Our Framework

Our cross-cultural trends framework is universal, and underpins our approach to identifying and tracking trends. It begins with an understanding of basic human need.

Our philosophy at Join the Dots is that human behaviour is driven by happiness, a theory put forward by Psychologist Martin Seligman. Ultimately, people are on a quest to achieve happiness and every action we take is an attempt to make us happy.

Research into Positive Psychology tells us there are basic human needs we need to fulfil as a minimum in order to feel a sense of happiness. There are seven fundamental drivers, which are: Meaning, Relationships, Achievement, Engagement, Positive Emotions, Health and Security.


Similar to Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs, these are universal and unchanging. We’ve used these drivers as a framework to understand both human and consumer behaviour. Along with all our other actions as consumers, every purchase we make is an attempt to tap into one or more of these drivers in order to access happiness. For example, we may treat ourselves to a meal out, tapping into Positive Emotions, or we may make a purchase from an ethical brand because it delivers a sense of Meaning.

To show on a more granular level the way these drivers are informing consumer behaviour, we’ve translated these seven human drivers into 14 consumer needs (as shown above), making them relevant for brands and marketers.

These universal drivers and needs combine with macro-environmental factors (i.e. political, social, economic and technological forces) and hedonic adaptation to create ever-evolving consumer trends. Hedonic adaptation is the idea that the things that make us happy today might not deliver the same amount of happiness in a month or a year. Another term for this is the ‘treadmill effect’ – when we get something we want, our expectations and desires then shift and increase, meaning we’re always in pursuit of more.

‘Trends’ are essentially the behaviours consumers express when they navigate the world at that moment, in that particular cultural climate, in order to meet their underlying fundamental needs.

With different forces acting on people in different markets, trends tend to be culturally specific, although we can often see patterns emerging across comparable nations and peoples.

If you’d like more information about the background psychology and academic research behind our framework, you can read the original Join the Dots reports on consumer happiness:

Comley Reports: An Introduction to Happiness

Comley Reports: Happiness Matters


For the UK, we have taken our thinking one step further to identify 14 need-driven consumer trends: we call these UP Trends. We launched a brand new set of trends in January 2019. Head to our UP Trends page to find out more.