How to De-Risk New Product Development & Business Growth

Mention Trend Forecasting to most people and the majority are unsure what it’s about; and those that have heard of it, well they mostly associate it simply with pattern and colour.

But, to use it so, is to almost completely waste the true value a good consumer & interiors product Trend Forecaster can add to a company’s success. There are very few business tools available that, if used well, are guaranteed to improve business performance, no matter how you measure that. The more broadly the Trend research information is integrated into a company’s activities, the greater the performance improvement will be. A results and performance uplift might be seen in production as design costs reduce, PR success increases as content marketing is improved, product ranges can be smaller and the number of ‘slow-moving lines’ reduced; sales will increase as product & service offers better match the wants, needs & desires of your customers. The story telling and content meets the same degree of success in both B2C and B2B sectors. All of this ultimately leads to better profits.

Yes, our Trend Forecasting for the interiors market will do all of that!









The biggest, most valuable resource that Scarlet Opus Trend forecasting gives to a product development team, manufacturer, retailer, interior designer or marketing strategy is…. ‘TIME’. The pressure on all of the business teams in any company, is significantly reduced because our trend research extends the time in which the total business cycle has, to be completed. No need to ‘spot trends’ at an exhibition(s), hope you’re right & then rush to bring your version of a product/service to market before the trend diminishes; engage with Trend Forecasting which will provide you with the same inspiration 12 – 18 months ahead of that exhibition being visited. You’ll gain more as you’ll also gain trend/consumer back stories to build your content marketing; you’ll get specific material, pattern, texture, shape & colour guidance as well as being able to explain ‘why’ this will all match with future consumer desires.

Trend Forecasting for interiors will give you a detailed view of those consumer desires up to 2 years in advance of the point at which your product should be brought to market. 2 YEARS! As a general view this could be increased to 5 years.

Imagine knowing the detail of what your customers will desire in 2 years’ time and knowing with certainty.

Research shows that company employees work more efficiently when they are relaxed & confident. Designers are more creative, salespeople convert more sales & PR events run more smoothly. If the risk associated with New Product Development or Services development is significantly reduced; your staff can focus on creating the best PR, producing excellent content marketing, targeted marketing support materials and preparing, rehearsing and enacting sales presentations that will demonstrate to buyers how well your company understands what consumers want and will pay to get.








Dr. Robert Passikoff (Founder of Brand Keys) says of 2014:

Consumers Expect More: Over the past five years, consumer expectations have increased on average by 20%. But brands have kept up only by 5% annually, a big gap between what’s desired and what’s delivered. The ability to accurately measure real, unarticulated expectations will provide significant advantages to brands that can engage and delight.

This describes beautifully, the gap that consumer, business & design Trend Forecasting will fill for any company. Why then aren’t more companies engaging with Trend Forecasting? The answer might lie in these 2 thoughts:

  1. It requires taking, quite a’ leap of faith’ to engage with someone who tells you that they can ‘see your future in detail & with certainty’!
  2. It’s possible that Creatives see Trend Forecasting agencies as an external design source; instead of an external design resource.

Trend analysts, spotters, reporters, colour & trend consultants all play valuable roles; but only a Trend Forecaster can create so much time and:

  • Inspire design teams to create products in materials with textures, patterns & colours that the consumer will want to buy. It’s global social, political, cultural & natural events that influence how humans behave & want to surround themselves with.
  • Inform sales teams how to support product presentations with trend information that will help buyers to choose their products to meet consumer demand.
  • Give Marketing teams an understanding of what caused a trend to emerge & how the consumer will feel as a result. Excellent content marketing will follow and help to leverage consumer marketing by suppliers of complimentary products.
  • Identify which trends specifically suit a company and its product offer/sector; enabling a more focused product offer to be developed. A trend forecaster will identify which trend next year is best suited to ‘Bathroom’, or ‘Dining’?
  • It’s crucial to identify trends for interiors that have longevity giving manufacturing/sourcing teams the opportunity to optimise production planning.
  • Produce inspirational PR events especially for the trade press always hungry for future trend information. ‘Expert’ endorsement is gaining traction with consumers over ‘celebrity’ endorsement.
  • Design exhibition stands reflecting ‘future trend themes’ making them stand out and provide a unique ‘visitor experience’.
  • Design retail showrooms to deliver a shopping experience the consumer wants. Men & Women shop differently.
  • Assist buyers translate Trend research into design briefs for manufacturing partners; or buying guidance for retailers.

There is so much value that Trend Forecasting adds to a company’s activities in all areas that it needn’t actually, even include the obvious product development. A business with a ‘fixed’ product design can still be more successful marketing it’s products within the framework of consumer wants, needs and desires.








It’s realistic to engage a good Trend Forecaster with the expectation that sales revenues will increase by double digit percentages, with a similar reduction in relative costs.

Contact Tel +44 1482 870 360

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How to Make a Good Presentation

It’s as if seminars, speeches and conferences are the ‘in way’ to attract new business today and that must be inducing a lot of stress in a lot of people.

Or has the celebrity culture made the proliferation of such opportunity a ready-made platform for fame?

Are there a mass of us in the wings, just waiting to be given the chance to stand at the podium, on the stage, or just ‘at the front’ with a ready-made, captive audience at whom we can now speak about ‘something’?

Some years ago, as I was just starting my time with the Mars group, it terrified me to learn that each month I’d be expected to make a presentation to the area management team about my own team’s results and forecast.

There were only 10/13 people in the room, I knew all of them really well, they had to do it too, they felt nervous as well. The only one of us that didn’t, was the ‘smug one’ who for that month was top of the sales league. It wasn’t that he/she had acquired excellent public speaking & presentation skills along with the sales result – just that they could at this time get away with murder, wearing their protective coat of ‘achievement’!

In the years that have followed I’ve been given lots of advice about ‘How to Present/Speak Publicly’, attended perhaps 15 courses on the subject (each one run by a world expert of course), and see the same advice/training all over the web even now.

What surprises me then, is the general standard of presentations and public speakers that I now go to see and listen to. Who am I to talk you ask? Well, I am not putting myself forward as the world’s best in this area, but I can still read, and do, all of the advice, notes, training books, and web content at my disposal. It’s easy to then evaluate the offerings against all of this.

Have you experienced any of these presentation/public speaking gaffes:



The presenter stands in front of the screen on which is displayed information I should see



  • The text on the slides is so detailed I can’t read it.
  • The colours used make it tough to read, they clash, are weak, don’t match the context.
  • I don’t believe it – he/she is reading the slide to me!
  • “Well, 10 minutes in and I haven’t a clue what it’s about.”
  • Should I take notes or will there be hand outs?
  • When should I ask my question?
  • Crikey, 30 mins gone, how long is it going on for? I wish he/she’d said, I’ve got to go.
  • This presenter didn’t have a clear idea of what they wanted me to take away from this.
  • Please. Please don’t hop around like that, stay still…just for a bit.

Too many people it seems to me, are placing themselves in front of audiences as the expert in their field without having given much thought to what expertise they have in the actual subject of making a presentation. It might just be me but I then can’t help but focus on what is not good about the presentation itself rather than focusing on learning something of value from a person who most likely really knows their stuff.

What a waste for us both!

Now, before you switch off thinking that I will now preach the ‘Dreamweaver’s Guide to the Perfect Presentation’, don’t, because I’m not. There are some really good tips and training documents on the subject available for free via Google. And as usual, there are already lots of people out there who can’t actually do it, but will sell you some training for you to be good at it.

What I will move onto is to express some more ‘views of an audience member’ as I have masses of experience as one. But before I do, let me say that if you want any tips on how to prepare, deliver, and then improve your skills in this area, for goodness sake send Victoria or Shelley an email requesting as such ( / They have delivered dozens of seminars around the world (literally), never have a spare seat in the house, and always get excellent feedback. Of course, they did have the opportunity to learn from an excellent trainer!

Now, consider this when you are in the position of delivering a presentation or speech next time…firstly, all the points I mentioned above, they are very annoying habits and will detract from your event. Now from the stalls I say this:

“Are we in the right room?  I haven’t heard a single word about how to effectively sell to women … have you?”


  • Did you need to wear that? It’s all I can concentrate on.
  • If all you have to say is word for word what’s on the slide, please be quiet, I’m reading!
  • Is this presentation delivering what it promised, or am I in the wrong room?
  • Why is the presenter looking at the screen instead of us, doesn’t he/she know what’s coming up either!?
  • That must be industry jargon, I’ve no idea what it meant; am I the only one?
  • LOL I bet they wish they’d checked all the equipment before now!

Public speaking can be such a powerful way in which to engage with prospective clients, or entertain existing clients; they are a great way in which to establish credentials as an industry expert – the ‘go to’ industry expert; they can significantly increase your profile, confidence, and popularity.

Public speaking can also make you the last person that people go to listen to in less time than your speech takes to make.

If you go to the trouble of seeing & hearing your presentation / speech as your audience will, then you stand a great chance of it, and you, being a success.

…and, if you have any time & coffee left, here is a double ‘Dreamweaver Bonus’ for you. A brilliant video of how to make a great presentation, and excellent advice on how to be creative; starring John Cleese.

This brilliant example was brought to my attention by my US buddy ‘Whittemore’! Also a tower of knowledge for anyone. Follow her on Twitter @CBWhittemore & check out her website

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How to Retain & Acquire Customers in a Small Business


Trends, consumers, business, sales, marketing, interiors

Get a Big Cat she said!

No matter what business you are in, Customers are key to your success; keeping your existing customers satisfied, and winning new customers for the long-term is not hard.  However, it does demand from you consistency of a high degree of effort to make sure that you understand how they live, what the pressures on them are, and what problems these pressures may bring.  If you develop a good understanding of this then you have an even better chance of knowing what solutions you provide for one, or more, of the problems they have.

Whilst I would dearly love to be able to give you a detailed plan of action here, that’s not possible without knowledge of your specifics.  However, we can provide the basis of a thought process and some information from our trend research that will set you off on the right path.

Stating the blindingly obvious, but making a point that many seem to forget: Stop thinking like an Interior Designer, a procurement expert, a salesperson, a Managing Director … stop thinking like a business person.  When we talk about ‘the consumer’, ‘the customer’ – who is that?  That’s right, it’s you and me!  There isn’t another group of humans doing the buying whilst we are the ones in business – think like YOU when you are a consumer/customer.  If it isn’t good enough, clear enough, or value enough for you then it won’t be for your customers, no matter how much cost it saves you/additional benefits it gives your business.

Last year we worked with Le Creuset on a review of their collections for the Spring/Summer 2012 season, as well as taking a look ahead at their developments for Autumn/Winter 2012/13.  Established in 1925, Le Creuset have been making world-class cookware for almost 100 years, innovation remains at the forefront of their success.  They are a company that understands colour and the ways in which it can “transform an environment, create a style, set a mood, and alter perceptions”.  Recognised for their superior range of enamelled cast iron cookware, they have a wonderful range of fantastic shades available and below you can see how you can work the season’s luxury glamour trend in the kitchen.

Think brushed metallics and subtle shimmer; work with malachite green to create a liquid emerald effect, teal and dark sapphire, exquisite galaxy purples and a pure amethyst, with a deep, intense burgundy.

The policies of austerity implemented by Governments across the world have forced consumers to re-evaluate what they need, how much they need, and how they spend the money available to them.  Our research has for the past couple of years identified a consumer trend to buy less ‘stuff’, de-clutter their lives, and to invest in better quality, longer lasting pieces that actually enhance their lives in some way.  For your business to achieve an order today, it is much more likely that your ‘solution’ is solving a specific problem rather than fulfilling a gratuitous desire.

I can’t put this better myself and so I won’t try:

Customers, especially female customers, buy solutions, not products or services.  This is particularly true in complex categories and where the investment is significant — such as Home furnishings and white goods.  Solutions require thinking about the world our customers live in and stepping away from our day-to-day worries and product concerns and into their world.”

C. B Whittemore,

Here are some thoughts to open your mind to spending time quietly (yet seriously) considering this subject objectively, in detail, and using your customer’s eyes.

  • Expanding business with your existing customers is easier and less costly than opening business with new customers.
  • An introduction to new customers, from existing customers, is the most cost-effective way of finding new ones.
  • New customers found in this way always results in new business eventually.
  • Taking ‘new products’ to ‘new customers’ tops the league table in degree of difficulty and in cost per sale.
  • ‘Offering a wide range of products, or services, will ensure that you secure most orders’ – our trend research over the past 3 years indicates that this is a myth of the past.  Today’s customers just want to be taken to the best value for money solution to solve their problem.  Showing them fewer, more pertinent solutions will achieve higher conversion rates of enquiries to orders.

Lakeland are another of our valued clients and a company we’ve been working with for many seasons now.  They have a very clear understanding of who their customer is and work hard to develop the right product for them.  Early last year we created a bespoke report detailing the Spring/Summer 2012 styles that will emerge as focus shifts to Britain’s key events this year i.e. the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Great Exhibition, and the Olympics.  We’re thrilled to see their latest range now available, in celebration of the Jubilee, including fabulously on-trend crown motifs in an elegant palette of deep blue and a rich royal red, and a very patriotic street party collection including napkins, cake stands, and cupcake wrappers. 

What are some of the ‘living’ trends that our research has given evidence for that might impact on your customer retention and acquisition actions?

  • Cost is driving consumers to use less energy (gasoline, electricity, gas, water etc.) and this is leading/will lead to our living in smaller spaces.
  • Across the world there is a faster, more consistent migration of population to urban areas increasing the pressure on space and resulting in less need for individual transport.
  • Communication tools/methods have increased the use of public transport systems allowing people increased time to do what they want and be more available to each other.
  • This communication revolution has by default, increased our desire for ‘convenience’ not just in products, but in life.  For the purposes of this exercise you might read ‘How easy is it to…’ in lieu of ‘convenience’ e.g. How easy is it to find your business?  How easy is it to do business with your company?
  • When you consider value for money – do you include convenience in your thinking?
  • Blatant and permanent ‘Sales’ no longer provide the attraction they once did.  Your customers want to know much more about what they are buying than ever before and price no longer covers the sins of a product/service/business.
  • Consumers want to know more about what they purchase than ever before and back stories to you, your business, and where the products come from are very desirable.
  • Product or service personalisation (not necessarily bespoke), can also be evidenced in consumer trends as a desire.

So back to the beginning, do you offer your customers solutions to problems?

The wonderful technicalities and engineering intricacies of your offer are of no relevance unless you can describe them in a way that everyone can understand them and there is, in the customer’s view, a tangible benefit, of significance, to that customer.

For example: it could be said that there is nothing more beautiful than a Ferrari, nothing more luxurious than a Rolls Royce, nothing faster than a Bugatti, or better engineered than a BMW.  But all that aside, each of them must travel at the legal speed limit and each will only go from A to B – as does a Renault Clio.  So the sellers of these products must think hard about what issues/problems/needs they solve for their customers that the alternatives don’t.

In 2011 we presented our trends to the team at InterfaceFLOR who have brilliantly captured the attention of their customers by creating a F A B U L O U S collection of short films that truly epitomise the dark and twisted fairytale aesthetic.

So what can you do to keep existing customers and win new ones?

Be easy to find.  Provide solutions to satisfy real problems in our lives.  Be easy to deal with.  Offer value for money.  Offer less but offer pertinent solutions.  Provide the product/service back story.  Be Kind, open, honest, and transparent.  Above all, ENGAGE with your customers at every opportunity in a genuine and encompassing way.  Bring your customers into your business and open yourself up to them.

That isn’t supposed to be an exhaustive list of the right steps to take – just a start to get your mind working and your meetings buzzing!

As always, I’d be absolutely delighted to hear about your experiences in this activity, your opinions about this posting, any ideas you have that might be better than, or add value to, mine.  Most of all, I would love to be able to help further so feel free to seek more information, clarification, or simply ask a question about a customer issue you could do with another view on.  Leave your comments by hitting the comment button at the top of this posting or email me at

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How to be a Good Communicator

The title of this posting has, I now realise, put me under pressure to get my opinion across in a coherent way; how stupid was that!

How we communicate with each other has been at the front of my mind over the past few months.  For example, do you ever think about, or get surprised at, networking events, by how few people seem to have taken the time to think about why they are there, what they are going to say and how to say it?  And even fewer people keep quiet as a result of their lack of preparation but rather, spend the event practising and honing their ‘elevator pitch’.  Might just be me, but isn’t their timing a little out!

Have you recently noticed our written communication?  Dickens would despair and ask what have we done with our language skills?  Modernisation and evolvement are good and new words should be adopted; but some of the emails and letters (do you still receive this ancient method of keeping in touch?!) coming across our desks leave a lot to be desired.

Text language seems to have permeated all written forms of communication and in itself is not the problem; our main concern should be that it appears to have not only made the hand lazy, but the mind as well.

When I began my working life fortune gave me a mentor (from about age 18) called Graham Petty – a communication genius.  In those days (the 20th century!) text and email were but a candle flicker in the mind of their inventor.  Letters were the leading method of communication in business, followed closely by the telephone.  (As an aside, an article in a business journal I read regularly online, referred to a survey claiming that 55% of communication made with a mobile/smart phone is text, 35% is email … and 10% is speech.)  These then (letters and phone remember) were the tools that one had to learn how to use well.  To actually practise using a phone and constructing letters was a part of everyone’s early work life.  Graham taught me that to write a good letter, you must write from the reader‘s viewpoint all of the time.  In this way you will keep the reader interested, pleased that you have thought so much of him/her; and because you do this you are much more likely to get what you are seeking.

To demonstrate his teaching Graham drew this for me:

This pearl of wisdom ensures that whatever you are writing about is made interesting to the reader by virtue of the fact that it is written with the reader at the forefront of everything.  Forcing you to consider, what about your subject is of value to the reader?  There seems to me to be no reason why emails could not be written using the same great lesson and good manners.

One of the biggest saboteurs of good communication is that foe of the ages – ‘in-house’, ‘professional’, ‘industry’ jargon.  If we don’t take the trouble to use the same language as the person(s) we are communicating with, then why would they leave with a complete understanding (or at least the same understanding) of what has been said and what is expected next?

3 Examples

1. You visit a carpet shop and you are not a carpet expert.  The salesperson (unfortunately mostly men – sorry guys its true) tells you about the weight (in something referred to as ounces) of the carpet, the pile height, the tufting, the brand name, and that it costs a unit of your local currency per square yard/metre.  You wanted to know how does it feel under bare feet, does the colour go with your scheme, is the quality good enough for use in the room being re-carpeted, and how much will it cost to have the chosen carpet in the room you want it in. Although one is speaking ‘jargon’, and the other the more common local language, the answers fit the questions … But who would know?!

2. I (excuse me!) used to sell canopies to filling station owners, both independent and Oil companies.  The canopies stood on stanchions, had overhangs and underlining.  I knew all that there was to know about the product I was trained well to sell.  When speaking to an architect or oil company engineer we had no problems with the above.  However, when speaking to the filling station owner with 30 years’ experience retailing, and zip in steelwork construction, care had to be taken to talk about: the roof that would go over his forecourt to keep the rain off his customers and give them light in darkness whilst putting fuel in their cars; that the legs would go between his petrol pumps; the roof would extend far out from the pumps; and the underside of the roof would be white to reflect the light down!

3. And finally for fun: A friend of mine told me how she had recently fallen foul of the use of  jargon and acronyms.  To her severe embarrassment she had shocked a doctor on a train when asked what work she did.  Karen (real name Ellie!) said, “I do PR”.  In medicine PR stands for ‘per rectum’ – a very personal examination!

So take care to remember the language you ‘pick-up’ at work is not impressive language to anyone who has no clue what you mean.


I could carry on for pages about this subject as it holds a high degree of interest for me, and what it is supposed to do is?  That’s right!  Hold a high degree of interest for YOU!  So, the following few points that have been good to me will, I hope, be of interest to you.

To help you be a better communicator:

  • Always think about what you are going to say.
  • Write, read, review, re-write, and re-read before hitting ‘send’ or letting go at the post box!
  • Write using everyday language, avoid the pitfall of writing as policemen speak.
  • Use language common to you and the reader/listener.
  • In conversation, constantly check that what you have said is understood as you meant it; this can be done by asking, “so what I mean is…”, or, “what do you think of that…?”
  • Always listen more than you speak and know when it is time to listen and when to talk.
  • Do your best to keep emails and letters to no more than one side of A4 paper in length.
  • Remember life’s common courtesies.  It’s always nicer to communicate with a person who is polite and courteous.
  • Observe the communication style of others and adapt your’s to connect with them.
  • Be honest, open, and transparent.
  • Know that the phone is an interruption to the receiver, so ask if it is a convenient time (as you would do knocking on someone’s office door).  Time on the phone is exaggerated if you pause as your facial expressions are not visible, smile, it shows in your voice.  Prepare a phone call thoroughly.

I’d love to hear your views and learnings on improving communication so please leave a comment or send them to me at


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