Gartner Hype Cycle – the trend of trends

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I find myself saying alot these days, ‘My career is in it’s fourth decade now!’ which really just means I’ve been working a little over 30 years. Over this time, I’ve seen a lot of new technology emerging into the world of Arts Marketing: the internet was the start, email marketing, mobile marketing, online ticketing, YouTube, Social media.

Whether when I was working in a venue or now working on behalf of clients, it’s been a constant question: “Should we invest time and resources now or wait until the technology is fully formed”. There’s never been a clear cut answer in my opinion. It depends on whether you’re a risk taker (bigger rewards) or you are risk averse.

Over the years, in reports and presentations, I’ve enjoyed sharing with colleagues something called the Gartner Hype Cycle. It illustrates a typical pattern that many new emerging technologies follow.

If you’re new to the concept, don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds. Essentially, the Gartner Hype Cycle is a graphical representation of how new technologies and trends become popular over time. And as you might imagine, this cycle is especially relevant to the Arts and Culture sector, particularly where resources are scares whether that’s expertise, funding or opportunity.

So let’s break it down: there are five stages to the Gartner Hype Cycle. First, there’s the “Innovation Trigger” phase, where a new technology or trend is introduced and generates a lot of buzz. This is when everyone starts talking about the new thing and how it’s going to change the game.

Next up is the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” stage, which is where things start to get a little crazy. Everyone is convinced that the new technology or trend is going to change everything, and there’s a lot of hype and excitement. This is when we start seeing headlines like “The Future is Here!” and “Revolutionising the Culture Scene!”. You may have felt this most recently in 2022 with the Metaverse or in 2023 with AI.

But unfortunately, this high point can’t last forever. As we move into the “Trough of Disillusionment” stage, people start to realise that the new technology or trend isn’t quite as magical as they thought it was. Maybe it’s not as easy to use as they expected, or maybe it’s just not delivering the results they were hoping for.

But don’t worry, because things start to pick up again in the “Slope of Enlightenment” phase. During this stage, people start to figure out how to use the technology or trend effectively, and start to see the benefits it can offer. This is when we start seeing examples of how the new thing is actually making a difference in the world.

Finally, we reach the “Plateau of Productivity” stage, where the technology or trend has become fully integrated into society and is now just a normal part of life. People have figured out how to use it, and it’s no longer the hot topic it once was. This is when we start seeing headlines like “Remember when everyone was obsessed with this?”.

So there you have it: the Gartner Hype Cycle in a nutshell. As you can see, it’s a useful tool for understanding how new technologies and trends become popular over time. And for those of us in the Arts and Culture sector, it’s important to keep this cycle in mind as we navigate the ever-changing landscape of our industry. Bear that in mind when someone asks you what’s the next big thing.