Website of the Month
08 Apr. 2013
Interview: Carl Rohde, founder of Scienceofthetime.ComNo longer simply related to the fashion and luxury worlds, Cool-hunting is now one of the most exact "sciences". The established scienceofthetime.com website is a fast-forward-thinking example of cool-hunting that explores many different "cool mentalities" and lifestyles. Scienceofthetime.com was founded by sociologist and University professor Carl Rohde, and is administered by his team of worldwide Cool-hunters and researchers. Rohde talks to Sportswear International about how all this was made possible, the scientific method employed, and what the future holds for tomorrow's consuming society. Interview by Maria Cristina Pavarini
Can you describe how the website is structured, and how it works?
Scienceofthetime.com dates back to 1992. This website is one of the first and most reputable trend-watch and innovation agencies in the world. I founded and lead the Science of the Time consultancy company that has worked with a kaleidoscope of enterprises and brands over the years, often in long term partnerships. Among the brands we worked for there are; Adidas, Bacardi, BMW, Canon, Coca Cola, Footlocker, Galeries Lafayette, Heineken, Levi's, Microsoft, Sony, VF Group and Vodafone.
The website focuses upon the "What it is, what's new & why it is cool?" format through three main areas: PLAY, STUDY and BUSINESS. At PLAY Trend-watchers, Cool-hunters, Branch-experts, Professors and Students upload their Examples of Cool, as spotted somewhere within their tours of the globe. At STUDY we assess what clusters of the Examples of Cool at PLAY mean and what is the deeper meaning behind these Examples of Cool. Within this section we also show a selection of the best books we are working with. And then there is, of course, the BUSINESS part of the website where companies read our services and approach us. Last but not least are the hidden areas of the website where our clients and Cool-hunters work on their Cool-hunting assessments.
How did the site scienceofthetime.com originate?
We are decades old, now. Having built a solid worldwide reputation in Trend-watching and Cool-hunting, translating the validated outcomes of it into Innovative Concepts for our clients. I lead www.scienceofthetime.com but I am also Prof. Dr. of Applied Sciences at some universities in The Netherlands, and will be a Visiting Professor for 'Trend-watching & Innovation' in Shanghai (SIT University) this Summer. During the last four years I have lectured in about 30 universities worldwide to teach them Trend-watching & Innovation at an academic level. They all participate in our Youth Mentality Trend research, which is the biggest of its kind worldwide. For The International Cool City Hunt research project, In Milan we worked with Università Cattolica and Politecnico. In this project we do a general Trend-watch and Cool-hunt project with students, a Fashion Trend-watch and Cool-hunt Project with Milano Fashion Institute, and a Luxury Trend-watch and Cool-hunt project with Emlux.
When did you launch it and what was the initial reaction?
When I started 25 years ago, Trend-watching was a new term. My feet are firmly standing in the academic methodological culture, so Trend-watching felt a bit like a 'de-motion'. I always ask people to call me what I am: an academic Trend-watcher with a sound & sane research methodology. At heart I am a cultural sociologist conducting Future Mentality Studies. In the beginning Trend-watching was solidly associated with the fashion world, including its focus on new textures, colours, designs. Now the field has broadened. The leading sectors we work for right now are the banking industry, online construction companies, and retail. Fashion Trend-watching is lacking in innovation if you ask me. They still focus on the textiles etcetera, and think that's enough, leaving broader Validated Mentality Trends out of sight.
To whom is it addressed?
We work for very many branches as they all want to know what Future Mentalities will look like. Apart from the branches mentioned above: real estate, city management, charities and governmental departments are using our services. Most of our clients are European, but our client base is growing in Brazil and China. For this reason most of the content of the website is available in three languages - English, Chinese (Mandarin) and Portuguese.
How many members does the site currently have and how many are you looking to have in the long run?
We don't talk about that. But I can tell you we have had about 8,000 students working with us over the last four years. Out of these circles we selected our 100 top bloggers. We enrich them with our professors, branch experts and reputed Trend-watchers all over the planet. They approach us, we train them our methodology. They start blogging. If they are good and reliable we set up projects with them in their countries. China, Poland and Turkey are growing fast for us right now.
What have been the biggest challenges of running the site thus far? And the greatest joys?
The greatest joy is our continuous learning process, as well as sorting out, together with our clients, what it all means for them; how to make them innovative and rich in profits. The biggest disappointment: I really, really have a deep, deep dislike for people who promise and don't deliver.
What services are you offering right now through it?
We have stopped with general trend reports. The market is overflowing with them. We always customize our insights in Future Mentality Trends with regard to our clients. We give lots of lectures and brainstorms. All lectures are lightly interactive to say the least, and come with lots of validated visual materials. Also we take our clients, the long-term ones, but also short-term ones, to the streets and teach them how to Cool-hunt there. That works, because it invites the people to think about and Cool-hunt around what are the future challenges of their company. Also it enhances social teamwork. Last but not least, we do big Cool-hunt projects with companies in-house, In order to amplify their vitality. We invite them on our exclusive Cool-hunt environments and start working with them in these Virtually Intensifying environments.
What new services or columns are you planning to add in the near or long-term run?
We are going to concern ourselves specifically with the people within a company, training them virtually and in-house, to Trend-watch and Cool-hunt around the most important trends and issues that concern their company. This is both very satisfying and enriching, and is the research dimension we will focus on in 2013.
Is fashion, streetwear or sportswear playing an important role in your Cool-hunts?
As I said, fashion Trend-watching and Cool-hunting have the longest roots in history. This, unfortunately, makes them rigid and un-innovative. When we work with fashion clients - including the excellent students from Milano Fashion Institute - we always start with breaking their minds open, supporting them to see further than the traditional fashion preoccupations.
How do you stay in touch with your members? How important is the social network aspect for this website?
Very important. We get a lot of requests from aspiring Trend-watchers and Cool-hunters whether they can work with us. We select the best. Also we meet several thousands of students every year. We select the most enthusiastic for www.scienceofthetime.com. When they have proven to be good and disciplined, we strengthen our bonds with them. Also universities worldwide approach us asking whether they can participate into our International Cool City Hunt research project, which is after all the biggest worldwide project of its type, and is methodologically speaking, the most rational.
What section, service or part of the website do you personally like most?
Hard question. I like to see what our Trend-watchers and bloggers post on PLAY. But we go into the deep at STUDY. And I love BUSINESS because there we generate the money to do further research. Besides these areas we have all the hidden Cool-hunt environments where company and or university Cool-hunters upload their Examples of Cool Blogs. I love to dwell on that raw research material as well.
About Carl Rohde
Prof. Dr. Carl C. Rohde is a worldwide reputed trend watcher and cultural sociologist recognised for his academic depth and his broad empirical research projects. Rohde gives lectures and presentations all over the world – both in the academic circuit and in the business circuit.
Rohde is professor (Applied Sciences) ‘Trend-watching & Innovation in regard to Hospitality’ at the Hotel Management School, Maastricht, Netherlands. He practices the same research field at International Life-Style Studies, Fontys Universities, and across The Netherlands.
During 2010/2011 was elected Trend-watcher of the Year, and for 2011/2012 he has been elected as Professor Applied Science (lector) of the Year, in the Netherlands.
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