The art and science of trendspotting

The art and science of trendspotting

What makes Pinterest an essential tool for getting your brand ahead of the curve

On February 1, the Royal Ontario Museum’s Philosopher’s Gallery welcomed guests to a Pinterest trends event hosted in partnership with Toronto Life. In an exclusive fireside chat, Malcolm Johnston, Toronto Life’s editor-in-chief, and Jenna Landi, Pinterest’s director of global brand research, unpacked the art and science of trendspotting and compared notes on creating relevant content in a city where the future is always right around the corner.

While the rest of the city is enduring February in Canada, the editors of Toronto Life are living months ahead: spring has sprung, birds are chirping and the pages of a new issue are filling with the news readers want. “Our goal is to have answers to Torontonians’ questions before they know they have them,” says Johnston. “We empower our staff to be subject-matter experts and remain always ‘on,’ ready to capture a story as it develops.” Trendspotting starts with asking the right questions at the right time.  

Meanwhile, for Pinterest, because people go to the platform to plan for their future, trendspotting is equal parts art and science. The platform can analyze what people have been searching in order to spot early signals and identify what’s coming next before it actually starts trending, which all comes to life in its annual Pinterest Predicts report.

With an 80 percent accuracy rate over the past 3 years, the Pinterest Predicts report features global trends determined through a rigorous trendspotting method. This isn’t guesswork but a calculated analysis using modelling to predict what’s likely to trend in the future. And, at Pinterest, trendspotting pays off. Trends on the platform typically last longer than elsewhere on the internet.

“We use a rigorous growth and volume threshold that gauges the predictability of keywords,” says Landi. “Once all the analytics are translated into data, we generate up to 400,000 keywords that qualify for the report.” What comes next is a curation process where the data is translated into trends happening in the real world. The annual report is a trusted source for content creators, marketers and publishers to gauge future trends and media activity.

“A big part of our success comes from distinguishing a trend versus a fad,” says Landi. “Fads come and go quickly whereas trends speak to a shift in consumer behaviour.” These shifts drive new business models and the creation of new products and services. Trendspotting is all about identifying consumer behaviours with staying power in order to create brand strategies that are relevant and sustainable in the long term—in short, it’s about finding trends worth investing in. 

Following a deep dive into the trendspotting work of Johnston and Landi, it was time to break down the most noteworthy trends of 2023.

Landi predicts that self-care will expand into new realms of people’s lives. The Primal Movement trend, described as “keto for fitness,” emphasizes simple, feel-good exercises. “After spending so much time seated and staring at screens, people are reverting to their body’s primal movements,” says Landi. “Exercises that centre around stretching and mobility will take off.” And, when it comes to skincare, routines are expected to move beyond the face. Crown Care is about focusing on the scalp, from hair growth to root revival. As for those relaxing nights in, bath time is being replaced with a Chance of Showers trend, which includes steamers, shower bombs and open-concepts.

As rental prices stay high, small spaces have become the norm in Toronto. Making smaller spaces excellent is one of Toronto Life’s biggest trend predictions for 2023. “Design and furniture that promote efficiency, multi-functionality and sustainability will increase as a result of the Manhattanization of the city,” says Johnston. “People love the small-space furniture hacks that we post online, which indicates to me that this trend is already manifesting.” 

In line with Pinterest’s Free Spirits trend, interest in no-alcohol and low-alcohol lifestyles will also spike, says Johnston. “Instead of heading out to drink as the central activity, people will treat alcohol as a complement to whatever the thing is that brought them out.” His top recommendation: listening bars with high-end audio equipment and eclectic record collections that provide an elevated sonic experience.

While some of Toronto Life’s trend predictions have already made it to print—get a taste of the emerging nostalgia trend from the current cover storythere will be more to discover in the months ahead. Meanwhile, explore Pinterest Predicts for a window into the future.