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Robyn Waters, former vice president of trend, design, and product development at Target, has written an easy to read, interesting book on trends and countertrends that are taking hold. The Hummer and the Mini is a book that demonstrates how every product that becomes the new rave such as the Hummer, has a counter product which is designed to be exactly the opposite, like the Mini Cooper. The Hummer is known as a large, luxurious, excessive vehicle that eats up gas and is awful for the environment. At the same time, the Mini Cooper, which is just as popular in the opposite way, is known for its great gas mileage, speed and style, and not being awful for the environment.
Waters applies her ideas of the Hummer vs. the Mini Cooper to all types of products and services available to people everywhere. The book is broken down into ten chapters, all covering a different sector of products which have trends and countertrends. There are dozens of examples in every chapter, and in this review I will give a brief summary of some of the most interesting examples.
In the beginning of her book, Waters explains how she personally spotted trends and countertrends while working at Target. She describes how people love to buy expensive clothes, but at the same time will buy an expensive pair of jeans and wear a five dollar t-shirt with those jeans. While the expensive jeans may be the new trend, you could describe the cheap shirt as a countertrend. At the same time, while Sony PlayStation is a huge seller these days, board games have made a comeback. People are more conscious about video games frying your brain, so they play board games to use their brains more effectively.
Another example Robyn Waters gives in her book is how modern, ultra-expensive furniture from the finest stores are very popular, but so is really cheap, worn-looking furniture. While the expensive items are nice to own and show that one has money, some people feel that buying a dresser or table at the thrift store and giving it some TLC means more and looks better in the end.
Waters also discusses how people love to buy items that are widely available to everyone in the same model including cars, homes, televisions, etc. But counter examples exist as well where the product is highly customizable. Examples include the Scion XB, where the consumer can decide what color paint, interior lights, and other interior options he/she desires. The consumer must wait a little longer than the average person to get their car due to the customization, but everyone agrees its well worth the wait. Other customizable options include the iPod, Nike shoes, and Lands’ End pants. Consumers can choose what color and size iPod they want, can design the color and lettering on their Nike shoes, and custom fit Lands’ End pants. When someone can make an item their own, they are more likely to buy it and enjoy it more than an item that everyone else has.
Another section of Waters’ book deals with companies that produce luxury items which previously did not have a market. One example is the In-N-Out Burger chain. Here, operators and managers do not use freezers, they make food when you order it, hand cut their fries, and the milk shakes are created using real ice cream. For these reasons, the In-N-Out Burger chain has some of the best rated food and happiest fast food customers in the world. Waters then mentions Airstream’s Sky Deck, a high-class RV which includes a rooftop deck and lounge, wet bar, barbeque, entertainment center, and fancy umbrellas. Companies like Airstream target the population of the world who expect more and want to know that they are getting the best, and are making huge profits as a result.
The trend versus countertrend idea also applies to technology being very complex versus very simple. People who own phones today probably have the ability to text message, surf the internet, take pictures and videos, and use thousands of applications with the touch of a screen. All of the various buttons and applications only cause problems for the elderly and those who grew up with the idea that “simple is better”. For this reason, companies like Vodafone produce phones for the non-technological savvy where only the essential buttons are included on the phone. Buyers get a phone with a basic key pad, the ability to text message, and that’s about it. Life does not have to be so complex and technical, and basic phones and other appliances are catching on quickly with certain groups of people.
One of the more interesting topics in the book is how people pay good money for healthy products. An example of a higher-priced but high-demand product is 3 Vodka. This vodka is made from soy, and is the first time ever that soy has been distilled into alcohol. With such a unique product, a unique package is needed, and 3 Vodka does not disappoint. Their bottle is very eye-catching, has a huge 3 across the bottle, and has a cap that doubles as a half-shot glass. Also, spas have popped up all over the country and women and men will pay hundreds of dollars per hour to get pampered. At the same time, while spas are mainly aimed at adults, they are now being built for kids as well. Adults can go get a massage and manicure or pedicure while the little kids are getting their own manicures or pedicures and hair styling.
Robyn Waters’ book provides you with a new aspect of the world around you related to products and trends. Personally, I never related the Hummer to the Mini Cooper and how many items are the exact opposite of other products which have caught on with the public and sold very well. Waters does a great job of covering ten or so markets and explaining dozens of trend and countertrend examples within each market. This book can be read in a couple of days and is useful for people who are developing products, are interested in current trends, or want to start a new business with an innovative product. I rate this book a 4 out of 5.
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