Attending my first Future Trends Conference (November 2003) I found my tribe of visionary cohorts – like-minded individuals in the business of discovering and leveraging trends for business strategy. Looking through the roster, I realized there were no other attendees from the fragrance or flavor industry. Our customers, on the other hand, were sending their marketing and consumer insight teams to bring home relevant content. Not an easy thing to do given the broad range of topics and so-called trends that would take an expert to reinterpret into their categories. It became obvious that the tangible juicy bits they were looking for were impossible to decipher if not absent altogether. The solution was to get myself invited to be a speaker at the following year’s conference. This would be a way to establish the foresight work I was doing as a recognized authority on the subject of future trends for fragrances and flavor creation. There was no competition - speaking or attending. Additionally, I was able to collect new insights while learning the art of stage presence and delivery from visionary experts like Michael Tchong, Robyn Waters, Cheryl Swanson, and Reinier Evers.
The level of futuring, brand strategy, design, and consumer insights was at a sophisticated level, and ‘tracking trends’ hadn’t become a trend itself - yet. Simply being in the same conference brochure as these celebrated visionaries brought an unexpected credibility to my work. Watching these foresight practitioners present their generic observations to an audience hungry to know ‘What’s Next?’ inspired me to create presentations laser-focused on tangible content I knew any CPG customer attending came for. They would return to their offices with inspiration they could put to use immediately, while establishing myself, and Firmenich, as the source.
The following year Steven joined me to co-present as one of the break-out sessions. Our goal was to find our way to the main stage and ultimately as keynote speakers. Four years later, we found ourselves in the area of Miami known as Wynwood. Block, after block, after block, the warehouse and retail building walls were covered in high-caliber street art by the best of the best. Obey, Faile, Ron English, Kobra, Kenny Scharf, PixelPancho, Atomik, and even a piece by RAIN. We had found the end of the rainbow for shooting and analyzing the messages and colors coming from the street. We’d never seen anything like it, and it was all by design.
The entire warehouse district on the northern outskirts of downtown Miami was in the beginning stages of a well-orchestrated gentrification by real estate genius Tony Goldman of Goldman Properties. Tony had already proven the process with his unorthodox formula in now well-established neighborhoods such as SoHo in Manhattan and SoBe in Miami Beach. These one-time distraught areas turned high-rent mall-like destinations were resurrected according to plan. Wynwood would be his next Frankenstein. In 2009 the area was all but desolate, and the perfect locale for a Trenz®Walk. To go there today, it brings a tear to my eye that I witnessed this neighborhood’s metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly.