2016: For Better, For Worse

 

Five Key 2016 Branding Highlights:

The image of a rollercoaster might come to mind when we reflect on 2016. Whatever the analogy, 2016 has delivered a wallop. We lost Prince, John Glenn, and Florence Henderson. We discovered a gene linked to ALS. North Korea tested an H-bomb. The Cubs won the World Series. Many of us ran from Facebook after the election. The global tiger population increased for the first time in 100 years. For a year that revealed itself to be amazing and strange, good and bad, what are the 2016 branding highlights?

A small business doesn’t jump from startup brand to global empire in a single leap, so the World Branding Awards for 2016 don’t really help us figure out what we should implement and what we should avoid. However, maybe this article can help provide a few ideas, because it’s written exactly for the large swath of people playing in the $1 to 70 million range of business.


Branding is multifaceted. It uses visual and verbal identities. Logos, colors, images, words, fonts… branding isn’t about a single tool nor a one-size-fits-all strategy. So, for our year in review, here are five bite-size 2016 branding highlights that can offer  understandable takeaways for small businesses.

1. Word of the Year:

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word for 2016 is post-truth, a word that invokes politics and perception. Post-truth is an adjective that relates to circumstances where facts are less influential over public opinion than ideas that simply appeal to a person’s beliefs.

Waaaaaait a second… you mean perception (belief) is greater than reality (facts)? Shocking. We at BRANDING FOR THE PEOPLE have been teaching that for YEARS!

The perception you build around your brand is the whole brand! If no one believes your mousetrap is the best, then no one will buy it. Period. We’d also point out a secondary highlight: clichés won’t create perceptions that generate sales.

2. Color of the Year:

Color impacts us beyond the walls of a baby’s nursery. It sets tone, mood, personality, even how we taste. Each December, Pantone announces its upcoming Color of the Year. For 2016, this was Rose Quartz and Serenity. Did you feel serene this year? If not, perhaps that explains the dramatic shift for 2017 to the yellow-green shade it calls “Greenery.” Or, as Fast Company points out, something that looks like the radioactive isotope from The Simpsons.

Does this mean you need to run out and buy a few gallons of paint? No. What this reminds us is that color creates and alters not just perception… but action as well. What is your story? What mood and tone do you want? Does your color help or hurt? Is Greenery going to help mold the public’s perception of your brand? Maybe, but if you don’t sell plants or green furniture, then you’ll just blend in.

3. Font of the Year:

New fonts come along every year, playing with every attribute of typeface. Do you know the anatomy of a font? There’s serif (or sans serif), ligature, smallcaps…. What about ear? spur? tail? finial? Fonts have a number of components that can be changed to create drastically different tones.

The Type Directors Club announces the best typeface design each year, and this year, “Mornic” landed its award, followed by BC Mikser. Check out these other notable new fonts from 2016:

  • Sonder: something rough, bold, rugged.
  • Bitter: austere, no-nonsense, echoing that old typewriter in the attic.
  • Cavorting: casual, upright, handwritten font that could be an inked note.

There are challenges when naming THE Font of The Year, because, as with color, the “best” font for you will hinge entirely on the personality you want. Don’t go changing stationery simply because you see a cool new font that you love. Does it fit with your personality or feel completely random?

4. Copywriting

This year’s Webby Award for Best Copywriting went to Squatty Potty. You really have to watch the ad to appreciate why.

This unusual, humorous, cheeky video went viral and wasn’t an easy sell. Yet, it worked! What happened? The video lodged the product in everyone’s head. Funny, different, believable. Sometimes a bold identity with an off-the-beaten-path script is exactly what you need: don’t be afraid of the absurd if it can help you accurately communicate the solution to a problem no one knew they had in the first place!

5. Design of the Year:

Take a look at the 2016 Brand Impact Awards. The award for Best in Show went to johnson banks for “Dear World… Yours, Cambridge” for the University of Cambridge’s capital campaign. Using straightforward type and symbols, it boldly and directly shared specific, succinct examples of its impact on the world for 800 years.

Notice any other familiar ones from the Brand Impact Awards? Do these reflect one critic’s 2016 logo forecast for symbols, geometric shapes, graduated colors? Take a look at this list of the best and worst redesigns for 2016. Did you hate The Met’s new logo (although it, too, won a Brand Impact Award)? Does Instagram’s bore you? What’s your favorite?

The lesson here? Logos are a complicated function, even with rational choices, that consumers can swiftly love or hate. Do you pick a symbol simply because you like it? No: the design of the logo is as much a part of your story as the font, color, and words you use. If anything, the response to many of 2016’s redesigns says to us: don’t try this alone at home.

These 2016 branding highlights aren’t guarantees.

It is difficult to predict how these highlighted components will work for you, because each brand is different and tells a different story (hopefully, anyway). The stories that grab hold, leave a memory, spark an emotion, somehow lodge themselves into consumer perception are the ones that succeed. Although “greenery” may not be your color for 2017, understanding current perceptions and trends can provide you with information relevant to your positioning in the market place.

Your positioning matters. It identifies where you fit in the consumer landscape and helps you determine if your brand is telling the story you want.

How does your brand compare with our 2016 branding highlights? Do you stand out and march to a different drummer? Or does something in your toolkit leave you embarrassed?

Have any favorites or thoughts to share with use? Leave a comment! Please don’t hesitate to let us know if we can help you with any aspect of branding.

Small Business Branding Tips
Small Business Branding Tips
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