If I told you how many new products and services were released this year, it would scare the crap out of you. Okay, hundreds of thousands in the US alone. While you are cleaning up the mess, consider this. Most of these products and services will go nowhere, even if they start out going somewhere. Consider this recent example.

The co-founder of Vine recently launched a new iPhone social media app called Peach. It offers a mash-up of functionality from many familiar apps like Facebook, Path, Slack, Snapchat and Tumblr all rolled into one. The launch triggered a huge response as it debuted near the top of Apple's iPhone download list. Then, four days after its meteoric launch, the tech pundits declared that the 'Peach is rotten' as downloads plummeted. If you had invested time and money in engaging with Peach, you would be left today with nothing but a pit in your stomach.

You don't have to treat trends like a day at the horse races. Dave Sutton, co-author of Enterprise Marketing Management: The New Science of Marketing (John Wiley and Sons), thinks that people, especially marketers, should not be so quick to move with the trends. In his view, "Successful marketing requires focus, sustained energy and commitment. The opportunity cost of perpetually chasing the next bright shiny object disrupts and distracts from other important priorities."

Sutton, founder of TopRight Partners, and a member of the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO), believes that marketers must be extremely intentional when it comes to assessing new marketing opportunities and new technologies as they emerge. Sutton shares his directed approach for picking the right horse in a crowded field.

1. Question the need for that bright shiny object.

Don't just take off after the new trend because everyone else is. Instead, Sutton suggests taking a deep look at why this trend has appeal and whether it's absolutely necessary for your success. Sutton advocates articulating your Brand Destination, which specifies how you want the customer to think, feel and act about your brand. More importantly it quantifies the results you expect your company to generate in the marketplace. Sutton explains the value, "A clear brand destination provides a lens through which you evaluate bright shiny objects and make the right marketing decisions to achieve success - giving marketing leaders a constructive way to say 'no' to chasing the next shiny object."

2. Define metrics for success.

Before following any trend and implementing any approach, it's crucial to know how its success will be measured. Sutton suggests CLEAR (Collaborative, Limited, Emotional, Appreciable, and Refinable) goals as a means of tracking marketing performance and navigating the brand to its destination. "It's extremely important to not only specify what success looks like when you arrive at the Destination, but what it looks like at milestones along the way," says Sutton. "Any bright shiny object must be assessed in the context of your Brand Destination and the CLEAR goals you are committed to achieving--otherwise they are nothing more than distractions and resource drains."

3. Consider the Hype Cycle

Sutton lays out the predictably unpredictable pattern of trends. "The premise of the hype cycle is that people tend to get over-excited about new shiny objects, and then they are disappointed when the shiny objects don't change the world in the blink of an eye. That said, some of the shiny objects do actually change the world, given the right market conditions and some patience. And for marketers, this is where things actually get interesting." Sutton advises. "If the bright shiny object promises to get you to your Brand Destination faster and achieve your CLEAR goals, it may be worthy of further investigation and experimentation."

4. Re-calibrate marketing priorities.

You shouldn't spend resources you don't have or commit to more than you can afford to risk."Marketing budgets and resources aren't unlimited. Therefore, if you do decide that a bright shiny object is worth chasing, then something has to drop off your marketing plate to take on something new," says Sutton. "Marketing priorities will have to be re-calibrated, CLEAR goals realigned and any dependencies or conflicts with other marketing programs must be reconciled."

5. Investigate and experiment.

If your team is truly serious about pursuing a new trend, then you must commit sufficient resources to evaluate the situation. "Establish a small team and test the ideas that show the most promise for building your brand and growing your business with the trend," recommends Sutton. "If something shows potential, then you can expand it and incorporate it into your overall marketing mix and adjust your CLEAR goals accordingly."

6. Learn from failure.

Sometimes companies invest resources in following the trend, only to find that despite their best efforts, it was nothing but a red herring. Sadly, failure will happen, but it also provides valuable learning if those lessons are applied during the next go-round. Sutton emphasizes the importance of building a learning culture with all of your employees to improve the process along the way. Sutton advises, "Build a culture that rewards learning fast and failing fast. Hire people who exhibit intellectual curiosity and recognize them for it." Ultimately that's always the best trend to follow.

Want more marketing insights from Dave? He welcomes your email at dave@toprightpartners.com.

Each week Kevin explores exclusive stories inside the Young Presidents' Organization, the world's premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.

Published on: Mar 18, 2016
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.