5 Important Brand Trends to Watch in 2013

Working on defining your small business brand for the new year? Take a look at these five branding trends.
January 08, 2013

Is there anything more important than your brand? It's your face to the outside world. As far as what you need to know to help shape your brand in 2013, Landor, the brand strategy firm responsible for creating the famous FedEx logo, provides a look ahead with a series of videos and list of important areas affecting brands, including gamification, brand purpose, Asian luxury, packaging, data, China and design.

Here, Landor's team weighs in on five of the most relevant branding trends for entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses for 2013. 

1. Gamification

Gamification is poised to be as important this year as social and mobile were in the past, according to Jason Bice, Landor's senior manager of verbal branding. "Ramification could be considered the third component of a new 'holy trinity' of digital marketing," Bice says. The question that all small-business owners must ask is: How do I turn a virtual achievement in a real one?

One answer might be to bridge digital and physical space—for example, REI partnering with Foursquare to help customers explore the most exciting places in the world.

"Where gamification is going to take us is still up for grabs," Bice says, "but one thing is certain: 2013 is going to be an exciting year for brands that embrace this trend. They're going to move past an advertising model that simply tells you about a better reality and into an interactive model that actually creates one."

2. Brand Purpose

Landor's chief marketing officer Hayes Roth believes brand purpose should be a part of your company's very foundation. "There’s been a lot of talk about whether or not this is just another way to speak about brand positioning," he says. "Is it a dressed-up version of what we've always done, or is it about something more important? We believe that it's about something more important."

Roth says at a recent annual meeting of Association of National Advertisers (ANA), which featured speakers from powerhouse brands like Unilever and Proctor & Gamble, "virtually every one of the major marketers talked about how brand purpose was not just a nice-to-have something they were going to do, but was actually becoming part of the DNA of their organizations."

Companies can no longer make a promise they can’t keep—the social Web has heightened transparency, and as Roth argues, someone will find you out sooner rather than later, and word will spread quickly. Authenticity is something no company, and no brand, can afford to ignore and hope to survive. "Purpose is a way to combine altruism, professionalism, and pure marketing knowledge into creating a better world," Roth says.

3. Packaging

If you're a product company, think "on-the-go" and "single serving." According to Landor executive creative director Philip VanDusen and senior design realization director Anne Reid, packaging trends need to keep pace with, or stay ahead of, our mobile culture. Twenty percent of meals in the U.S. are eaten in the car, and 27 percent of U.S. households are single-person—sociodemographic shifts with big implications for how companies must package and display their wares.

Pyschographic shifts, such as the trend toward personalization, carry important implications. Absolut vodka, for example, recently retooled its production line to make each bottle unique—a different abstract painting on every bottle—hence the name Absolut Unique.

And "sensory packaging" is on the rise, which affects in-store displays. "Crest toothpaste has a scratch-and-sniff to show you the varieties of flavors available," Reid says. "Downy Unstopables has a cool feature where they have little holes punctured in the lid and you can squeeze the package and it releases the scent."

4. Data Visualization

Landor managing director Suzie Ivelich believes that data visualization is the future, and points to companies like Google, IBM and GE, which are diving into the data visualization. According to Ivelich, data visualization is all about value and engaging customer with data that they want to engage with.

"How do I build something that [customers] want to spend time with, get their hands dirty with and learn something from?" Ivelich says. "It all comes down to value. In the way a company designs a car that you really want to drive because you enjoy driving it and you're allowed to explore the road any way you want, a great data visualization is one that allows customers to really look at the data and engage with it in a way that they find interesting."

5. Simplicity, Storytelling and Passion

Ian Wood, Landor's global strategy director, argues that these elements must figure centrally into any successful brand, well beyond 2013.

"Brand models have accreted lots of elements over time," Wood says. "And people fear cutting away. What we need to do is make our brand models more actionable, more understandable and, most of all, simple enough for people to believe in and get passionate about."

"We all know the story about cows and branding," he continues. "The origin of brands lies in storytelling, in language, and in sitting around campfires. We need to return to a recognition of the fact that the value of a brand is in stories, particularly in a digital world where the presentation of things is much more diverse. We need to get better at storytelling and we need to celebrate it."

Wood argues that branding, like leadership, is about driving changes, which in turn requires creating passion in people. "The currency of brands is passion," he explains.

The burning question for 2013, Wood believes, is: "How can we make brands more about consequence and outputs and less about inputs? Simplicity, passion, and storytelling—these are the ways that we can get brands to be more effective and drive business results."

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Photo: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images