How can furniture manufacturers know which colours, forms and themes will be popular in future living worlds? Trend agencies look for answers, have astonishingly effective methods for finding them and are nonetheless commissioned far too seldom in Germany.
The British agency "Trend Bible" gets to the heart of the task faced by trend agencies every day and year after year: "Whether in terms of social and cultural aspects or matters of taste, our task is to find out which future trends will influence your company and to help you utilise these. Our customers demand a guaranteed competitive advantage from trend analysis and interpretation, which means that we are of course very goal-oriented." The pressure under which trend agencies work is also enormous, especially because the results are directly measurable: in greater profits, increasing market shares and media mentions. In order to provide accurate forecasts, agencies incorporate a correspondingly broad spectrum of factors into their analyses: they observe consumers, interpret their mentality, fears, pleasures, wishes and dreams, and at the same time move within the companies to see which of these consumer wishes they can realise.
There are very few agencies in the German-speaking world that have specialised in the furniture industry. According to Katrin de Louw, founder and managing director of the trend agency "Trendfilter", this is due to the fact that the suppliers of furniture manufacturers already provide their customers with reliable information on current trends, and that trade fairs like "imm cologne" and "interzum" are effective sources of information and places for exchanging information. The downside: furniture manufacturers in the German-speaking world generally rely on the same forecasts, and almost always move in the same direction. Only few of them dare to go new ways, to introduce individual products to the market and in this way possibly initiate their own trends. A correspondingly small number of trend agencies in Germany work exclusively for the furniture industry.
Gabriela Kaiser from TRENDagentur sees an advantage in this: "For myself as an agency, the entire design lifestyle is of interest. One can't look at furniture in isolation, but must instead see it within a context. What do the walls look like? If walls have a pronounced decorative effect at the moment, one then doesn't also need furniture that is highly decorative and extremely colourful. If very little decoration is provided in the form of home accessories, then tables and furniture can have somewhat more decorative surfaces. I advise furniture manufacturers to visit trade fairs like 'Ambiente' and to form their own ideas about colours, materials and designs. When, for example, the emphasis on accessories of wood is very strong, I can see little sense in a wooden table. At the moment, however, we are experiencing a strong wave of rustic ceramics, and wooden tables suit these perfectly."
Trend scouts acquire a feeling for and knowledge of current trends and in-demand lifestyle products for their agencies as an inherent aspect of their profession. Furniture manufacturers in Germany could profit much more from this than they presently do. Not only in that they directly access expert knowledge, but also in that they develop their own new products together with trend agencies. Katrin de Louw is thus convinced that her agency "Trendfilter" can "not only [advance] technical innovations, quality and processes, but also provide good design with respect to the formal language and the use of material" together with furniture manufacturers. Embarking on new paths together with trend agencies is in fact quite risky in the hotly contested furniture market, but also offers the chance to create a unique profile and become the market leader with a successful product.