Trend Spotlight

The Authentic Aesthetic

Since it is no longer cool to be manufactured,” brands are evolving their social media-centric activations in favor of authenticity.

As the great trend-watchers of our day have shown us, cultural trends are pendulums of technological and societal changes. Today, more than ever, cultural trends are represented in changing consumer tastes and aesthetics, and these shifts are especially visible in social media trends. 

In recent years, brands and product teams have recognized that their design pendulum has swung away from minimalism. As showcased through prominent rebrands by Dropbox, Chobani, and Dunkin, design is swinging back toward design elements from the 70s, specifically embracing authenticity by turning to fonts with a more expressive, human feel.” 

Over that same time, consumers and culture have ridden a rollercoaster of social media-driven design changes. The goal was to be more Instagrammable. In 2017, restaurants changed their designs and provided customers with kits including items such as selfie sticks and clip-on lenses so they could take more (and better) photos. In 2018, we were at peak Instagram museums – spaces set up as one big photo op, like the Museum of Ice Cream. In early 2019, the Instagrammable trend reached into people’s homes with letter boards and backdrops with props that turn an apartment wall into a photo booth. 

Now, as we head to the end of 2019, the pendulum has swung again. 

The Instagrammable pop-ups are collapsing. Instagram vs. reality is a popular meme. For Gen Z, and probably all generations, the Instagram aesthetic is over.

Manufactured experiences and overly staged photos are no longer trendy; authentic expressions are the newly popular social aesthetic. 

Evolving Events’ Social Media-centric Activations 

Events, by nature, will remain Instagrammable, TikTok-able, WhatEverIsNext-able. Events will always be highly social media-friendly, so it is important to stay abreast of current trends and incorporate them into activations. 

As the social media aesthetic has evolved, so have the activations at events. Beautiful pop-ups, engaging activations, gravity rooms, and, of course, photo booths of all types (even ones that make edible selfies), will remain popular social media-centric activations through 2020

Yet, the strategy and design of these activations are changing. Collaborative art experiences and maker stations are providing attendees with authentic moments to share. Wellness activities, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and corporate social responsibility programs at events enable attendees to contribute meaningful content to their social feeds. Low-tech social walls and high-tech photo mosaics celebrate the community that has developed and grown throughout the event. 

Events and experiential marketing are the natural playgrounds for brands to connect – and help drive forward – today’s humanistic, authentic sharing culture. Paying attention to social media trends will allow brands to keep up with the current aesthetics. 

Out: Manufactured Expressions

Thousands of tourists visit the famous Pink Wall” on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, resulting in nearly identical Instagram posts. 

In: Authentic Expressions

YouTuber Emma Chamberlain embraces an authentic, raw aesthetic in her Youtube and Instagram content. 

Images by: @hanvone, @twinmommagic, @misswok_, @brightbazaar, @staceyjlife, @emmachamberlain


By Brent Turner

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Brent Turner

Brent is the head of strategy for Opus, the event and experiential marketing industry's fastest-growing global agency.

Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and .