By Benni Weller (pictured), creative director at Hulsbosch.
Over the last decades the rate of transformation in our culture has accelerated dramatically. The level of disruption caused by globalisation and technology is so fundamental that predicting the future beyond the next few years has become virtually impossible.
Of the 10 most valuable brands today, three have not been around for more than 25 years. Six of them qualify as technology brands. More importantly the top 10 most trusted brands among Generation Z are fundamentally different from the top 10 of any older generation. This shift in brand relevance is enormous.
So how do we as brand designers respond to these changes? How do we create brands that can stay relevant for the next 30 or even 50 years, when the environment brands operate in is changing at such a dramatic pace?
First and foremost, we have to move beyond industry clichés and create brands that tell stories that truly engage rather than stylistic shells that identify but have no deeper meaning. Secondly, we have to create visual frameworks that help our clients to effectively communicate their purpose.
When consistency in style is replaced by coherence in storytelling, our design solutions have to be more systemic, more flexible and more responsive to their ever-changing environments.
When we think about the Google brand design we think about the quirky simplicity, the fun, the primary colours. When Google rebranded in 2015, the quirky start-up vibe was replaced by a dramatically simplified logotype and a much cleaner aesthetic.
But the brand hasn’t lost its essence: the quirky mentality, the brutally simple interface and the playful colours. In fact, all of these elements now play an even more powerful role, in a grown-up system that flexes beautifully into all of its products.
Animations, micro interactions and behaviours all share a Google aesthetic that is recognisable way beyond the logo and the colour palette. With material design, Google has created a blueprint for a whole industry and set a standard for simplicity, legibility and accessibility.
In a time where consumers are more likely to individually decide where and when to interact with brands it is becoming essential to carefully craft each and every aspect of the customer journey to tell a coherent story.
According to Campaign Monitor Gen Z’s preferred way of interacting with brands is social media, closely followed by email and in person. Automated software applications such as internet bots (bots) and voice assistants are also playing an increasingly important marketing role for brands.
Their tone, whether they are chatty, cheerful or sarcastic, can now be personalised thanks to incredible advances in NLU, Natural Language Understanding, where bots have the ability to understand a human’s emotional state.
Resultant tone shifts based on the emotional state of the customer can now make conversations seem natural. Brands like Starbucks, Lyft and Spotify are tapping into the potential and use bots to enhance the customer experience.
Starbucks has made it incredibly easy to order your favourite drink or snack through their AI enabled chatbot inside their App. Whether you prefer ordering via voice command or text message, the bot will tell you when your order will be ready and the total cost.
Lyft allows its users to request rides via chat on Facebook Messenger and Slack, or via an Amazon Echo powered voice bot. Technology can add value for a brand.
All of these interactions are branded in a non-traditional way. They are opportunities for a brand to delight and surprise with a unique and recognisable tone of voice that has to be guided and tailored to the brand’s strategy.
The world we are living in is changing. We as brand designers have to respond to these changes. Our field is becoming broader and touchpoints we are working with are becoming more diverse. But by focusing on a strong narrative we can create a thread that guides brands of the future to make meaningful connections with their customers.
It is up to us as designers to go beyond the preconceptions of what brands should be and ask ourselves what they could be. Only then we’ll be able to create iconic brands that can stand the test of time and stay relevant for decades in an ever-changing world.