The Radical Future Of Branding: Five Trends To Note In 2017/FastCompany


1. Brands will radicalise

Traditionally, brands oft steer away from the messiness of politics. Of course that was before Donald Trump came along. In response to the US President’s infamous travel ban, Airbnb offered free housing to refugees, Lyft pledged US$1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Starbucks vowed to hire 10,000 refugees.

Gone are the days when brands stay silent about political affairs. Geoff Cook, partner at branding agency Base Design explained:

“As a reflection of the changing political tides, many brands will evolve from ‘mission-driven’ to ‘activist’, encouraging consumers to go beyond simply subscribing to a set of core values and driving them to participate in actions to defend them.”

“In choosing sides, brands will alienate certain consumers, yes, but will galvanise an impassioned constituency in the process.”

This puts brands in the spot and pushes them to make essential choices, as Melanie McShane, head of strategy at Wolff Olins in New York explained, companies will have to decide whether they should “take a stand on issues that offend them and their users, risking the wrath of politicians and their acolytes. Or stay quiet and seem complicit.”

2. Honesty will reign

“Consumers are sick of the bullshit. And brands will have to adjust,” says John Paolini, partner and executive creative director at Sullivan.

In the era of fake news and smarter consumers, brands can no longer succeed by trying to trick buyers. “2016 was one expression after another of an unprecedented collapse of people’s trust in established institutions,” explained Paolini.

3. Logos will go beyond just graphical icons

“[When] designing logos in 1957…practically any conceivable geometric shape was available for trademarking,” says Sagi Haviv, partner at the graphic design firm Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv.

“Today it seems like every conceivable shape has been done…As a result, both designers and clients have started to associate graphic logo design with trademark infringement, and many of them are deciding to play it safe by simply rendering the name alone, without a distinctive graphic icon.”

The upside? – An opportunity for designers to come up with new, innovative ways to brand and create original graphical icons.

Take for instance hotel booking app HotelTonight’s logo that doubled as a key UI element, which eventually helped boost the brand’s revenue yearly. Wolff Olins designed an open source mark comprising a colon and two slashes – a versatile code string that can be remixed across different platforms and for various purposes – text, web pages, and so on.

4. Growing influence of virtual reality

Augmented or virtual reality is up-and-coming – it’s a recurring candidate in many design trend lists for 2017, including Adobe’s 10 design predictions for 2017, as well as Adobe’s 2017 up-and-coming creative styles that brands, marketers, and designers should note.

Despite its growing popularity, James Trump, creative director at Moving Brands in San Francisco reminds, “It’s new ground, and we haven’t really scratched the surface.”

Nevertheless, Trump believes that VR could greatly influence typography and layered visuals.

“I can imagine this playing out in lots of ways – combining flat and 3D elements, more spatial-feeling typography, and more layering to imagery.”

5. Artificial intelligence and brand ethics

You’ve seen this in one too many sci-fi films – people’s overdependence on A.I. that eventually leads to destruction. In case you need one more spine-chilling reminder, The Circle – based on Dave Eggers much-acclaimed novel and starring Emma Watson – hits cinemas 28 April 2017.

With the proliferation of A.I., brands are gaining unparalleled access to consumers’ lives. Writer Mark Wilson of Fast Company questions this development with a grim picture for the future.

“Have we evolved to be such inherently social creatures that when we have the opportunity – and eventual necessity – of talking directly to companies all day, will we all just be consumer pinballs, being knocked around a manipulation machine?”

“Will regulators be able to keep up? Will social niceties allow big data to meld with big manipulation, so we’re sweet-talked into supersizing before we’re shamed by a drill instructor into exercising it off?”

While A.I. can be a helpful tool for enhanced efficiency and user experience, brands will have to tackle the moral and ethical implications that go hand in hand with harnessing this technology.


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