After hearing about it for about it for several months from friends, I recently visited Roll It Up, a local ice cream shop that serves up the tasty frozen treat a little bit differently. Rather than scooping ice cream out on cones, Roll It Up actually makes the ice cream right in front of you on a frozen slab, scrapes the ice cream off the slabs, and serves it as a “rolled up” treat with some toppings. (And on a personal note, it’s some of the best ice cream I have ever had! Highly recommend!)
Roll It Up and shops like it became very popular a couple of years ago when the roll up ice cream trend was taking over social media. It seemed like every other video that popped up on Facebook was a video of ice cream being scraped off a slab and rolled up. Rolled ice cream has been popular around Asia for several years, and made its way to the US in late 2015. This trend became popular not because it introduced a totally new and amazing product (after all, it’s still ice cream), but because it added new elements to a product that everyone knows about and loves. Not only could consumers customize flavors, they could now enjoy the experience of being apart of something new and unique.
Roll It Up opened its doors in Atlanta right around the time that this trend was taking off and has since opened three additional locations. This timing is not coincidental; the trend itself is what contributed the most to Roll It Up’s initial success. The company tapped into an opportunity that was being fueled by social media interest, and used it to create a unique offering. This company’s success offers a few insights into how companies can use popular trends to their advantage. Three helpful tips come to mind.
First of all, companies have to keep a very close eye on what’s being talked about, even by those outside of their customer base. It can be very difficult to predict which trends might infiltrate your industry and even more difficult to predict which topics will start trending at all. So prepare yourself. Look at past trends and identify posts that might indicate a trending topic. Then apply those indicators to what’s currently circulating. Think about some ways those topics might translate to your customer base if they happened to take off.
Secondly, once those topics are identified and you see signs of popularity, start putting out some feelers. Post some curated content about those topics in the context of your business, and see how your followers respond. Above-average retweets or shares might be a good indicator of a favorable customer response due to a trending topic. Using a hashtag connected to a trend or advertising other specific aspects might be a good way to delve further into your customers’ connection to the popular topic.
Lastly, always keep the context of your own business in mind. As a business begins to pick up on and implement trending topics, they have to constantly ask themselves two questions: (1) Is this relevant? and (2) Where is this going? A business could literally be the first one to pick up on the biggest trend of the year, but if it cannot be feasibly add some value to their customer base in the long run, it might not be the best path to pursue. Use external influences to enhance your brand rather than trying to unnecessarily force them into your brand. And you also have to ask yourself where you see the content going in the long run. This is difficult to predict, so keep an open mind; but chances are that if you can’t use the content to enhance your company’s future, it might best to consider other options.
Roll It Up greatly profited from popular trend and used it as a platform to establish their business. Other companies can do the same by keeping themselves aware of popular topics inside their industry, using content to measure reactions, and always viewing trends in the context of your business.