Interview: Global Trends for Innovation with Mikel Cirkus, Global Director, Conceptual Design Group at Firmenich, Flavors Division
While most organizations have accepted the need to expand conventional consumer research practices and adopt cutting-edge tactics for gathering insights and spotting trends, establishing a structured process for employing these methods remains a challenge. With the shortened lifecycle of products, market leaders have recognized the need for a rapid, consumer-centric innovation process and repeatable methods to identify emerging trends.
Mikel Cirkus answered a series of questions written by marcus evans before the forthcoming Canadian Consumer Insights and Trend Spotting Conference, August 14-15, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. All responses represent the view of Mr. Cirkus and not necessarily those of Firmenich, Flavors Division.
You have a unique approach to spotting trends. Can you share some of the key features?
Mikel Cirkus: The premise behind our approach to tracking trends is to get as close to the edge as possible. Trends begin at the edge. We say we go ‘where the fun, pain, action and danger are’. This is where you’ll find the earliest of trends.
From your perspective, how can organizations better identify trends and insights into Canadian consumers?
MC: Identifying trends and discovering actionable insights within them applies to any organization in any segment in any market. To better identify them is to first have a frame of reference with which to establish the rate of frequency of change. Real change is what is being observed, and trends may or may not evolve from the change, or sameness as it were. At Firmenich, we use our TrenzTM tool for fragrance and flavor inspiration, marketing guidance, and new product development worldwide.
How can they turn those trends into bottom line results?
MC: There’s no ‘sure thing’ in hunting. Observing and forecasting change, and trends, is in a sense – hunting. If you have an established brand in an established market you can drive trends simply by not following them. In other words – be the change. Others, in your industry as well as others, will follow because they too are part of the process. Everything influences everything else. There is no trickle-down anymore.
What is your outlook on the future marketplace? What will shape consumers’ behaviors?
MC: The future marketplace is part science fiction and part reality television. The rate of cultural information, technology, science, medicine, etc is happening exponentially. If you’re not out there connecting the dots already, you can be sure someone else is. Pay close attention to what already exists that will disrupt and or create the consumer landscape ahead.
How can organizations be more innovative?
MC: Now there’s a multi-million dollar question! Wouldn’t you like to know the answer – as would everybody else on the planet? If I even had the answer, would this be the forum to just give it away?! Seriously though, if a company wants to be more innovative – truly innovative – they first need to get out of their own way. Let go. Let your employees be empowered. Let them break free. Create. Play. Get out of the office. Innovation won’t happen without inspiration. Be inspired. Connect the dots. Make a new picture. Tell a new story. Be the change.
How can social media be better utilized in this space?
MC: There are tremendous amounts of resources to find out where to go now… or next. What to see when you’re there. What to do and where to eat. Maybe even who to meet. Use them as a starting point to find real cutting-edge inspiration. If you’re using social media as an observer, like a voyeur, then you might be wasting your time. Use it as a reference tool for the cool. Then, follow their lead. I’ll meet you there!
Mikel joined Firmenich in January 2000 as the Creative Director for the Perfumery Division’s Body & Home Care Creative Marketing. In 2005, Mikel made the switch to the Flavors Division where today he is the Global Director of Conceptual Design.
As a founding member of the Global Trenz Team, Mikel identifies key industry and consumer trends, combines them with on-going analysis of competitive environments, and creates a proven means to enable their Clients to embrace, adapt or even create changes that have added-value to their brands.
For more information please contact Michele Westergaard, Senior Marketing Manager, Media & PR, marcus evans at 312-540-3000 ext. 6625 or Michelew@marcusevansch.com.
About marcus evans
marcus evans conferences annually produce over 2,000 high quality events designed to provide key strategic business information, best practice and networking opportunities for senior industry decision-makers. Our global reach is utilized to attract over 30,000 speakers annually, ensuring niche focused subject matter presented directly by practitioners and a diversity of information to assist our clients in adopting best practice in all business disciplines.
image credit: frontendofinnovation.com
Michele Westergaard is currently the Senior Marketing Manager, Media & PR at marcus evans. Her responsibilities include overseeing the Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media and Corporate Branding for all North American Conferences.