Ariane van de Ven is a global trend forecaster, and her job is to predict the future. She’s created Number 3 gin, redesigned M&S beer and worked with Maltesers despite not really “getting” British chocolate (she’s French). Here’s how she got to where she is, and how you can do her job.
WHAT’S THE JOB?
Ariane figures out what’s going to be impacting a company, and then makes sure everyone knows what they need to do in order to take advantage of it. Her clients are varied and the jobs she’s had in the past have involved everything from helping Swarowski sell crystals to swimwear brands to figuring out what large monuments in Paris can be used for in the future.
Essentially, she’s the source for a lot of products and processes within companies; right now she’s working her magic at Telefonica (known in the UK as O2) predicting ways in which businesses are changing. Everything she has predicted has come true, including the importance of sustainability in companies, but two of her trend predictions directly concern young jobseekers, which you can read about here…
HOW TO PREDICT A TREND
“I’m like a sponge, I consume all kinds of media, every different type,” Ariane says, “social media, loads of news sites, industry reports and TV and cinema, song lyrics, everything. Then throughout the year, things stick in my head. Once a year I go through all those ideas and try to see correlations.”
When working with brands she has no idea about, like Maltesers, it helps to talk to the people who know their stuff. “I’m not English, so the whole Malteser thing went right over my head and, if I’m honest, I still don’t really understand British chocolate,” she says, “I spoke to people who could tell me the history and what it means to them when they, for example, get maltesers boxes as presents.”
THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF THE JOB?
Staying focused and keeping things specific. “The trends I’m working on are huge, and sometimes I’ll be working on a lot at once. You have to stick to your idea.” Another challenge is backing up your claims. “Because I am predicting things that aren’t tangible, I have to make sure I know what backs it up. I am very anal in my research so if anyone criticises it, I can defend it with hard facts.”
WHAT SORT OF PERSON MAKES A GOOD TREND FORECASTER?
“It’s a hands-on job, you have to be good at connecting with people, checking everyone is on board, figuring out what they want and how to go about it.” Communication is important, but creativity is essential, too. “It’s very, very creative,” Ariane says, “and you need to have an interest in people, and what makes them tick.”
It’s crucial to be able to put yourself in other people’s shoes and, as she puts it, “build empathy”: “”>It’s about listening and being open and saying OK how can I help?” she explains, “You need to be curious, that’s a good personality trait. Curious and creative with the ability to keep on searching and searching until you find that connection, until you find what’s going to work.”
WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DO I NEED?
She recommends any course with Psychology, Anthropology or Sociology elements combined with marketing or some sort of strategy training. “Art history was good because it teaches you to get into the artist’s mind and understand the creative process; with my job you need to take something that’s conceptual and work out how to make it tangible and relevant.”
If you’re bilingual, then you’ve got an immediate advantage. Especially if French is your language, mainly because there are so many Trends companies in Paris. “It was hard to find a job after I’d studied marketing management- a friend of my sister worked in HR, looked at my CV and thought I could be a trends consultant,” Ariane says, “I didn’t know what it was but sent my CV to all the trend companies in Paris. One wanted someone bilingual who could run their international accounts, so I got the job on the spot.”
BEST PART OF THE JOB?
“I get to inspire people,” she says, “you work in a team and spend so much time coming up with ideas then it’s like “ta-da! This is what we’ve come up with!” and it’s so nice to be useful, getting companies to think in different ways about things.” Above all, it’s a fun job, amid the hard work: “I’m just happy to help! We laugh a lot, and it’s a lot of work, but I love what I do.”