I have never been happier to see trend forecasts released, signifying the end of the whirlwind year that called itself 2016. Here are our top 5 trends to look out for, in a (hopefully) brighter 2017:

1.      Freshness

Underpinned by Pantone’s Colour of the Year announcement (congratulations to Greenery), the movement towards freshness and natural cues will gain traction in 2017. For anyone who owns a Pinterest account, you will surely have seen photos of forest-inspired weddings, homes adorned with ferns and succulents and the like, so this will not really be a surprise. You could, however argue that this is not a new trend – consumers have become more health conscious, the trend for organic produce has been established for a few years now. Yet, in my view there are subtle differences between ‘freshness’ and ‘health’.

 The concept of freshness stretches into all facets of life, with inspiration drawn from the nature around us. From distilled soft drinks (you can read our post on that here) to creating minimally-designed outlets, including live flower installations, brands have been pulling on the threads of this trend for the last couple of years. Just look at the boom in botanical spirits (here’s to you gin, we love you) – so is 2017 going to be the golden year for all things fresh?

 2.      Authenticity

Consumers are moving away from mass-produced products, and are being led by a generation who value experience rather than material objects. This leads brands to have to really consider their proposition on every touchpoint and understand their messaging – every single aspect of the brand builds part of this experience, and must be authentic to drive the message through.

The sway towards authenticity is also leading consumers to purchase higher ticket items, which have been crafted, have a story to tell and limited to no artificial components. This has started to show its head in the development of ‘Ugly Drinks’ – a company producing drinks from the fruit and veg you wouldn’t see in a supermarket aisle. In a world where economic instability has pretty much become the norm, and purse strings are getting tighter, we are seeing quite the divergence in behaviour: consumers hate seeing waste, but also want their products to be genuine and honest.

So, what does this mean for brands in 2017? First and foremost, we need to really think about the proposal being put together for the brand. If there is one strategy that deviates from the brand message or story, lose it. To hit the target of an authentic brand, it’s better to have few messages that help the brand shine through, than have many that have been twisted to fit.

We happen to have a blog about our favourite example of authenticity in a brand story here. Convenient eh?

 3.      Artificial intelligence

Quite the 180° from our previous trend, AI is taking the world by storm. Whilst I’m not a technical expert on this, it’s fair to say that this new strain of technological development is moving incredibly quickly and will no doubt have an impact on what we are marketing and how we strategise.

One of the fields of AI to keep an eye on in 2017 is machine learning. Whilst this sounds like something from an 80’s sci-fi film, it is an important development in the world of AI – think automatic facial recognition on Facebook or self-driving cars, even up to generative design. The latter of these is one of the most interesting developments in AI for marketers -  I won’t (and can’t!) describe this in expert detail, but think of a software that takes your design intentions (say for example, a brand logo), and develops all possible outputs of this quickly and efficiently. Bonkers.

I would really recommend looking into the development in the world of AI for marketers in more detail – it is worthy of an information binge, so make sure you have an afternoon spare!

4.      Sensory experiences

Sensory experiences have been knocking around for a year or so now, but brands are really starting to embrace and push the boundaries of how these can enhance brand equity. Ranging from sensory tasting programmes through to imaginative ways of incorporating spirits with food, or even in bubbles, companies such as Bompas & Parr have broadened the scope of how to make food and drink exciting again.

5.      Experiences in general

Research run by PWC shows that the millennial generation are more willing to spend money on experiences than stuff. This could be anything from a great dinner out to a pop up event, but what has been coined the ‘experience economy’ shows no signs of slowing down in 2017. The new way forwards for brands to grow and gain great consumer loyalty is to understand that the consumer journey should be seen as a whole. Each and every touchpoint will impact their experience, which will (whether that experience was positive or negative) inevitably be shared both on social media and by word of mouth.

So, an interesting year lies ahead of us – hopefully with fewer twists and turns – but if these trends are correct, 2017 could prove to be incredibly exciting for us marketers!