The Radical Future Of Branding

February 2 2017 | By Suzanne Labarre for Fast Co Design
The Radical Future Of Branding

At a time of tremendous political and cultural upheaval, one thing remains certain: Companies will keep trying to sell you stuff, and they’ll keep coming up with new ways to do it. Design is, of course, a major part of that pitch. We spoke with designers and design leaders at nearly a dozen agencies to identify the major branding trends of 2017. Below, find their five key predictions. (And read the second installment of this series, in which we discuss branding trends for 2022.)

BRANDS WILL RADICALIZE

Conventional wisdom has it that brands shouldn’t talk politics. Why risk alienating potential customers? That was before Donald Trump.

“With the rise of political authoritarianism, brands will face fundamental choices.”Now that a sneering, orange man-child is sinking his tiny fingers into every aspect of American life, experts believe activism will become nearly as ubiquitous in the brand world as it is on college campuses. “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,” says Geoff Cook, partner at the branding agency Base Design. “In choosing sides, brands will alienate certain consumers, yes, but will galvanize an impassioned constituency in the process.”

To Melanie McShane, head of strategy at Wolff Olins in New York, activism isn’t just about tapping into the zeitgeist; it’s a business imperative. “With the rise of political authoritarianism, brands will face fundamental choices,” she says. “About whether to 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.”

Read more about it on Fast Co Design

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