This article originally appeared on Little Black Book Online.
Since the onset of the pandemic, there have been fundamental shifts in nearly every sphere of life. In the realm of branding, the fundamental shift has been from words and pictures to experiences.
Today, consumers expect—and demand—that an interaction with a brand is an engaging, all-encompassing escape from the rapidly changing world. As we look to the year ahead, our global experts predict what’s in store for brand experience.
Jenna Isken, Group Director, Experience, Los Angeles
With the impending extinction of third-party cookies and restrictions on certain types of targeting, companies need to prepare for a different landscape of customer experience. Brands will bear more responsibility than ever before when creating and sustaining strong customer relationships. The successful ones will start by focusing on different KPIs ASAP. Elevating such holistic measurements as customer health scores and customer lifetime value will determine where, how, and what they can do to add value for the customers through signature experiences—thus driving the relationships that the business relies on for growth.
Lauren Thebault, Director, Activation and Brand Management, New York
After two-plus years of navigating the new way of the world, when it comes to remote audience engagement, in 2023, in-person brand events and experiences are back—but they need to be accommodating to their target audiences who have a new set of expectations and considerations, ranging from balancing their other remote work commitments to overall wellness. Meanwhile, immersive virtual events aren’t losing steam—and brands need to continue to think about how they activate in this hybrid world, providing a seamless and considered experience for all.
Patrick Kampff, Strategy Director, London
Sun Tzu says, “Brand experience will become our go-to deliverable as clients move away from traditional projects to prioritize how to design feelings into all aspects of their brand.”
Clinton Clarke, Digital Creative Director, New York
On the design front, AI-generated imagery from platforms like Dall-E and Midjourney will continue to get better, more pervasive, and potentially indistinguishable from other methods of image and motion creation. This will prompt us to take a fresh look at how to design with authenticity in brand experience. It will also force designers to sharpen their art-direction skills if they wish to use these platforms effectively to build design systems across brand experiences.
Brian Rafferty, Global Director, Business Analytics & Insights, New York
By most accounts, 2023 will be a tough year: potential long-term recession, continued conflicts, and extreme weather events, not to mention more countries moving towards isolationist and reactionary leaders. Brands and businesses will need to think hard about how to not only survive and thrive in the short term but how to create sustainable value for their customers. In a world of fewer resources and increased uncertainty, why will they pick you? So, my hope, rather than prediction, since who can really predict anything these days, is that businesses and brands take a long-term view in 2023 and realize that taking a clear stance indicating their commitment to a sustainable future is essential. The proof will be in the proverbial pudding. In 2023, it will not be about what you say but what you do: do your actions and the experiences your customers have reflect that stance? And, just as importantly, do you know which experiences matter most?
Lea Chu, Group Director, Naming, New York
As brands get more serious about bridging the gap between physical and digital experiences, our everyday language will need to adapt. Words will shift in meaning; new terms will be born. Language is always evolving, but the pace will be accelerated due to mass digital transformation. Brands that lean strategically into new words and terms will be able to create more immersive experiences.
Amy Chen, Director, Experience, New York
2023 will bring forward ways to employ such emerging tech as AI and blockchain that will become required reading for knowledge workers. Whether it’s in the service of business strategy, innovation, or consumer experiences, the current wave isn’t likely to fade; it will only grow even stronger. While the general public may still have varying degrees of awareness, these technologies will be increasingly integrated into their everyday consumption of products and services. As creators and strategists, we must tap into the unknown and unfamiliar to prepare for what’s next.
Duncan Kelly, Design Director, London
In 2022, tools like Dall-E, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion have shown a glimpse of the accessible creative power of AI. Programmed to generate images when prompted with text, these tools get to work quickly, often delivering surprising and unexpected (and sometimes incredibly weird) visual results.
The more these tools learn and the more proficient we get at prompting, the clearer and more significant the role of AI in the branding process will become. In 2023, AI will continue its growth, both in static and motion, and establish itself as a powerful tool for brands to generate unique connections with individuals in ways that can only be imagined.
Shana Orth, Group Director, Account Management, Los Angeles
In a sea of choices, it’s more important than ever for brands to understand the value of a personalized experience to retain and grow brand loyalty. Brands must evolve and tap into those critical analytics and insights/data to help guide interactions and create more human and empathetic experiences. Those that do will undoubtedly have the competitive advantage and drive value on a deeper level with their consumers. Investing in loyalty and lifetime value will be essential for brands in 2023.
Aaron Hall, Group Director, Naming, San Francisco
It is with some disdain for this long-gone naming technology trend that I predict the return of vowel-dropping in company and product names in 2023. We’ve already seen a few new vowel-less names reminiscent of the early 2000’s Tumblr, Razr, and Flickr. While sometimes what’s old can feel new again, in this case, the return of the “mysteriously missing vowel” may struggle not to feel dated and hokey. And this trend still hasn’t solved the problems from its first go-round:
- It doesn’t help with trademark clearance (Flickr doesn’t get you the trademark if Flicker already exists).
- It can be confusing what the intended word is (was Motorola’s “SLVR” Silver or Sliver?).
- It can cause pronunciation issues for global markets.
Steffanie Haase, Group Director, Creative Services
In 2023, I predict we will continue to evolve our new way of working, selling and, of course, branding. Simplification is going to play an even greater role across every interaction. We’ve spent almost three years moving into fully digital/off-site interactions, burning the candle on both ends, blurring boundaries, and doing more–and not always efficiently. With fear of recession, business growth concerns, and political unrest on the horizon, and continued emphasis on inclusion and the environment, we will be concentrating more than ever on working smarter not harder. Those brands, organizations, individuals and, of course, tools that take this into consideration are going to be needed to keep us all growing and thriving (in the end leading to happier and healthier eco-culture).
Mick Smyth, Senior Strategist, London
Since the pandemic, many brands have leaned heavily on emotion in their marketing, providing an opportunity to demonstrate to customers that he brand understands and is there to help. With complexity and unpredictability only going to increase in the near future, this trend will likely continue as marketers look to simplify experiences and create a sense of stability in customers’ lives.
Simrit Brar, Creative Director, Los Angeles
More and more people are getting news from non-news sources, and their credibility is questionable and scary. Cyber-education consultant Lori Getz, speaking to parents and kids from my daughter’s school, reminded us that most TV channels we get our news from are technically entertainment channels. And then there’s the added challenge of social channels like Facebook and TikTok, where more deepfakes are showing up. AI tools like Midjourney and Dall-E are becoming more sophisticated. It will become harder and harder to tell what’s real and what’s fake and to manipulate public opinion.
Samantha Starr-Shields, Account Director, New York
In 2023, a “New Normal 2.0” will take center stage for more than just the workplace—hybrid experiences. After being thrust into fully digital interactions throughout the pandemic, consumers are craving in-person experiences again. Successful brands should focus on delivering both: the in-person experiences people are coveting to feel normalcy again and the convenience and ease of digital experiences, allowing for a seamless transition between the two.
Analicia Sotelo, Senior Strategist, Brand Communication, Los Angeles
In 2023, successful brands will remember to bring a lightness to their experiences—giving consumers connective moments they aren’t expecting to contrast with the heavy truths they already carry. Whether virtual, physical, or hybrid, consumers will choose experiences that bring delight, relief, humor, surprise, and happiness to their lives. Successful brands will understand that it’s table stakes for their brands to act authentically on global issues. They’ll avoid heavy-handed, inspirational stories with no real brand actions behind them. Instead, they’ll create experiences that help us remember the beauty of human connection and let their actions speak for themselves.
Maximilian Melamed, Senior Naming Strategist, New York
The metaverse creeps closer and closer. 2023 will be the year that more brands, bigger brands, and well-known brands really start to test what brand experience means in the metaverse, pushing it towards the fore as another realm to compete for consumer attention. Its potential is yet untapped, so the most creative pioneers will undoubtedly make the biggest splash. What that will look like . . . who’s to say, but it seems limited only by imagination.
Wendy Gerber, Executive Director, Strategy & Head of ESG Advisory, New York
Companies will venture to the metaverse with new ways for consumers to engage with and experience their brands and then return to the ground for real-life events. Companies will also explore using the metaverse for employee engagement and collaboration. On the ground, branded sustainability initiatives and pop-ups will create new ways to purchase products, protect our planet, and show the life cycle of a brand and its carbon footprint. Cross collaborations will increase between companies—for example, a cosmetics company could partner with a VR company to create an in-person spa experience that pampers you and then takes you on a hot air balloon journey to the French Riviera.
Nicholas Jenkins-Smith, Design Director, London
We will soon see how the collapse of currencies like Luna and large exchanges like FTX will affect institutional investment. This is also heavily dependent on regulatory practices (SEC vs. Ripple, for example). And given the wild activity in the last two months, tighter scrutiny is to be expected. But these cycles happen—bear markets are where the innovation happens (interoperability between currencies, scaling of the technology, governance, etc.). As my inbox fills up, many large exchanges are now laser-focused on transparency. I suspect there will be a redoubling of efforts to gain back confidence in the perception of the industry before the next bull run. This is where simplicity of communication becomes a $BN asset.
Isabella Wragg, Senior Strategist, New York
In 2023, brand experience will become even more intertwined with positioning, promise, and purpose. Brand experience is how a brand lives out its positioning and purpose. As consumers place more and more importance on the brand experience, creating a positioning/purpose/promise that sets a brand up for a strong experience and delivering on that positioning through experience will be paramount.
Lisa Kane, Group Director, Strategy, Los Angeles
In 2023, brands will find new ways to bridge the “real” and digital worlds as they engage with customers. In healthcare, for example, the move to telemedicine has been super-charged by the pandemic, and it is unlikely we’ll move away from new-found ways for patients and physicians to engage. People will continue to interact with their doctors online via patient portals and face-to-face on video platforms while meeting in person when another layer of care or treatment is required. Embracing telehealth will help established healthcare brands become more forward-leaning and patient-centric, as the ability to connect live, whether on- or offline, will continue to make everyday healthcare experiences more efficient, personal, and accessible.
Carol Nguyen, Insights Analyst, New York
- Campy Collabs. From Juicy Couture x Kraft Mayo to Cactus Plant Flea Market x McDonald’s, consumers can expect to get more of a taste of these delectable designs and the experiences that come along with them
- Emergence of digital ‘Third Spaces,’ as brands explore how to democratize access to the metaverse
- Innovations in humanizing the DIY Healthcare experience for patients to proactively screen, monitor, and report their health status to their provider
- An emphasis on equity, as consumers push brands to realize diversity and inclusion are not enough to step up to their social impact promises and campaigns
Johnson Gu, Chairman, Shanghai
More and more countries are reopening, and the Chinese are looking forward to regaining connectivity with the rest of the world in 2023. Due to the impact of the pandemic, communication between people has stayed more in the virtual world in the past three years, which has also made us feel the need for real connection. Experience must be integrated into the environment so consumers can genuinely interact, explore, perceive, touch, and immerse themselves in it. A truly connected world will bring more opportunities for offline experience, and experiences related to the real economy will gain more significant growth opportunities.
Bryan Kelly, Senior Strategist, Brand Communication, New York
As brands recognize that certain words are so ubiquitous as to be invisible—”best,” “relax,” “enjoy”—the market for gnarlier, more rarely used words will enjoy an uptick. Simplification will still reign supreme as regards to the length of copy, but a shine will be put around single, simple, strong, little-used words: deluge, nonpareil, antidisestablishmentarianism. Their immediate unrecognizability, rather than an intellectual gatekeeping experience as in days of yore, will be an invitation to explore, connect, expand, like linguistic QR codes. It may not last, but it’ll be a fun year.
Maddie McGregor, Naming Strategist, New York
Stickiness is the UX metric that defines how engaged users are with your product. And by today’s standards, the stickier your interface, the better. However, people are starting to crave stripped-back digital experiences that encourage you to get in, get out, and get on with your life. We see this shift from success stories like BeReal, the social media app that is the antithesis of sticky. Its simple, minimalistic, beta-like user experience hasn’t turned away users. In many ways, it’s part of the appeal. Tech companies may take the hint, dial back their stickiness, and help users avoid the dreaded doom scroll—not just because it’s the responsible thing to do, but because it’s what users actually want.
Frankie Margotta, Strategist, Los Angeles
In the coming year, experience will be one of the most critical areas for brands to win and deliver on. We’ll continue to see boundaries dissolve between physical and digital, and a brand’s strategy will need to encourage unified experiences that feel authentic and connected across both collections of channels and touchpoints. Also, as niche sub-cultures and taste communities continue to form, brands will have the opportunity to create select, hyper-focused experiences for specific groups of stakeholders, so there will be a greater opportunity for thoughtful experimentation at the brand level.
Christine Lehtonen, VP, Business Development, San Francisco
1. Gone with the CEO Celeb. The once flamboyant CEO trend will be seen as a liability, a risk that can bring down stock or entire companies if they go rogue. (See ya later SBF, Elon Musk and My Pillow CEO!)
2. With the pandemic largely behind us and world events to unite us, we will see a renewed spirit of innovation from brands. Expect new partnerships, collaborations and campaigns for good.
3. Brands will reconsider what it means to be in a relationship with their most important audiences; I predict more brand/customer iteration, engagement and advisory boards. Look for audience shifts where employees are the customers and customers are co-creators.
4. CMOs as customer service agents, where the delivered experience will increasingly define the overall brand experience, and customer satisfaction will be tracked more closely.