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This Is Folly 2017 Design and Marketing Predictions

February 3, 2017

7 Branding Trends To Watch For In The Year of the Rooster

The hot mess that was 2016 appears to have spilled into the new year. And, like many, we too are anxious about the future. Long-held beliefs continue to be challenged, traditional allegiances and factions overturned, even truth and facts are often treated with suspicion. With meta concepts such as neoliberalism/unfettered capitalism and global free trade under attack as evidenced by Brexit, the worldwide backlash against austerity measures and the recent contentious U.S. elections driven by populist unrest, we're on track for a year of high drama and high stakes.

A comparison might be drawn between these times and the anti-establishment eras of the 1960s and 70s, or the early 1980s. Society changed a lot during those times. We often think of punk rock as a response to the over-produced, saccharine music of the 70s and as being self-destructive and nihilistic, at times. But it was also was a reaction to commercialization, authority, a feeling of alienation and the lack of opportunity for young people.

Get our hands dirty

How will our society and culture reflect and respond to these cosmic shifts? It remains to be seen. But we have done a little digging for some insights and trends as food for thought as we step into 2017.

1. Get Real

Branding will continue to emphasize "real"—more natural, unaffected, messy and honest—over the coming year. Authenticity continues to be prevalent. Brands will strive to appear to not be trying too hard (yes, we're aware of the irony and so is everyone else).(1) Some brands will find their way; others will struggle to find their authentic authenticity.

Getty Images Creativity In Focus 2017, labeled this trend as "Unfiltered". According to Getty, "The editorialization of brands is a key driving force behind this trend. They are embracing their new roles as publishers, creating content strategies to build loyalty and longevity and engage consumers beyond the short-lived transactional purchase. Challenger brands are borrowing from publishing and broadcast strategies, and using the Unfiltered aesthetic to inject energy and passion into their communications and connect with consumers in more meaningful ways."(2)

"Vice is unashamedly opinionated, which differentiates it sharply from those dispassionate big brands who are afraid to put a foot wrong. Open-minded and adaptable, Vice was quick to realize the best way to reach this generation was to put the audience in the driver's seat. 'If you want to be successful with millennials, the content makers also have to be millennials because it's their own language,' Vice CEO Shane Smith told an audience at Cannes."(3)

Break Stereotypes

Photography will dial up the raw, the direct, the unfiltered, the imperfect, the grit. Women will be portrayed increasingly as real, varied, individualistic and imperfect, as continuing to defy limits, as resisting being stereotyped. Expect to see images that are candid, that capture a moment in a narrative, that are irreverent, unstudied.(5)

The technical ability to personalize marketing is growing, but marketers should be thoughtful about how this technology is applied. Everyone has experienced how the last item that you purchased stalks you across the internet, as if showing you what you just bought will convince you to, what, buy another? Consumers may be more engaged with smarter personalization. But take care to not be stalky or intrusive.

While mass production is, of course, still prevalent, there continues to be a shift toward valuing personal experiences and dematerialization over materialism and consumption. More people are valuing individuality and the artisanal in the face of mass consumption, the imperfect in the face of the machined. Consider how traditional brands have been loosing sales as people's eating habits are migrating away from processed foods and carbs and how young people are rediscovering craft food and hand-created lettering and art. The DIY movement is alive and well. And people want to choose for themselves versus being told what to like, buy and do. They continue to trust personal recommendations over official sources.

"In recent years we have seen a growing frustration and disillusionment with the establishment. Brands who dare to be different and embrace radical transparency are gaining a competitive edge.... Bold, fearless and passionate, the future belongs to these activist brands."(6)

Virtual Reality Experiences

2. Give Power To The People

Social media created waves last year as first hand accounts, unfiltered virtual experiences, changed society. The Black Lives Matter movement in part was driven by everyone being able to experience first hand what was happening to black people for decades, but was never widely seen. Once we all could see it for ourselves, change was inevitable. People were both the source and the "broadcaster", removing filters, intermediaries, and interpretation. Live streaming makes the experience even more immediate.

Virtual reality promises to take the experience further and make it even more fully immersive while also giving the end user more control. It remains to be seen if and how it will live up to its potential. Does it remove barriers; does the viewer not only look but also more physically and psychologically feel the experience? Will it change how we learn, entertain or how we experience news? Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly said after experiencing VR that, "Although every environment was fake, the experiences felt genuine." As a result, "People remember VR experiences not as a memory of something they saw, but as something that happened to them."(7) These new media types will continue to change our relationship with top-down media sources and with each other.

3D printing is meant to give people the power to manufacture at their desktop. This is another technology that is still struggling to find its purpose and live up to its promise. It has found a niche in rapid prototyping, but now we're starting to see it emerge in other areas such as jewelry, food and even book covers.(8)

Consumers want transparency

3. Be Transparent

Consumer demand for organic products is expected to grow by double digits again this year. Millennials in urban centers drive the bulk of the growth.(9) Consumers will continue to demand increased transparency in the supply chain and product origins. Initiatives such as the "Dark Act", a new law that prevents the labeling of genetically-modified organisms, or GMOs, is a case of industry being unresponsive, or some might even say hostile, to the demands of consumers (studies show some 90% of Americans supported clear GMO labeling). Such unresponsiveness doesn't bode well for industry in a free market, as consumers will find a way to purchase what they want eventually.(10) Rule no. 1: give the consumers what they want.

"We are in a decade of disruption and instability, and these turbulent times have given rise to the activist consumer. They want to engage with brands who understand the value of values, and who go beyond products to invest in the future of the planet."(11)

Consumers are wrestling with ethical dilemmas and are applying their values to purchasing decisions, considering issues of fair trade, sustainability and social justice. Fairphone is an example of a product catering to those values.(12)

Rage Against the Robots

4. Be Human

There has been a lot of hubbub this past year about replacing human roles with robots and artificial intelligence. Here's where we diverge from popular opinion and where we think popular opinion diverges from good sense. Remember all the hype about the Segway and how that was going to completely change the world? We at This Is Folly think that driverless cars and robotic baristas are examples of tech companies attempting to create solutions to problems that don't exist for the media attention and to carve out new markets for their products.(13)

These grand plans have two fatal flaws. 1. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. We have an exponentially-growing population, on track to hit 9.6 billion in 2050. We're adding 80 million people a year to the planet.(14) How do we intend to employ all those people, say nothing about how we're going to feed all those people? We need to be seeking ways to gainfully employ people, not make jobs obsolete. 2. Organic is more sustainable than artificial. Replacing humans with robots takes enormous amounts of rare metal, plastics, etc. Humans are bio-based and biodegradable. Techs struggle to get their creations to walk; humans can walk at less than a year old. The human brain, while not as fast as a super computer, is far more efficient and adaptable.(15) Robots might be fine for certain dangerous jobs, but we're not sure serving coffee qualifies.

So we think replacing people with robots is a tech-guy's fantasy that will remain just that for the foreseeable future.

Saturated colors

5. Color Me Green

Pantone has declared the color for 2017 to be Greenery PMS 15-0343.(16) It is meant to represent fresh, new beginnings and environmentalism. We hope that bodes well for the future. Other colors likely to be seen this year are brick reds and maroon browns, charcoal grays and other rich, minerally, earthy colors. Long term, color is forecasted to shift to saturated primary colors —red, blue, and yellow)—a restricted palette as a response to complex times.(17)

6. Make It Move

Animation, motion graphics, cinemagraphs, and video continue to grow as internet bandwidths and technical capabilities increase. Brands are using motion graphics and video and short films to tell better, more engaging stories.

7. Watch For Seismic Shifts In Retail

Currently, the corporate titans are Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook. Amazon is vying to take the top spot in 2017. Traditional retailers are rapidly loosing ground to Amazon and other digital retail. As a consequence, the dominance of brands will start to diminish compared to the power of digital retailers.(18)

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1. Callie Budrick, "2017 Design Trends: Predictions from Top Creatives", HOW Magazine, December 19, 2016.
2. Getty Images, Creativity In Focus, 2017 (Getty Images, 2017), pg. 31,
3-6. Getty Images, Creativity In Focus, 2017, pg. 36.
7. Getty Images, Creativity In Focus, 2017, pg. 15.
8. Jason Tselentis, "Close Encounters of the 3D Kind: The Rise & Future of 3D Printed Design", HOW Magazine, August 24, 2016.
9. State of the Organic Industry 2016, Organic Trade Association, accessed 02-02-2017
10. Christian Detisch, "President Obama Signs DARK Act Into Law", Food and Water Watch. August 1, 2016.
11. Getty Images, Creativity In Focus, 2017, pg. 31.
12. Accessed on February 2, 2017. https://www.fairphone.com/en/.
13. David Pierce, "This Robot Barista Makes A Dang Good Latte", Wired, January 30, 2017.
14. Robert Engelman, "World Population: Fertility Surprise Implies More Populous Future", Vital Signs: Global Trends That Shape Our Future: July 10, 2013. World Watch Institute.
15. Mark Fischetti, "Computers versus Brains", Scientific American, November 1, 2011.
16. Accessed on February 2, 2017. https://www.pantone.com/color-of-the-year-2017
17. Getty Images, Creativity In Focus, 2017, 2017, pg. 20.
18. Scott Galloway and Maureen Mullen: Predictions for 2017. Accessed on February 2, 2017.


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