Trend (sociology)

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The anatomy of a trend

A trend (from English to trend , to run in a certain direction, or to turn, or to turn) is an instrument for describing changes and currents in all areas of society. The description and the boundary conditions allow a statement to be made about future developments. From a mathematical point of view, it is a differential of a value over time.

Trends are observable, but difficult to measure in a sociological context. Their further course can usually be approximated, but only partially influenced. The trend research deals with the observation, interpretation and prediction of trends. A more goal-oriented definition has established itself there and in trend advice :

A trend is a new conception in society , economy or technology that triggers a new movement or direction. A fundamental change (reversal) in a trend is known as a "trend reversal". The initiators of a new trend are called trendsetters , especially in the field of fashion .


Trend research deals with processes of social change. This is not about exact predictions , but about recognizing the processes of change and, if possible, understanding them in order to ultimately interpret them.

Trends in behavior or in products are often recorded through opinion research . They are by advertising and trendsetter influenced and have a significant impact on the consumption behavior of consumers or prefer certain fads in social and leisure activities.

The trend is often assessed using graphical methods ( e.g. chart technology on the stock exchange ). As the figure shows, each trend can be divided into a diagnosis part (past) and a hypothesis part (future). In general, time stability is assumed, that is, it is assumed that the context and influencing factors will remain stable and that the trend will develop in a manner similar to that observed in the past.

Systematisation of trends (according to strength)

  • Trend signal : information and news that could trigger major changes ( e.g. baby boom in Hamburg)
  • Trend : change that is observable and suggests a steady progression over time (e.g. more academics are childless)
  • Emerging trend : currently emerging trend (many signals), further development difficult to estimate (e.g. men take on more responsibility in family planning)
  • Microtrend : Change on a small scale, regionally pronounced or hardly observable (e.g. increasing number of one-child families leads to changed behavior in society)
  • Macro trend : specific manifestations of the megatrends. They describe partial flows that have a different impact horizon (e.g. Print Plus)
  • Megatrend : Trend on a large scale, long-lasting with profound changes (e.g. aging society)
  • Metatrend : bundling of trends / megatrends (e.g. demographic change)
  • Key trend : trend classified as particularly important (e.g. marketing focus shifts towards a more mature society)
  • Pseudo trend: Phenomenon is presented as a trend, although it is not one (e.g. companies are increasingly committed to families)
  • Trend break : development marked as a trend is abruptly changed in strength or course ( e.g. pill break )

Systematization of trends (by form)

There are different forms: linear is the simplest and most widely accepted. There are also waveforms, growth curves, cycles, cascades, life cycle curves, parabolas and jump functions.


The American futurologist John Naisbitt coined the term megatrend. This describes long-lasting social, economic and political changes that have a massive impact on numerous areas of life (including the world of work, consumer and leisure behavior, health, education, cultural identity and political participation). Megatrends are changing the lives of all people worldwide, but have different effects in different regions and groups, staggered in time and by no means always progressing steadily. They interact with one another. Examples are globalization, digitization and demographic change.

Trend research methods

There are special methods for determining trends, such as the Delphi method (survey of outstanding experts) or forecasting methods and methods of futurology . In addition, there are methods that capture the current trends in the world's metropolises and derive future trends from these findings, for example through ethnography .


Trends promise to reveal the future and therefore enjoy a certain popularity in the media. Accordingly, only a small part of what is traded as a trend or “megatrend” can provide a comprehensible and systematic justification. Some scientifically based futurologists therefore try to differentiate themselves explicitly from “popular” trend researchers. The following main points of criticism are raised against trend research:

  • Focus on consumers while neglecting the (e.g. social) framework conditions
  • Only current developments are described (only small profit compared to market research )
  • Trends are determined journalistically on the basis of research (not e.g. systematically), which provokes an expectation effect (active search for confirmations, not for contradictions)
  • Individual observations (e.g. behavior of young people, personal feelings towards innovations) are prematurely interpreted as future developments
  • The (intrinsic) dynamics of developments are not recorded (e.g. a possible countermovement), a linear thinking model does not do justice to the complex (non-linear) society
  • Interdependencies with other developments are not taken into account ( scenario analysis )
  • Trend research must sell itself in public markets (e.g. print products, seminars, citations), while spectacular visions have a greater chance of selling themselves. That influences u. U. the emergence of trend forecasts, in any case their distribution and selection


  • Pillkahn, Ulf: Trends and scenarios as tools for strategy development . Publicis 2007. ISBN 978-3895782862
  • Naisbitt, John : Megatrends. Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives . Warner Books, 1982. ISBN 978-0446909914
  • Gordon, Adam: Future Savvy: Identifying Trends to Make Better Decisions, Manage Uncertainty, and Profit from Change . AMACOM. ISBN 978-0814409121
  • Rehder, Torsten: Trendbook 2012: The future lexicon of the most important trend terms . TrendONE GmbH 2010. ISBN 978-3-00-032604-2
  • Leisse, Oliver: Be Prepared, 30 trends for tomorrow's business . Haufe 2012. ISBN 978-3-648-02491-1

Individual evidence

  1. Origin of the word trend : The German Universal Dictionary of Dudenverlag (2001) writes "run in a certain direction", the Etymological Dictionary of the German Language (Kluge, 24th edition, 2004) writes "" Direction, tendency, [...] from no. trend »turn, turn«, this from ae. trendan »turn«. [...] "
  2. ^ Anne Seith: "Megatrends" prophet: Clairvoyance for beginners. In: Spiegel Online. April 24, 2007, accessed September 26, 2019 .
  3. Thieß Petersen, Falk Steiner: The Bigger Picture . Megatrend Report No. 1. Ed .: Bertelsmann Stiftung . Gütersloh 2019, doi : 10.11586 / 2019049 ( [PDF; accessed on September 26, 2019]).

Web links

See also