On The Job: Advance Notice

A trendspotter shares her secrets.

By Arikia Millikan, published May 1, 2010 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Trends don't just happen; sometimes they are made. Meet Marian Salzman, the driving force behind some of the past decade's catchiest trends, like the concept of "metrosexual." As president of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, North America, Marian identifies rising tides in the zeitgeist, and sometimes shifts them by promoting the next big thing.

What's a trendspotter?

That's what other people call me. I would really call myself a market researcher who became a marketer. I predict what people are going to do in a certain time period so that companies can benefit from that knowledge and make the right decisions. How are people going to shop in the next five years? How are they going to consume media? How are they going to commute? Are they? Today we were talking with a client about how to use video to replicate office space. Why do you need all this pricey real estate in big offices around the world when people could be experiencing one another by video, multiculturally?

What got you into PR?

At 26, I was doing journalism undercover as a high-school student. My writing about teens and peer pressure got the attention of Esprit's PR firm, which led me to Pepsi and Reebok.

How do you collect data?

Market research, focus groups, and surveys. About 18 months ago, I started analyzing Twitter messages for emerging buzzwords.

Are some people trend-setters?

We identify the second or third people in the community to try something new. They're not the fringe, they're the ones who really take what's happening and integrate it into the community. We can identify them with a questionnaire. They're more likely to shop with someone else—they really need the social experience of sharing something new. They don't wear the same designer head-to-toe on their bodies. They shy from orthodox interests like religion or sports.

Is trendspotting a young person's game?

I've had a really long adolescence. I never saw myself as growing old. I was always the youngest person in the room for so many years and one day I woke up and wasn't the youngest person in the room any more. My best work has come from the work I do with young people. I've given up my private office in my last two jobs so that I could share my cubicle with people under 30.

Do you use your sociology degree?

I approach life like my Brown [University] experience, where there were no rules; you could study whatever you wanted. I'll tell you a secret: The way I trained for my career was by reading a supermarket paperback every day for 20 years, whether it was a mystery, a crime story, a romance novel. I am addicted to pop culture.

Do you have a secret weapon?

Most people who spot future trends are very odd. I have the advantage of looking really preppy and normal, so if something comes out of my mouth that's provocative, I have enhanced credibility.