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Your Corner Store Does Not Need Virtual Reality: When to Leave Industry Trends Alone

[Written for Replicon Vice President of Global Field Sales for LinkedIn]

We’ve all heard them — big data, digital economy, AI, internet of things, blogosphere, millennial, growth hack, and so on — these “of the moment” industry trends and buzzwords. While they often stem from something meaningful, at what point do businesses dilute their own message by scrambling to take advantage of every trend that comes their way?

Corporations across the globe are tempted by their fair share of business trends, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your company needs to incorporate all (or any) of them as they come and go. In fact — on the whole — I’d say don’t.  Here’s why:

People can tell when you’re being inauthentic

If the guy selling me chips (ketchup is my favourite by the way) at the local corner store offered me a “premiere VR experience” during checkout, that would, of course, seem totally ridiculous to everyone involved. Chips and VR don’t go together that well. But here’s the thing — if VR doesn’t directly tie into your existing marketing, value prop, and overall mission, then your company is probably going to look like the guy selling chips in Oculus Rift headgear.

Authenticity is becoming an increasingly big deal in business (it’s why traditional advertising doesn’t work on millennials), and even the least savvy among us can spot the difference between thoughtful utilization of a few relevant trends, and jumping from trend to trend in rapid succession. When a trend just doesn’t fit, your messaging can quickly become clunky and awkward.

One of the things I enjoy about working for Replicon is the typically BS-free nature of our company. Sure, when cloud software became the Next Big Thing in tech, we hopped on board — but only because it was the perfect next step for what we offer. In this instance, the trend of the moment was directly relevant to our end product, and ultimately made it more meaningful.

You risk derailing existing marketing

Dave Sutton, co-author of Enterprise Marketing Management: The New Science of Marketing, advises marketers to move slowly when it comes to burgeoning trends, noting that “marketing requires focus, sustained energy, and commitment,” and “the opportunity cost of perpetually chasing the next bright shiny object disrupts and distracts from other important priorities.”

Your team has a finite amount of time and resources, so — it goes without saying — your priority should be following through on your existing campaigns. Don’t spend resources you don’t have, or commit to more risk than you can afford.

Your message can become noise

These days, everyone from multinational corporations to your local grocer seems to harping on about AI and VR, and before that we couldn’t escape from the internet of things and big data. This kind of buzzword bingo is tempting in the moment, but ultimately, unless you’re a VR company, jumping onto each new buzzword is diluting your message and the clarity of the (presumably) unique services your company has to offer.

The harsh reality is that most trends aren’t here to stay, so adhering to new ones too often means that your content, brand, and messaging can quickly look outdated or out of touch, if not updated and adapted religiously.

At the end of the day…

It doesn’t matter if your company is or isn’t the most cutting-edge brand-new Next Big Thing, as long as your product is still relevant and meaningful. If a trend doesn’t feel like a good fit for your company, then leave it be — odds are it won’t be around for long anyway.

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