We’re in the heart of the first quarter of 2017, and the year has been anything but dull. Are estimates for what’s been predicted for 2017 coming true? We decided to check on some of the predictions global brand consulting and design firm Landor Associates
made in its Trench Watch 2017
report. We asked Stuart Sproule
, Landor’s North American president, to elaborate on what exactly he expects these trends to look like. Are they coming true? You be the judge.
Q: “Kidulting.” Is this a fad, and if so how far should brands go in embracing it? How risky is it to cater to millennials wanting to recapture childhood experiences? Is there a chance it will blow over quickly while campaigns are still being developed, or get some kind of blowback from people who don’t like the concept?
A: Kidulting isn’t a fad, it’s a fundamental mindset shift. Millennials are growing up and dealing with new responsibilities (something common to previous generations) in a way that is far more communal than ever before. Instead of quietly coping with difficulties, millennials are outwardly voicing their struggles and actively rebelling against aspects of adulthood. Kidulting is a means of counteracting adult responsibilities by letting millennials find mental space to cut loose.
Kidulting is also more than mere nostalgia, and campaigns that solely focus on connecting millennials with their past will likely have a shorter shelf life. The longevity of kidulting comes from taking modern struggles, new interests and recent technology and combining them with a little bit of childhood fun. As with anything, there will always be a certain proportion of the population that isn’t a huge fan, but the popularity of kidult-focused activities speaks for itself about its broad appeal.
Q: Do you know of any big augmented reality initiatives that are coming using this technology that look to be game changers?
A: GE recently announced its plan to implement AR in the manufacturing of some of its complex machinery components such as gas turbine nozzles. The technology will allow workers to superimpose computer-generated images onto the factory floor and help them obtain precise measurements. Another example is CastAR, a Silicon Valley start-up, which will be launching a very interesting augmented reality entertainment platform in 2017. With the vast possibilities available, the opportunities for both B-to-B and B-to-C companies are enormous.
Q: Landor predicted almost every industry will begin using chatbots to streamline communications with customers and employees. It seems like there’s a big trend toward presenting as much as possible remotely and with tech assistance. How should creatives, not tech people, take advantage of these trends?
A: For designers, AR, VR and chatbots present a huge opportunity because they are entirely new platforms and mediums for creativity. With AR and VR, designers have the ability to actually create new environments and universes, letting them abandon the constraints of reality in favor of a world without predefined rules. This means that designers can take risks and test out ideas in ways they can’t on client work or in their day-to-day assignments. With chatbots there is an opportunity to take design beyond the visual, branding everything from voice and tone to word cadence and inflection. The auditory will start to leave its own mark much as colors, typography, or symbols do in visual design work.
Q: The report notes some brands taking customization to a new level with mood marketing. How do you capture a signature mood? How do you ensure a signature mood translates into sales?
A: When we think of mood marketing, we actually think of it more as an adaptive technology where the mood of the retail store customizes to fit the shoppers. So there isn’t necessarily just one signature mood—it’s about giving shoppers the experience they desire—which inherently gets them to stay in the store longer, translating into sales.
But in thinking about a signature mood, retailers should approach this the same way they approach their larger brand. The strategy for the mood of a store should bridge directly back to the guiding principles and foundational promises of the company. It should fit the audience it’s trying to attract, and it should be flexible enough to adapt to new technology and trends.
Below: Third place packaging design in the spirits category of the 2016 Dieline Awards.
Q: Some consumers are experiencing decision fatigue, and brands are alleviating that with minimalistic package design. What elements should be first on the chopping block if brands choose stripped-down packaging?
A: Consumers are looking for clear guidance on which products and brands to trust. The first elements brands should cut from packaging are anything non-fundamental to the brand’s differentiated positioning. Any images, icons or messaging that feels redundant across the category—for example, words like “refreshing” on a face wash—create visual noise that distracts people from zeroing in on what makes the brand unique. Getting rid of the obvious is also imperative: We don’t need photorealistic water droplets to tell us that water is wet.
Similarly, stacking u p too many unique claims—even if they’re true—can dilute the brand’s positioning and leave consumers feeling confused. Only elements that are distinctive, essential and directly related to the brand should stay. Brands must be aware that the fewer elements there are, the more imbued with meaning they should be. Otherwise they risk leaving a sterile or generic impression.
Q: Can you talk a bit more about the changing role of the brand manager or CMO. In some respects, they have a lot less power than ever before, and it seems like they need to adapt to command the attention and love of the public. How do you do that nowadays?
A: I wouldn’t classify them as having less power than before—I think how they wield their power has simply shifted. Brand managers can no longer operate in a vacuum. Instead, they have to consider other people’s opinions and perceptions as a vital part of the brand conversation. In fact, in many ways the brand manager or CMO is even more important than ever before because they act as a conductor, helping the various internal and external players perform harmoniously together. Without them, the entire thing would become a catastrophic symphony of noise. For brand managers, the key to successfully managing myriad communities is identifying them, understanding each group’s needs and responsibilities and using a flexible approach to empower each community to be involved and engaged.
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