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10 emerging trends that should inform your brand strategy in 2018

Pain becoming a currency, consumers exploring their dark sides, photorealistic virtual worlds – these are the emerging trends brands must capitalise on over the next 12 months.

The world will look very different in a year’s time. By then pain will have become a currency, photorealistic virtual worlds will have overlain our own, and curious consumers will have explored their inner dark side.

These emerging trends – and seven others like them – will forever change how your brand is perceived. We reveal where they came from, why they matter, and how to capitalise on them.

10. Brand studios will become a thing

Marketers are about to unlock the value of promoting their brand using films, documentaries and scripted series. As a result, they’ll partner with comic artists, sci-fi authors and even Hollywood directors. Take Mars’ series of two-minute ads for Halloween, for example, which were compared to Charlie Brooker’s cult TV series Black Mirror rather than other ads.

9. Pain will be a new currency

The extreme economy has arrived. Take Australian surf and skate company Ozmosis, whose customers are entitled to discounts if they display their injuries. Then there’s the emerging tech that encourages us to push ourselves to the limit; wearables that regulate our body heat, for instance, and virtual-reality exercise machines.

8. There’ll be a leap towards mixed reality

The newest generation of augmented reality headsets, set to ship in 2018, will see photorealistic content overlay the physical world for the first time. The Meta 2 headset, for example – arguably the most exciting computer innovation since the Apple Mac – lets users touch, grab and push striking 3D holograms. 

7. Consumers will embrace their ‘shadow selves’

In 2018 consumers will embrace the unknown dark sides of their personalities – and they’ll rely on ‘mystic’ tech to do so. Take the iBand EEG headband, which is about to hit the market after raising 1,289% of its crowdfunding goal. It’s USP? To plunge users into a hybrid state of consciousness.

6. The rise of brain-boosting nutrition

Individuals will become infinitely more aware of the value of brain-boosting nutrition in 2018. In response, brands will develop products that resonate with science-shy consumers demanding ‘brain food’ and ‘mood food’. The stomach, it seems, is becoming perceived as our second brain.

5. Softer selling 

Hard sells no longer work with digitally primed consumers who often know just as much as sales associates. Softer selling techniques, then, are the only way to go – and they’ll be on show at London’s Silvertown Quays, an entirely non-transactional mall launching in 2018.

4. The launch of brand moonshots

Patagonia’s anti-Black Friday initiatives, which saw the brand close stores and donate profits, was hugely risky. But its attempt to reset values around hyper-consumerism is a great example of a brand moonshot – when a company takes big, bold action (rather than incremental steps) to tackle a seismic cultural and social inflection point.

3. Beauty is becoming a religion

Small beauty brands are inspiring quasi-religious cult followings built around a ‘perfect brand’ enigma – a phenomenon set to explode in 2018. So-called holy-grail products have contributed to this move away from mass-market beauty conglomerates, with another driver being a desire for simplicity. Lixir, which sells just three core products, has already established a sizeable fan base since launching in October 2017.

2. Mass production will undergo a shake-up

Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned over the environmental impact of mass-produced design, and this is giving rise to a shake-up in the design industry. In April 2018, for example, Ikea will launch Industriell, a collection – part developed by Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek – that celebrates the beauty of ‘handmade’ products.

1. The proliferation of experiential and outdoor marketing

The thing about experiential marketing, says IMG Live president Bryan Icenhower, is that “it engages all five senses”. And because this in turn fuels brand loyalty, it’s no wonder that advertisers are exploring augmented and virtual reality – and even contextual signals like weather data. The new digital screen at Piccadilly Circus, which can be programmed to trigger specific ads when a certain car drives past, is just the start.

These are a selection of 24 key trends explored in Stylus’ 2018: Look Ahead, which members can read in full here.