comes to, you know, whether it's developing new TV shows for them or developing even new recording artists that target them. It's, you know, important to those who get their opinion, I think, and their parents' opinions as well.

CONAN: And can you tell us where we're just starting a New Year, what's trendy today and how did you find out about it?

Ms. WELLS: What's trendy today? You know, I think a lot like I've been talking a lot about massclusivity, I think it's a huge trend. You see sites like Nike (unintelligible), Levi's (unintelligible) where you can customize products for yourself, you know. One of the other trends I coined it's called warholism, meaning that everyone believes that they can be famous at some point in their lives whether it's through YouTube or having more friends than any one on FaceBook or MySpace. I think that, you know, famous is a very attainable thing these days.

CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. And this is Joshua(ph). Joshua with us from Utica, New York.

JOSH: Hello?

CONAN: Staying warm, huh, Josh?

JOSH: Yes, hello?

CONAN: Go ahead. You're on the air.

JOSH: Hi. I was just to make a comment real quick. I'm a 16-year-old high school junior and I find it that very, very often in media and popular culture things, music, and clothing styles are very, very often categorized and I like to hear a comment on how we're not - do you think this is a classification not just of music and of certain dressing styles but of people? And…

CONAN: I see. So characterized to a certain style as close as hip-hop and therefore, you are a hip-hoppers and if you wear them?

JOSH: Exactly, or if you, or…

CONAN: I take you're not a buzz spotter, Josh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Okay. Let's hear from Tina Wells on that.

Ms. WELLS: Actually we classify our buzz spotters into four groups they call techies, preppies, alternatives and independents. And so I think you'll find hip-hop kids in the alternative or independent category. But you know, that really is a classification based on numerous things not just fashion and, you know, entertainment choices that really lifestyle choices, you know, choices you make when it comes to even how you shop, you know. Are you an early adaptor or you late adaptor? Are you, you know, into mass retail locations? Are you more of a boutique or a vintage shopper? So, you know, I think it is true we definitely develop profiles of people and these profiles really help us make distinctions about, you know, what these different target groups or tribes, as they're sometimes called, would be interested in.

CONAN: Josh, good question. I think you should be a buzz spotter.

Ms. WELLS: I absolutely think he should have as well.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call.

Tina Wells, thank you for your time today.

Ms. WELLS: Thank you.

CONAN: Tina Wells, CEO and founder of Buzz Marketing Group, with us from her home in New Jersey.

And Douglas Rushkoff, thank you for your time today, too.

Mr. RUSHKOFF: Thanks for having me.

CONAN: Douglas Rushkoff was at our bureau in New York. He's the author of "Get Back in the Box: Innovation from the Inside Out."

When we come back, our final installment in the "Next Big Thing" business: Who's picking trends? We're talking about ideas with Philosophy, the subject. Stay with us.

It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.