Ugg boots are trendy, but that doesn't make them a trend

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What do scrapbooking, dice-rolling bunco groups and ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" have in common? They're all hit cultural phenomena that started outside urban centers. Ten years ago, it's likely these things would have remained confined to the regional areas where they began. Hot fads launched from urban areas like New York and Los Angeles where mainstream media were located. Not so today, and mostly thanks to technology. Today, a broadband-connected urban New York teen can have more in common with a Boise farming tween or a Japanese intellectual adolescent than he does with his own techno-shy parents. The Internet has opened communication not only across international borders, but also across ethnicities, religions, and socio-economic classes.

"Technology has certainly flattened access to trends," said Mary Meehan of Iconoculture. "But uncovering actionable insights is still a skill."

What that means is: Don't confuse real trends with what's simply trendy. Trends are long-term economic, sociological, anthropological changes in the way people behave or believe. For instance, the trend may be comfort; the fads that serve as clues to the trend are Ugg boots and `70s ponchos.

"The demand on trend forecasters is to prove what's really going to work," said Jane Buckingham of Intelligence Group. "So it's equally important to talk to trendsetters and the mainstream."

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