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Strategic Communications Workshop: Turning Trends into Business Insights


May 02, 2014 - 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.


Columbia University, Northwest Corner Building, Room 501

Trends are ubiquitous and plentiful. As valuable descriptors of people, cultures, and our times, trends naturally fascinate strategic marketers and communicators. But not all trends are relevant to business. Often, the newest tech gadgets, the latest fashions, and the coolest brands aren’t trends at all. They’re passing fads, as unreliable as the weather.

Putting trends to work for business requires a broad view, lateral thinking, and deep analysis of the “why” behind what people do. Recognizing the patterns and understanding consumer motivations allows marketers to apply trends to strategic planning and communications. In this seminar, attendees will learn how to develop a set of lenses, a keen sense of pattern recognition, and the ability to decode trends to understand the motivations that drive them. We’ll examine several consumer macrotrends currently being tracked to demonstrate how to apply cultural and consumer trends to business strategy.

Kirk Olson is VP of TrendSights at Horizon Media, the largest independent media services company in the world. He is charged with developing and directing the agency’s TrendSights practice, which identifies and converts shifts in the global zeitgeist into opportunities for clients. Olson has uncovered strategic insights and interpreted trends for a wide range of brands including MTV, Paramount Pictures, Focus Features, Kraft Foods, Procter & Gamble, Target, adidas, JP Morgan and many more. His opinions on trends have been cited by sources ranging from the New York Times and Associated Press to CNN.com, Entertainment Weekly, Entrepreneur, Forbes, and Fox Business Channel.

Olson first developed his trending perspectives at Iconoculture, where he spent eleven years as a key member of the team that transformed the company from a boutique custom consultancy to an international leader in consumer and cultural trend research. He also held strategy and insights positions at Ipsos and at Passenger, a technology, social media and online research company.

Olson holds an M.S. in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and a B.A. in English and French from Hamline University. In addition, he studied critical theory, film, and philosophy at Université Paris III – La Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris, France.

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