I recently had the pleasure of being on the AAF Insights panel, where I was joined by a stellar group of strategists, sharing our predictions about the future of all things branding, marketing and advertising. It was a fun and fascinating conversation, and I walked away with plenty of food for thought.

Here are some highlights:

  • Just design cool stuff. Brands are obsessed with defining their purpose, but it’s important that they remember the purpose of a brand — to deliver products, services and experiences that fulfill a need. Example: Amazon’s Echo doesn’t claim to be saving the world, yet it’s hard to deny the life-changing convenience of having a dash button on your dog food.
  • Purpose-driven branding isn’t going away … but should it? For brands to be truly woke, they need to walk the walk (example: Gillette’s new socially conscious message doesn’t erase the fact they’ve been peddling expensive pink razors and sexist imagery for years). That’s a tall order but it likely won’t stop brands from jumping on the bandwagon to get a quick sale. We wish it did.
  • More digital isn’t always the answer. Too many brands are doubling down on digital because they assume that’s the way to reach younger audiences. When in fact, studies show that Gen Z might be the most connected generation, but they’re also the loneliest. Which means brands need to work harder to understand what their audiences really want and serve up experiences that are relevant and, most importantly, human.
  • Voice is the future. No, not the voice and tone in a brand guidelines document. But voice-activated technology that’s becoming a bigger part of our every day lives, like in our cars and workspaces. Whatever industry you’re in, it’s a good time to be thinking about what your brand sounds like—even if it seems like a distant future.

And just for fun, here are a couple of my own predictions that I didn’t get a chance to share at the event.

  • Rise of the wellness brand. It’s hard to avoid the wellness conversation these days. More banking brands are talking about financial wellness. Wellness tourism is the fastest growing travel sector. The Apple Watch tracks your day… and reads your ECG. No matter the category, if your brand isn’t talking about wellness yet… it should be.
  • Peak personalization is coming. Brands are investing billions on personalizing products, services and experiences. And it’s only creating more demand around how fast and how explicitly people’s needs should be met. I suspect we’ll soon reach a point where brands can’t operationally keep up with rising expectations—a reality that’ll be a rude awakening for many consumers accustomed to having it their way. It’s also possible that the pendulum will swing the other way and brands will invest whatever it takes to defy expectations… until we become so insulated that we lose the ability to co-exist.