Contrary to what many might believe, popularity alone does not a trend make.
Recently, I had the honor of speaking to the Upper Midwest chapter of the Experiential Designers and Producers Association in St. Paul, MN, about the trends my team and I identified during our visit to Expo 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan. The presentation provided a brief overview of a dozen different trends that I predict will impact the trade show and events industry in the year ahead - and beyond. But these are more than mere fads, and that's an important distinction for marketers seeking to incorporate trends into their exhibit-marketing programs.
Because contrary to what many might believe, popularity alone does not a trend make. Before EXHIBITOR endorses any trend, it must possess two additional characteristics.
First, a trend's popularity must be fueled by one or more common drivers. In other words, these 12 trends aren't trendy simply because they're in vogue. Rather, they're in vogue because they enhance the attendee experience or present a solution to a universal challenge. For example, one of the biggest trends to emerge from Expo 2017 was mirrored finishes, which check four boxes on today's experiential to-do list: They render a space more enveloping, add a futuristic flair to any design aesthetic, create a multidimensional illusion by making a given area seem larger than it really is, and reflect both the light and movement of nearby audiovisual and multimedia components, heightening their impact exponentially.
Second, each of the 12 trends was nudged forth by past trends that gave rise to them in one of two ways. Oftentimes, trends produce anti-trends. For example, lightweight exhibits created using sheer tensioned fabrics were extraordinarily popular in the early and mid 2000s. But by the time the Great Recession rolled around, the last thing any company wanted to be perceived as was ephemeral. So an anti-trend of faux stone and industrial fixtures inundated exhibit halls as companies attempted to foster an image of enduring stability.
Other times trends emerge by way of evolution. For instance, the recent trend toward massive video walls and large-scale multimedia installations is no longer confined to vertical surfaces. Today, that trend is evolving from exhibits' upright walls to the so-called fifth wall, i.e., the floor. As LED panels and other audiovisual techniques create immersive and dynamic installations beneath attendees' feet, the resulting underfoot aesthetic fosters a more enveloping environ that enhances the in-booth experience.
So why is this level of trend analysis important? Because when we dissect industry shifts and examine what's driving them, it enables us to separate bona-fide movements from fleeting fads. If you glean nothing else from this editorial, remember one thing: While fads are fueled solely by popularity, trends are powered by common drivers and are intrinsically related to what came before them and what will come next.
The reason it's essential for you, as exhibit managers, to understand the difference is that true trends have significantly more staying power than mere fads. So to help you stay abreast of genuine industry trends, EXHIBITOR is launching a 12-part "Trend of the Month" video series, sponsored by Access TCA Inc. Each trend has been vetted by our editorial team, which covers dozens of trade shows and events for myriad industries. Because we've been there and seen that, we are able to separate the wheat from the chaff - or, in this case, the trends from the fads. Our goal is to keep you on the cutting edge, help you sidestep short-term fads, and provide you with inspirational eye candy and examples of how to incorporate these honest-to-goodness trends into your company's trade show program.
To see the first installment of our Trend of the Month videos, visit www.ExhibitorOnline.com/Trends. E