7 For 2017: Predictions About The Future Of Branding

As we head into 2017, what’s top of mind for leading brand experience experts? To get some perspective on this, I sat down with a handful of my colleagues at Siegel+Gale. Below we share their imperatives for the year ahead.

Interestingly, efforts are already underway at leading brands to embrace these opportunities for growth. In 2017 we anticipate these practices will go mainstream across both B2B and B2C business models. One overarching theme that traverses all these predictions is that the quest to simplify both customer and employee experiences will be paramount for CMOs in 2017.

Legacy Brands To Focus On CX
As legacy brands embark on digitization, they will focus on process improvements to drive down costs, such as introducing service delivery via mobile channels. We saw Walmart lead the charge with this in 2016 with its free, same-day curbside grocery pick-up service. Established brands will offer new anytime, anywhere customer experiences distinguished by simplicity, ease, transparency and utility. This approach to CX will enhance their customer value proposition.
—Howard Belk, Co-CEO, Chief Creative Officer  

Brand Reputation Will Equal Company Culture
With the U.S. unemployment rate now at its lowest level in the post-recession era, the war for talent has intensified. In 2017, as work increasingly becomes a part of a person’s identity, the role of a company brand will be a powerful differentiator for attracting talent. For potential recruits, the brand reputation that matters is company culture. Millennials are now the dominant generation in the workplace, and they ask questions about diversity, ethics, and the meaningful outcomes the company seeks to create in the world. For today’s engaged employees, it’s not enough to create great products and enjoy strong business results; they want to see diversity stats, social responsibility metrics, and the purpose and values that provide the cultural glue for a workforce.
—Thom Wyatt, Managing Director

Humanity Woven Into Every Touchpoint
In 2017 we will see a shift toward human digital experiences that focus on empathy. We’ve already witnessed this burgeoning trend with AI, chat bots, and immersive VR experiences, but we will see the focus switch from the delivery platform to the interaction and emotional impact. Who is a big recipient of this tech-focused empathy? The most important person for a brand—its employees. This can manifest itself in the elevation of employee training, the experiential approach to onboarding, and all other manners of empowering employees to be frontline ambassadors for the brand.
—Leesa Wytock, Senior Director, Experience

Disruptive Brands To Focus On Brand Valuation
2017 will see many disruptive brands examine how they can evolve and grow their brand valuation. These emerging brands have sidestepped traditional industry processes to shift power to consumers. But innovation alone does not translate to sustainable long-term advantages for these new entrants. For example, taxi alternatives Uber, Lyft, Gett, and Juno are already fighting to recruit both riders and drivers, engaging in price wars and struggling to capture loyalty, demonstrating that many shining stars of the disruptive business model are now struggling to not become commodities. As they continue to grow and differentiate, effective brand management will ultimately decide on the winners—who can not only capture early share through a disruptive business model, but retain customers for the long run by earning enduring loyalty.
—Brian Rafferty, Global Director, Business Analytics & Insights

Brands Attempt To Reconnect
As tech development continues its ceaseless acceleration into the new year, look for an increased effort on the part of brands to recreate that seemingly lost “human” touch. The popular perception that technology is pulling us apart, instead of bringing us closer together, could keep driving a naming trend we’ve seen for a few years now—a desire for names that feel “human.” We see this with real words for technology platforms, like the micro-investing app Acorns. And we see it with actual personified names, like Einstein. What this ongoing trend could put to the test is whether a name alone can humanize a brand. And it may force brands and consumers alike to ask a more fundamental question: How human or how artificial do we want our technologies to be?
—Christian Turner, Global Director, Naming

Tapering Of The Email Addiction
An increase in use of real-time messaging platforms like Slack will continue to change the way we collaborate and share ideas. This is, in itself, a response to another trend that’s already well established—greater collaboration across interdisciplinary groups and multiple locations. Messaging products, like Slack, facilitate clarity in communications, providing efficient real-time collaboration with the added benefit of reducing dependence on the imperfect medium of email. It will be interesting to watch how Slack’s partnership with Google on new features and a deeper integration will provide added utility to users in 2017. Hopefully, use of email can revert to its original and more appropriate purpose of speedy correspondence with external sources, and we’ll all spend much less time wading through our inboxes.
—Maria Boos, Group Director, Simplification

Effective Activation To Grow In Importance
As brands continue to evolve how they go to market—and the pace with which they do so only quickens—shifting internal capabilities and competencies to keep up with demand is essential. The traditional tools for brand management continue to become outdated. Therefore, creating learning opportunities for employees that facilitate the quickest absorption of content through seamless engagement is increasingly important. The most important stewards of the brand—employees—expect that tools they use to do their jobs be akin to the kind of daily experiences they have with consumer technology products. All in all, the ability to architect the most effective activation of a brand will be a critical success factor for any company.
—Lauren Thebault , Director, Activation

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