5 ways to make your brand stand out in 2017

It’s December, that time of year where we spend copious hours reflecting on the past 12 months and preparing for the next 12. In this industry, it’s more important than ever to anticipate change and be prepared to either jump on trends or avoid them at all costs. And while 2016 has been a wild year, we suspect that 2017 isn’t going to slow down one bit. Here are a few forecasts to keep on your radar into the new year.

Brands get political

The 2016 election cycle has brought out the best and worst in many brands, and as the new president takes office, we’re sure to see a lot more of that. Some brands are spoofing our polarized political climate; others are making us think about important issues in new ways. We have a feeling 2017 will bring some thoughtfulness and hopefully some hilarity. If nothing else, we’ve always got Frank Underwood and Netflix to keep us on our toes.

The takeaway: You don’t have to get political to extract value here. Be mindful of the climate we’re living in—especially as it’s apt to shift quickly and repeatedly in the new year—as you construct your communications efforts, and you’ll be a step ahead.

Data meets design

These days, everything we do, eat, text, search, and listen to is trackable, and we’ll see more brands using that data in some pretty creative ways. Since we specialize in higher education, we’d love to see colleges and universities incorporate their enrollment, advancement, and outcomes data (we know you have lots!) into their marketing efforts. Used the right way, statistics can inform inspiring content. Take for example Spotify, which used data to showcase its users’ habits from 2016 for a fun, quirky global ad campaign.

The takeaway: Explore creative and different ways to draw on your data, with the aim of creating a valuable user experience for your customers, clients, or students. 

The future is the bot

Artificial intelligence is already all around us (hello, Siri and Alexa). And next year, as industries explore new ways to customize and target their marketing messages, we’ll see AI emerge more to help brands personalize content and offer performance insights, for starters. This will give marketers the space to focus on their customers (or students, in the case of higher ed), leaving the mechanics to the bots, like Google does.

The takeaway: Investigate the ways in which you can implement some less intimidating forms of AI in your brand, like chat-bots, voice search, paid search, and micro-moments. 

Video will still be king

Have you noticed recently that your Facebook feed is almost entirely video content? That’s because video still reigns — and will continue to, well into 2017. But the emphasis will be shifting to live video streams. With Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Periscope, Snapchat, and more, anyone anywhere can share video content that’s way more interesting and immediate than static images or prerecorded footage. With live video, marketers can create relatable, raw stories and moments that will engage and influence their audiences. The kicker? There’s no cost. If you need some ideas, Tastemade’s brilliant live videos are sure to inspire (and make you hungry).

The takeaway: No matter who you are or what you do, live video is a great opportunity. So try something out and see what the response is like. It’s a great method for flexing your creative muscles. The only rule: just go for it. 

Increased focus on customized content and interactions

More than ever, users expect instant gratification. This means marketers are continually seeking ways to collect users’ data, so that they can fulfill their expectations of meaningful messaging. This coming year, users will demand results. Personalization is nothing new to marketers. But as users become ever more willing to tell brands what they care about, they’ll look for brands to follow through tenfold. Customization will start to be expected more than personalization. Just ask Amazon or BBC News.

The takeaway: Consider how your brand can move from personalization to customization. Do it well, and you’ll gain loyalty, trust, and (if you’re lucky) conversion.