NASHVILLE: Beam Inc., the spirits manufacturer, has yielded major benefits from empowering its staff to identify the latest trends evolving among millennials.

In a bid to keep up with this ever-changing target audience, the firm conducted an in-house trend-gathering exercise in the vodka category, which is a valuable and innovative segment. (See Warc exclusive report: Beam Inc. takes a new approach to spotting trends.)

This initiative featured four cross-functional teams based around the world, each of which was comprised of employees of varying ages, demographics and seniority.

Each team had three months to sample unusual products, shopping experiences, media formats, restaurants and a variety of other related activities.

The four sets of insights were then gathered together for presentation during the company's official "ideation week", with 20-odd trends being outlined overall.

Some of the most-promising concepts were "collaborative lifestyles", "synaesthesia", "maximise moments", "mass customisation" and "think global, get local".

Janu Lakshmanan, Beam Inc.'s head of global vodka consumer insights, suggested that the benefits of this process moved beyond simply discovering more about drinkers.

"For our industry, specifically, it's so important to understand trends, but more importantly, to develop a gut on what is cool - because if we aren't cool, and we're trying to be in an industry that is cool, we'll really fall flat," she said.

In short, uncovering these trends "had to be done by Beam people for Beam people".

Responding in a timely and relevant fashion is also crucial, according to Lakshmanan, as is monitoring how each trend develops over time.

"They still will exist, but there are nuances and a little bit of a change that will happen in each of them," she said.

"Looking for what those changes are will really make the difference on making an innovation or activation work and actually resonate with a consumer."

So the transition from theory into practice is critical: "We actually timed it in a way that it would funnel into our ideation process," Lakshmanan continued.

"And we incorporated all of our sales teams, so they are already bought into what we are doing; we incorporated our planners and our agency partners, so that they are also engaged and they know the output."

Finding "small twists" in each trend is equally vital, she said, and the company expects the fruits of its endeavours to be evidenced in its activation tactics and 2014 innovation pipeline.

"Especially in liquor, it's a lot about activating: how we do it in-market ... and a lot of that is about these trends," said Lakshmanan.

Data sourced from Warc