Chasing Shadows or Building Foundations: A Marketer’s Dilemma in Trend Engagement

Marketers are often lured into pursuing the “next big thing”, drawn in by the allure of immediate visibility and viral growth. However, this pursuit may not always yield sustainable results. The recent launch and subsequent struggles of the new social media platform Threads is a case in point. Let’s explore trend engagement a bit deeper:

Understanding the Trend Landscape: Organic vs Manufactured Trends

Before we delve deeper into the discussion, it is crucial to distinguish between organic and manufactured trends.

Organic Trends: These trends emerge naturally over time, usually in response to shifts in societal values, consumer needs, or technological advancements.

They are often the result of a genuine need or preference among consumers. Examples include the rising demand for sustainable and eco-friendly products or the growing adoption of plant-based diets and streaming services.

Manufactured Trends: In contrast, manufactured trends are the product of calculated marketing strategies designed to stir up excitement and drive rapid user adoption. They are often characterised by intense but short-lived popularity.

How to Manufacture a Trend

Manufacturing a trend requires a blend of strategy, creativity, and an understanding of consumer behaviour. Here are the “oversimplified” steps often involved:

  • Identify a Unique Idea or Concept: Something different enough to catch people’s attention.
  • Create a Buzz: Use marketing channels to generate hype around your idea.
  • Leverage Social Proof: As people start engaging with your trend, highlight this engagement to attract more people.
  • Foster a Sense of Urgency or Exclusivity: Make people feel like they’re missing out if they don’t join in on the trend.
  • Keep the Momentum Going: Once the trend takes off, fuel the hype by releasing new content, updates, or iterations of your product or service.

The Draw of the New: Manufactured Trends

Threads, an offshoot of Instagram, gained a staggering 100 million users within a week of its launch, the sheer speed of its growth eclipsing even that of the rapidly-expanding ChatGPT.

This initial explosion of interest was driven by its connection to Instagram and bolstered by an aggressive marketing campaign. However, the buzz soon wore off, and within a mere week, Threads found itself wrestling with a steep 75% decrease in traffic, as Erin Brett from Ad Dynamo shared during our recent webinar with Digitlab.

The Threads phenomenon is a classic example of a manufactured trend. Such trends are often driven by extensive marketing and carefully orchestrated hype. While they can provide a quick surge in visibility, their reliance on artificial momentum rather than organic growth often results in a short lifespan.

Marketers who throw their weight behind such trends may waste time, energy, and resources on a fleeting phenomenon.

A Disciplined Approach: Leveraging Organic Trends

In contrast, organic trends emerge from genuine user needs and preferences, evolving gradually. Spotify’s rise as a streaming service is a case in point. It didn’t explode onto the scene but tapped into a significant shift in consumer behaviour: the demand for convenient, on-demand access to music and other media.

Despite the slower growth trajectory, brands aligning with organic trends often reap substantial benefits, including steady growth, customer loyalty, and a more significant sustainable brand presence.

Chasing Shadows, Missing Substance?

Despite the potential benefits of aligning with organic trends, many marketers are drawn to the bright lights of manufactured trends. The excitement surrounding Threads saw a surge of brands clamouring to establish a presence on the platform. Yet, this often comes with substantial opportunity costs.

This marketer’s dilemma – the choice between chasing the fleeting allure of the latest hype and investing in more substantial, organic trends – is essential.

Striking a Balance: Skillful Leverage of Trend Engagement

Digital leaders and skilled marketers understand that effective trend engagement is not about jumping on the latest bandwagon but being strategic, considered, and on-point with their tactics.

They recognise the ephemeral nature of manufactured trends and, instead, focus their energies on organic trends that genuinely shift the landscapes of their customers’ worlds.

Hype alone is insufficient to sway their strategies. They are willing to leverage a hyped trend only if it aligns with their existing strategy, making it a tactical manoeuvre rather than a strategic pivot.

These marketers are not easily swayed by competitor activity, the fear of missing out (FOMO), or influencers. While they stay informed about these factors, they do not let them dictate or pivot their plans.

Skilful marketers constantly innovate, charting out blue waters and strategically leveraging organic trends to create value for their customers, strengthen their brands, and deliver substantial business returns.

They maintain a systematic approach towards marketing innovation, rooted in the realities of their market rather than the latest hype. They also understand the need to strike a balance. They tactically leverage manufactured trends when it makes sense, ensuring their actions align with their overall strategy.


Threads’ rapid rise and subsequent plateau provide an essential lesson for marketers. While the allure of new, manufactured trends can be strong, they may not offer sustainable growth or long-term brand value.

In contrast, though slower to rise, organic trends represent more profound consumer behaviour shifts, offering marketers substantial and enduring opportunities.

Recognising these differences and maintaining a disciplined approach to trend engagement can help brands navigate the dynamic social media landscape and build a resilient marketing strategy.

Click here to watch the full webinar: Brand Trust with Twitter in the South African context

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