What do the technology and fashion industries have in common? On first reflection, maybe not a lot. But if you look a little closer at the business models, marketing strategies and purchasing behaviour within the technology industry in recent years, one thing becomes hugely apparent. It’s all about trends. Products are suddenly in, then just as quickly they’re out.
Take social networks for example, a thoroughly modern fad. Remember when everybody was all about MySpace and Bebo? Now they’re so last decade, with Facebook and Twitter currently dominating the social media sphere and MySpace struggling to make a comeback. The same goes for technology products. BlackBerry was, up until recently, the de facto smartphone of choice, until Apple (and to a lesser extent Android) more or less edged them out of the market.
Trends within technology aren’t a new thing, but they have certainly never been this widespread before. As the average consumer becomes more tech savvy and increasingly fluent in expressing their needs, tech products in turn become more accessible and easier to brand. Essentially: you don’t have to be a nerd anymore to think that gadgets are cool, and to want the next best thing – and to want it now.
Of course, everybody has their own tastes and personal favourites. Perhaps you favour Dell laptops over Hewlett Packard, or you prefer Android smartphones to Apple products. There are niches and subcultures within technology just as much as there are in fashion; just think about the brief flash of uncanny recognition you feel each time you see somebody on the street using the same phone or tablet as you, and how similar it is to running into someone with the same taste in clothes.
Just like in the fashion industry, trends in technology, social media and gaming can go out of style – but, with a bit of luck, in time they can come back around again. Retro appeal is alive and well in technology; old school Nintendo games like Super Mario have stood the test of time on a number of gaming platforms, and the cult classic point-and-click PC series Broken Sword has been reincarnated as a popular iOS game.
In an article for FastCompany, Brian Millar compared technology companies to fashion houses, and suggested that developers should become known for their ‘key pieces’, just like designers. This makes a certain amount of sense; industry leader Apple is known as much for its simple but all-pervasive branding as it is for innovative technology development. Looking at Apple through a fashion lens, the constantly evolving iPod, iPhone and iPad product lines could be compared to the continuously revamped classics such as the little black dress that appear each new season on the runway.
By that token, technology and social media moguls like Mark Zuckerberg and the late Steve Jobs are the Anna Wintours and Alexander McQueens of their field, ever reshaping our perceptions of technology and influencing the ways we engage with it every day. Which begs the question; who’s going to be the next big name?