Trend Watch 2018: The Next Five
By Landor — November, 2017
The future is closer than you think.
In the next few years, we will see more innovations, breakthroughs, and disruptions than we have in the past 15.
Most of these won’t come from traditional industry channels. They will cut across categories in dramatic and unexpected ways. Competitors will be both unseen and unpredictable. And the way we do business—and build brands—will change radically.
Trend Watch 2018: The Next Five
Five major cross-category shifts are headed our way. Here’s what they mean for brands—and how we can stay one step ahead.
Shift 1 | The dawn of the coded brand
Brands will hardwire behaviors into their actual coding in unprecedented ways. This will offer customers a consistent experience no matter when or where they meet a brand.
Blockchain changes the rules
An immutable coding technology, blockchain has fascinating implications for brands. It’s most famous for underpinning Bitcoin, but it holds the potential to transform the way brands are managed since it cannot be overwritten. The result: new dynamics around trust and accountability. And completely new ways of verifying authenticity and provenance.
Imagine a company whose core promise to consumers is great customer service. It decides that all customers who have been with the brand for a year will not be charged shipping fees. Blockchain can help the company deliver on this rule 100 percent of the time. It doesn’t matter if an employee is unfamiliar with the policy or is having a bad day—the outcome is predetermined.
Following Canada’s decision to legalize cannabis, IBM suggested a blockchain to monitor transactions, ensure consumer safety, and prevent fraud. From grower to supplier to consumer, blockchain acts as a digital ledger showing that cannabis is grown and sold legally.
Algorithms at work
Less extreme than blockchain, computerized algorithms can also set parameters to keep digital channels aligned with a brand’s values. Algorithms can detect everything from hate-filled language to inappropriate imagery, preventing such things from flowing into the public domain.
Companies like Instagram and Twitter use algorithms to filter content and comments in hopes of maintaining their platforms as positive, community-driven spaces.
AI becomes more human
Tech that talks to us is on the rise—and with it, questions about how it can behave in more human ways. Chatbots interact through text, photo, and video content. They have the advantage of bypassing website and social media platforms to communicate directly with consumers through messaging apps. This makes them feel more like friends than machines and builds intimacy between brands and consumers.
The growth of AI has also led to new questions around brand voice. Brands have to consider everything from speech patterns to choice architecture in order to mimic human conversation. And they have to decide what their brand should sound like. Is it male or female? Casual or formal? Proactive or reactive? These decisions are vital to building rapport with consumers. As Microsoft’s Tay showed, errant AI can have major PR implications.
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