Over the past few weeks, we’ve given you the lowdown on the trends we expect to impact branding in 2016. From overarching branding trends like employees as the new marketing campaigns to industry-specific trends like hospitality brands enticing Asian travelers, branding will continue to evolve and change rapidly in the next year.
To finish off our 10 days of trends, we’re wrapping things up with one final trends list—a cheat sheet for you to reference throughout 2016. By providing both high-level branding vision and industry-specific knowledge, we hope you’ll have what you need to keep a finger on the pulse of all things branding in the new year.
1. 3-D printing will disrupt retail
What we expect: Retail is constantly evolving, with new products and brands launching every week. 3-D printing now offers unprecedented opportunities for companies, enabling them to reconceive their business models and speed up the retail process by opting to print on-site, remove factories from their retail stream, and respond in real time to changing weather, consumer feedback, cultural events, or social trends. The creation cycle for strategy and design may also condense, and branding work may have a shorter life span. On the other hand, designers will gain a new medium for showcasing brands in interactive, multidimensional ways.
Where we’re seeing this: Nike offers 3-D printed shoes such as the Vapor HyperAgility Cleat, and New Balance recently announced that it will be 3-D printing midsoles for a high-performance running shoe. Bespoke Innovations is using 3-D technology to scan and print custom prosthetics, while United Kingdom-based Pi-Top has launched 3-D printed laptops.
2. Offline is the new online
What we expect: Online shopping threatened to eradicate the traditional retail experience. However, customers once again want in-person interactions in the real world, allowing them to connect with brands on a personal level. Even historically online brands are believers, and in 2016 we expect many companies to return to brick-and-mortar stores, as they combine excellent in-store customer service with the information, flexibility, and customization provided by digital.
Where we’re seeing this: Amazon just opened its first physical bookstore in Seattle, where customers can browse books and also read customer reviews before purchasing. Warby Parker opened its first store in Soho a few years ago, originally intending no more than two locations. Consumer response to the stores was so overwhelming that the company plans to open seven more stores by the end of 2015.
3. Audio branding will make waves
What we expect: In 2014, the Harvard Business Review noted that sound and music can influence people in ways that are favorable to marketers, calling audio one of the most “overlooked—or perhaps undervalued” resources available for branding. In 2016, brands will look to take advantage of consumers’ inherent ability to identify sound, using audio branding to cut through the clutter and increase consumer awareness while subtly relaying brand and product attributes to the consumer.
Where we’re seeing this: Skype has introduced new sounds for its chat features, from messages and calls to error notifications and log-ons, that alert users to specific actions while also embedding the Skype brand in consumers’ awareness. Honda, meanwhile, has added a quick snippet of an engine roaring away at the end of its ads to evoke power, speed, and agility when consumers think of the brand.
4. The rebirth of print
What we expect: We’ve all heard that print is dying and that digital is taking over, but is print really going to disappear forever? In 2016, print will undergo a resurgence due to the tactile, attention-grabbing consumer experience it affords.
Where we’re seeing this: J.C. Penney recently resurrected its catalog after shelving it in 2009, while Anthropologie launched its first expanded home catalog late last year. Historically digital brands like Birchbox and Bonobos are launching print catalogs as well. Printed books are also making a stand, with the New York Times reporting that ebook sales fell 10 percent in the first five months of this year alone, while the number of independent bookstores in the United States has increased, with some reporting substantial jumps in sales.
5. The battle for the home will overtake the battle for the living room
What we expect: The battle for the living room has been a long-standing feud between TV providers, the movie industry, gaming console makers, and more traditional entertainment like books and board games. In 2016, that contest will expand from a king-of-the-hill competition focused on one room to a rivalry for the entire home. Branding agencies will have to create unique identities for these home systems brands, finding ways to clearly explain these complex technologies to consumers.
Where we’re seeing this: Due to Sony’s content and technological capabilities that enable it to produce everything from hardware and software to household appliances, the company has an opportunity to create an integrated smart-home system. Google is also on the forefront of this trend due to its acquisition of Nest, which if expanded in capabilities, could offer consumers the ability to fully control their environments.
6. Packaging will tell a story
What we expect: Stories can help humanize a brand, making it feel more accessible and relatable for consumers. Stories also help a brand stand out, so that a name and logo carry more weight and become more recognizable. In 2016, it won’t be enough to just have a cool box or a nice looking bottle. Brands will increasingly draw on authentic stories to establish points of differentiation and convey them through package design.
Where we’re seeing this: J&B covered 25 limited-edition Rare scotch whisky bottles in thin latex skins and hired artist Sébastien Mathieu to tattoo each one, highlighting a unique brand story: J&B was established in the late nineteenth century when Royal Navy sailors were first coming back to the United Kingdom sporting tattoos. Nine Suns, a California winery founded by the Chang family, uses the Chinese legend of the 10 suns as inspiration for both its name and its label design.
7. Phone technology will drive car purchases
What we expect: Shifts in customers’ needs, lifestyles, and expectations have deeply challenged the automotive industry worldwide. Car manufacturers are being forced to adapt to the consumer-centric automotive market, especially when it comes to the integration of phone operating systems. This technology may change car purchase behavior, with consumers making selections based on which car works best with their phone’s capabilities.
Where we’re seeing this: Android Auto and Apple CarPlay allow us to integrate our cars and phones in comprehensive ways, providing Google-style and Apple-style in-car experiences. This PC versus Mac debate could ultimately result in partnerships where car manufacturers side with different phone companies, thereby affecting consumers’ choices when buying a car.
8. Branding goes multisensory
What we expect: Brands will need to think about the entire customer experience as they craft brands. In addition to logo design and look and feel, companies will explore all the senses to create unique worlds for consumers.
Where we’re seeing this: Four Seasons uses an air system to diffuse custom scents throughout its properties. Virgin relies on elements such as personalized screens, on-demand food and beverage service, and iconic purple lights to ensure its flying experience is unlike any other airline’s.
9. Packaged food producers will respond to pressure
What we expect: In recent years, consumers have become more and more attuned to where their food comes from, how it’s produced, and its impact on their health. Lines at Chipotle and Shake Shack—restaurants known for their healthy, local ingredients—are out the door, and organic brands like Amy’s Kitchen are thriving. Because customers now have higher expectations of healthfulness in their foods, major packaged food conglomerates will have to adapt their product lines accordingly.
Where we’re seeing this: Kraft announced it will be removing artificial coloring from its popular macaroni and cheese mix, while Coca-Cola launched a new soda line, Coca-Cola Life, as a more natural, lower-calorie beverage. Campbell’s plans to reduce the number of ingredients in its soups, beginning with its classic chicken noodle, which has remained a top 10 shelf-stable grocery item in the United States since its conception in 1934.
10. Rightsizing will reshape financial services
What we expect: With more regulation and tighter margins, banking entities are having to rightsize and refocus to stay relevant and profitable. This presents companies with a unique opportunity to optimize both business and brand at the same time, with banks clarifying who they are as a brand in the context of a new business model.
Where we’re seeing this: UBS recently developed a business strategy focused on wealth management coupled with a new brand message. Goldman Sachs plans to launch an online consumer loan practice, likely requiring brand messaging directly to consumers, contrary to its traditional B2B focus. In the United Kingdom, Masthaven Finance transformed itself into a retail bank, necessitating a complete reimagining of its brand and relationship with consumers.
11. Life in the very fast lane
What we expect: Today consumers want convenient, seamless experiences faster than ever before. Brands will develop quicker ways to serve customers, creating meaningful and innovative brand interactions.
Where we’re seeing this: Starbucks’ app allows customers to order and pay ahead so their coffee is waiting at the counter when they arrive. Taco Bell launched a similar initiative this year allowing customers to order and pay (and customize their food) from the Taco Bell app or website.
12. Hospitality brands will entice Asian travelers
What we expect: China and India have the largest populations of any countries, with the number of potential consumers growing daily. Hotels and travel groups around the globe therefore cater to a new audience today: Asian tourists. Western hotels often do not provide the amenities and food options these tourists prefer, so new programs are being created specifically for them, with major hotel chains working harder to accommodate Chinese guests in 2016.
Where we’re seeing this: This year, Hilton Worldwide’s “Huanying” (meaning “welcome”) service—providing everything from welcome notes and Mandarin TV channels to jasmine tea—rolled out across 110 additional properties in 30 countries. IHG recently launched a Chinese travel enhancement program called “Zhou Dao” (meaning the “IHG way”) in which over 10,000 staff were trained on Chinese etiquette, culture, and hospitality. It also announced the launch of Hualuxe, its new luxury hotel collection specifically for Chinese travelers.
13. The dawn of telecom without borders
What we expect: Telecom companies have long held the keys to global communication. But as digital culture becomes more pervasive, new technologies are challenging the traditional model, forcing the industry to adapt. Twitter, blogs, instant messenger, Wi-Fi calls: These free modes of communication are a major motivator for telecom companies to revamp their business models and their branding.
Where we’re seeing this: British group Vodafone, for example, competes in this new landscape by offering a $5 flat fee per day for roaming in over 50 countries.
14. Employees as the new marketing campaign
What we expect: Catchy slogans and entertaining commercials used to be enough for brands to make an impact. Now, customers care as much about employees’ opinions and how companies treat employees as they do about the services a company offers. In 2016, brands will place more emphasis on training employees to be brand ambassadors and will be more vocal about publicizing the services they provide to create a positive work experience.
Where we’re seeing this: REI recently announced #OptOutside, an initiative that closed all REI stores on Black Friday and invited customers and employees to spend time outside to reconnect with family and friends.
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