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Want to Be a Trendsetter? Start Here

Think eco-friendliness can’t be fun? Then you’ve never heard of Club Watt, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. It featured a very unique dance floor: the energy absorbed from all that dancing powered the club’s electricity.

Finding unique answers to trends was just one of the topics discussed at last week’s MarketWatch, an event organized by Travel + Leisure at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. The theme, “Influencing the Global Influencer: What Works” was discussed by speakers and an expert panel of those who live on the cutting edge of trends.

After sales and marketing strategist Peter J. Bates kicked things off, one of those speakers took the podium: global trends expert Daniel Levine, executive director of the Avant-Guide Institute. Showiness, he said, has given way to education, friends and family, self-improvement, and social responsibility. It’s a trend best seen in advertising, where luxury brands aren’t featuring celebrities or fast living anymore. Instead, Mercedes is promoting its safety, TAG Heuer its quality, and Gucci its history.

What's important now, he said, are meaningful experiences. One place to find them: Finland's Kakslauttanen Hotel, where rooms have glass domes to watch the Northern Lights. Another example: Dinner in the Sky, where groups can dine high in the air, suspended by a crane, within view of iconic landmarks.

Eco-awareness is also important, but it’s essential to make anything “green” so interesting that people want to associate with it, like Club Watt. Closer to home, the Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte, NC, is making eco-news by raising bees on its roof and using the honey in its restaurant.

So how do you find the influencers and target messages to them? Social media, of course. That was the topic discussed by Mario Jobbe, social media and web product management expert, and co-founder of Circos Brand Karma. Social media, he said, helps in finding what matters to microsegments of the marketplace and reaching them with targeted messages. His tips: benchmark your brand against the competition; measure it in all languages; and engage in a way that’s authentic to your brand. Ultimately, he said, remember that “social media is storytelling.”

Following Jobbe was a panel discussion, moderated by T+L publisher JP Kyrillos, with those who follow and set trends: Kate Betts, contributing editor at Time magazine; Simon Doonan, creative director at Barney’s; designer Thakoon Panichgul; and Nancy Novogrod, editor in chief of Travel + Leisure.

The panel talked about global trends, which, said Betts, are often interpreted locally. Panichgul agreed, saying that it’s essential to pay attention to whether things work on a local level. A popular fashion in, say, Japan, might never take off in Korea. “It’s ironic, isn’t it,” said Novogrod, “that while we’re supposed to have a global awareness, there’s an increase in local consciousness.”

This trend will expand in 2011, the panel predicted, but with the economy slowly improving, they think we also need to add back some of the fun that’s been lost the past couple years. Said Doonan: “It’s time to get back some of our dolce vita.”

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