People with this talent have a special instinct for change and, as “trend receivers,” draw a picture of the future and provide the company with well-informed opinion and guidance.
“Hi Jacques, to Berlin please, Olympia Hall.” Ineke closes her car door – and the loud business – world out. Soundproofed. Lounge interior. Entertainment Plus package. “Good decision,” she thinks while putting her feet up.
She leans on the armrest, her biometric data is synchronized with the board system. The lights are dimmed. The flow of messages on the 360-degree screen disappears, the display changes to a dune landscape of the Baltic Sea. Fresh sea air starts to fill the space. A little moment of happiness. With every second in her car, Ineke leaves her everyday business life behind and her pulse approaches its rest rate. The sound of waves lulls her to sleep.
“Ineke, you have reached your optimal period of sleep of one hour and thirty minutes.” Jacques wakes his passenger as gently as possible. He opens the screens for a look outside. “The remaining time to destination is three hours. Do you want to switch to business mode or to entertainment? With the Plus package, our personal trainer is available as well.”
“Would you really exercise in your car?” The question tears Ineke from her dream world. Her fully autonomous car with the sexy voice of “Jacques” turns into a wooden vehicle skeleton the size of an Audi A3. The model is placed in the center of a creative working space, the creative minds themselves gather around on sofas and armchairs. The group are fine-tuning their personal love stores – their favorite moments in a piloted Audi, 15 years from now on.
As Chief Brand Officer of Wimdu, she was in charge of the platform’s brand strategy, bringing people together from all over Europe. In her new position, she mainly addresses the digital living world: as Country Marketing Communications Manager at Facebook Germany. Personally she appreciates physical reality a lot – especially when it comes to good food.
Especially when it comes to concepts or projections that reach far into the future, conventional market research finds its limitations: Most of the customers regard new ideas with the mindset and experiences of the present. The world of the year 2025 and beyond remains unimaginable for many of them. But a large industrial company has to make decisions that will impact the next decade or more, and on whose accuracy not only a great deal of money, but also jobs are dependent.
The trend and market research team at Audi has therefore developed its own, farther-reaching system. It has established a network of so called trend receivers: people who, in the course of their private and professional lives, have developed a particularly finely tuned instinct for new things and thus possess “qualified vision”. Dr. Rupert Hofmann calls them “trend receivers”. He developed the concept at AUDI AG as part of his postgraduate thesis and is now carrying out trend receiver studies on a number of topics.
The ability to imagine and project their visionary competence results from a combination of characteristics: everyday experience in a certain context (in the consumer arena, with a given product or service), curiosity, open-mindedness, the ability to observe and recognize patterns, life experience, networks and intuition.”
Photographic consultant; university lecturer; previously 16 years with Getty Images responsible for Creative Planning.
Monitoring trends and analyzing social changes is a fundamental and instinctive driver for trend receivers, a self-evident occupation in their everyday lives. It is their curiosity that makes them question developments and project them onto tomorrow.
Rebecca Swift in London is one example: As Creative Director for Getty Images, the world’s largest image agency, she spent many years planning the style of the photography commissioned and thus shaped the imagery of the future. She now works as a consultant and university lecturer. “She has a finely tuned sense of developments in image aesthetics,” says Rupert Hofmann.
Remo Masala is someone that Hofmann considers the perfect trend receiver. “He is very direct and possesses an exceptional combination of aesthetic and commercial instinct combined with strategic expertise. He travels around the world a great deal, and can think his way into emerging markets and new products and services in a way that is thoughtful, as well as open and creative.”
Then there is Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, who teaches Art Research and Media Philosophy at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design. Hofmann regards him as a leading and independent thinker with an enormous understanding of human nature, who can place change with a great deal of sensitivity within its cultural and historical context and combine the most diverse issues with virtuosity.
Professor for Art Research and Media Philosophy at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design and author of many publications on the history and critique of art as a concept, contemporary visual culture and wealth phenomena, including “Gotta have it. How does consumer culture work?”
Chief Marketing Officer for the Thomas Cook Group, a global tourism group located in London. Previously CMO of Kuoni Group, a global tourism company based in Switzerland; previously CMO of the Design Hotel Group
For Dr. Hofmann, agents of the new are those individuals that bring new things into the world. He has investigated a number of different existing topics on matters new and he divides them into three groups:
The inventors, i.e. the creative individuals who think up, devise and design new things, whereby these new things are usually a surprising combination of existing things. “There were mountains and there were bikes. And somewhere along the line mountain bikes appeared.”
Hofmann calls the second group multipliers, who are opinion leaders or early adopters – like the city people who were the very first to start riding mountain bikes; or those fans who camp out overnight in front of the Apple Store to be among the very first to get their hands on the latest iPad.
The third group constitutes trend observers, and also includes trend receivers selected for specific topics. They are concerned a lot with change and its scope. Even if they do not work as professional trend observers, they possess the necessary “an unusual ability to pull out what is relevant from the maelstrom of new information and ideas” says Hofmann.
The issues tackled by Audi’s trend receiver studies are wide and varied. Alongside discussions on brand-new vehicle concepts, the focus can be on a future mobility or retail solutions. The interviews are structured accordingly; a typical questionnaire would not work. The discussion guidelines are intentionally kept loose and open. Findings from those discussions flow directly into the various strategic processes at Audi. “Audi is very interested in unfiltered and visionary external input,” explains Rupert Hofmann. “Working with trend receivers is part of our corporate culture and therefore a key element of our trend research.”