Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. : Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Discussing Trends: The Beer Mats Industry

Yes, I know that the car industry is in trouble world wide. It's certainly a gruesome enough example of trends. However, as an industry it might just be a little too close to many of us for dispassionate study.

As an alternative, let's consider what's happening in ... beer mats. That's one of them in the picture there. Here in Canada most of us would call them coasters, right. They are a more significant feature of life throughout Britain and Ireland where they are used in thousands upon thousands of wine bars and public houses ('pubs'). You might think of them simply as a way of insulating wet glass from table top. In contrast, advertisers have, until fairly recently, thought of them as valuable real estate directly under the eyes of consumers. That is changing.

Oddly enough, the single company that has 75% of beer mat manufacturing market share is in serious financial difficulty. How could this possibly be?

Read the article at Last orders for beer mat maker? for the answers and then see if you can fill in all the blanks. Why are ashtrays in trouble? Why might people be drinking at home? (One hopes that they are not drinking alone.) Why would the prices of alcoholic beverages be up? Is there any end in sight to the pattern of corporate mergers?

How can thinking like this be applied in one's own circumstances? When clients thinking about careers what can we do to induce them to think about trends? Are we any likelier to be good predictors than they are?