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Thinking in trends: the rise of trend forecasting in the United States

Devon Powers (Department of Advertising, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Article publication date: 7 February 2018

Issue publication date: 14 February 2018




The paper examines the birth of trend forecasting in the USA and position trend forecasters and professional futurists within the wider history of marketing, market research and advertising.


The study is based upon archival research, interviews and close readings of primary and secondary literature.


Trend forecasters split from traditional market and opinion research in the early 1970s, as concerns about the future became paramount for businesses. At this time, entrepreneurial trend forecasters such as Faith Popcorn started firms, adopting futurological methods to make predictions about the future of culture. The field continued to grow into the 1990s as it developed or modified a host of mostly qualitative research methods, including environmental scanning, consumer ethnography and scenarios. Trend forecasting reveals the complexity of the relationship between business and “the future” and how trends aimed to predict as well as direct that future.


The article is among the first academic treatments of trend forecasting, drawn from original interviews and exclusively accessed archival research. It contributes to a theory and a history of the concept of a trend, which is understood here as a way to package the movement of culture as sellable. It likewise offers a unique exploration of the relationship between futurology and business.



Powers, D. (2018), "Thinking in trends: the rise of trend forecasting in the United States", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 2-20.



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