5 creative trends that will dominate 2017

Transformative creative trends that will run the show this year.

A new world of creative possibilities bursts open. The exponential growth of technology impacts brands on a scale that’s never been seen before, forcing them to act different to get their message across.

Let’s make it official: The Internet has forever changed the marketing landscape. It transformed how creatives think, and continues to challenge them over and over again. Let me take you down the rabbit-hole and show you which 5 creative trends will run the show in 2017.

1. Product: Tech will disappear.

Technology will become very different than it is now. A great user experience today usually means great user interfaces in web design or an app. By way of the Internet of Things, and how more devices are becoming “smarter” every day, we’ve barely scratched the surface in regards of what mobile can be. Microchips get twice as powerful each year and technology will become so small and integrated in our lives that you can hardly see it. It will become even more an extension of ourselves, than it is already today. At that point the Internet is likely to become less of a service we connect to and more of an omnipresence glueing every part of our lives together.

In 2017, more brands will shift their products away from those user interfaces we know today and start creating great-looking interactive products that can actually become an extension of the human body. It’s not the nifty new specs of those products that will become the most important, but how they will look like. That’s why Snap’s Spectacles have a larger chance of succeeding there where Google Glass failed. They are cleverly designed, making them simply look better and less geeky/creepy to wear.

The disappearance of tech could lead off to a world where the internet will be part of your presence all the time. The better products get, the more seamless your digital experiences blend in with the real world. Imagine 5 years from now, you walk into a room, and the room is dynamic, and you are interacting with the things going on in the room. A highly personalised, highly interactive and very interesting world emerges with the human body as the ultimate interface.

2. Content: branded virtual experiences will thrive.

This year will definitely go down as the year when VR reached the masses. With multiple headsets on the market from Oculus Rift (Facebook) to Google Daydream, Microsoft Hololens to the HTC Vive, virtual reality and its cousin augmented reality can finally become available to anyone who can afford a headset. But what about the content? Right, 2017 is the year where we stop talking headsets and start talking experiences. Can the past year live up to its lofty expectations for the VR market? Not really. 2016, the so-called “year of VR” has really become the year of VR hardware, not VR-experiences.

The one thing missing to make VR a commercially thriving success will make its debut to the masses in 2017: great immersive content. We’re kind of in the same place now to where the film industry was in 1905: the infrastructure was in place (Kinetoscope) and the first pieces of content where just starting to be made, but it didn’t take off until the introduction of early cinemas (Nickelodeon). Bottomline: we haven’t yet seen the killer piece of content that makes us all want to rush home early because it’s so awesome.

Right now, the emphasis is on gaming (think PlayStation VR), but the world of VR will shift to content and content providers. The focus of VR will evolve to more advanced, maybe shared, experiences, starting with concerts, travels, etc.. We might see the start of job-disruption in teaching, training & managing. It seems ludicrous today, that the same technology used by die hard, Red Bull-fueled gamers, could become a legitimate training & development tool. Now, a coach can only provide personalised support to so many people live and in person. Virtual systems can be used by multiple people at once, wherever your whereabouts on the planet.

Still think it’s a gimmick? Remember that time when companies suddenly realised that social media might be able to build their brand and increase their business? In 2017, more brands will see VR as a valuable medium instead of a gimmick. Consumers no longer passively take in a brand’s message. They want to immerse themselves in a brand experience. How a customer experiences a brand is synonymous with how they perceive a brand, and let perception be just that one thing what drives our current market.

3. Consumer-engagement: designing friendly relations between man and machine.

Probably the most interesting trend to watch for next year. With the fast development and growth of messaging platforms, it’s clear that chatbots are going to play a major role in the future of brand experience. Chatbots open up a completely new dimension of possibilities how you can interact with customers. Bots have been around for ages, but they have only become interesting when pairing them with deep learning artificial intelligent algorithms.

For the first time, brands are finally able to talk in a consistent tone of voice, globally (!), offering a mix of storytelling, product discovery and customer service; making consumer engagement possible at a much wider scale than ever before. What we will start to see are conversational and action-oriented notification systems that help guide us through a digital environment. Although it’s the new craze, conversational AI remains a huge issue to tackle in order to become human-like.

None of the solutions on the market right now aren’t coming even close to what could be, but in the year where investment in artificial intelligence is expected to go triple, we will see more and more creative products that take chatbots to the next level. Imagine someone on the other side of the line. Someone that’s always there to talk with over any Messenger-app. Not just to ask advice to, but as a trustworthy companion. A real person that can adapt answers to match your context, even throw in some emoji’s or stickers if that’s what you like. A bot with personality that is able to create deep relations with its consumers to offer a better brand experience. Conversational artificial intelligence is set to redefine how brands communicate with consumers.

4. Retail: getting customers in the mood.

Today’s shoppers are indulged with smart technologies in their daily routines. From sponsored Instagram feeds to Amazon product recommendations, content is curated and delivered based on the shopper’s unique preferences and context. It’s time for the retail industry to catch up to consumer technologies in order to create elevated shopper experiences both on- and offline.

Even though e-commerce is growing at a fast pace, the brick & mortar store is still an essential element of the retail experience. Retailers who create unique in-store experiences will run the show in 2017. Why else would a customer make the trip to a store rather than shopping online? Consumers want to be a part of an experience he or she can’t get anywhere else.

Brands: enter mood marketing. In order to create unique buying experiences for their target audiences, retail will evolve to a branded environment that inspires interaction, not only by highlighting products, but by involving consumers and by making them feel good at the same time. Employees will be the cornerstone of the shopper experience. Sales-associates will become Product-experts who offer a more personalised, relevant shopping experience. The savviest retailers however will take it up a notch and take advantages out the advancements in machine learning and deep analytics. Consumers now have longer digital footprints, giving retailers easy access to offer a tailored selection of products. Whether it’s shopping history, Instagram-profiles you follow or places you often check in, your next shopping-trip could be inspired by your unique data. In 2017, stores providing unique experiences will thrive, especially if they find ways to match and exceed the seamlessness of online shopping.

5. Branding: the year we lose control.

Forget the ivory tower. The once so exclusive area where brand managers and corporate higher-ups had their say, now increasingly belongs to everyone. In 2017, companies will loosen the guidelines of brand identity and encourage input from consumers and employees.

We are seeing the most complex brand landscape ever. Consumers have never been so demanding. Brands no longer live in glass houses and they will become agile and adaptable to the changing demands of the customer. Brand managers will no longer be logo cops in order to manage their brand through communities. A brand’s look & feel will adapt to fit specific audiences to become more relevant to them. Brand’s will be set free from certain rules and become more alive than ever.

Consumers will be involved in decisive moments of brands and will start to become a part of a community of brand ambassadors. Mozilla started redesigning their brand identity using their very own open source principles. They practically invited everyone who wanted to create a new identity for them. A project where the company’s managers learned how the brand was perceived by a various group of people, and by then activating that same group by asking them how they could improve it. Adobe on the other hand, invited artists to reinvent Adobe’s signature “A”. The brand that facilitates creativity on a daily basis through software, opened up its own branding to a group of artists and designers working with Adobe’s products. #meta M&M’s asked consumers to vote for their favourite new flavour, producing the one that people liked the most, changing their product-line.

Accepting input from both internal and external audiences asks for braveness and courage, but it will redefine the way brands successfully connect with the real world.

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TL;DR

Creativity & technology are officially getting married. Brands deep-dive into a technology-fueled creative renaissance. Marketing has evolved into an always-on state, making brands engage and interact better with their audiences. The creative industry will have to reinvent itself to create better human connections with consumers, both on- and offline.

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Max Heirbaut is a creative director & designer, shot taker and word slinger. He creates work that explores the various facets of design in the realms of digital and physical.