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5 Important Brand Trends for 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, saves us that trouble in their look ahead with a series of videos accompanied by a short downloadable pdf that looks at eight important areas impacting brands--gamification, brand purpose, Asian luxury, packaging, data, China, design, and branding itself--and answers a simple question: What can we expect to see in 20103?

Here are the five most relevant branding trends for 2013.

1. Gamification

According to Jason Bice, Landor's Senior Manager of Verbal Branding, gamification is poised to be as important as social and mobile were in the past. In fact, in his view, "gamification could be onsidered the third component of a new “holy trinity” of digital marketing." The questions that all small business business owners should be trying to answer is: how do I turn a virtual achievement in a real one?

One answer might be bridge digital and physical space. For example, REI partnering with Foursquare so you can explore the most exciting places in the world.

"Where gamification is going to take us is still up for grabs," Bice maintains, "but one thing is certain: 2013 is going to be an exciting year for brands that embrace this trend. They are 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 tend to believe that it is about something more important."

To bolster that view, Roth points to the recent annual meeting of ANA (Association of National Advertisers), which featured speakers from powerhouse brands like Unilever and Proctor & Gamble. "Virtually every one of the major marketers who presented 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."

The point is, 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. Says Roth: ?Purpose is a way to combine altruism, professionalism, and pure marketing knowledge into creating a better world, and we hope, a better marketplace for our clients and ourselves."

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. 20 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 their production line in order 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 impacts in-store displays. "Crest toothpaste,' points out Reid, "has a scratch-and-sniff to show you the varieties of flavors available. 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, of 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.

"Meaning," she explains,"how do I build something that they want to spend time with, that they want to get their hands dirty with, that they're going to learn something from? It all comes down to value. In the way that 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 three elements must figure centrally into any successful brand, well beyond 2013.

"Brand models have accreted lots and lots of elements over time," Wood says. "And people fear cutting away. I think 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 continutes. "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 the 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."

Reprinted from my OPEN column.

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