Sophie Maxwell: What Will The Top Brand Needs Be In 2014

As 2014 begins, brands must identify and anticipate key desires in order to make real, lasting change.

The start of the year focuses the mind more on the future – and opportunity for true, positive change – than any other time of year. But what really drives the most significant and impactful change? Trends can often be thought of as transient – or, worse still, irrelevant or intangible. The big question is often what do they mean for me, my life, my brand? Just how do they translate? Beyond being inspired, what brands and businesses really need to be ahead is the ability to realize and visualise what change means for their future.

Designers are by nature problem solvers and agents of change but our own moment of realization came during an innovation meeting with a client about 15 years ago when we looked at how best to link insight, innovation and design. From this juncture, we built and invested in an ongoing program, Pearlfisher Futures, which allows us to fully understand – and be continually inspired – by the power of change.

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Building a picture of globally sourced insight helps us establish a picture of macro and micro change. But our key point of difference is that we take these insights and bring them to life as tangible and powerful design concepts and expressions that illustrate what change really means – and looks like – for brands in the future, offering new ways of understanding and desiring. The link that is not often closed by trend agencies.

What Pearlfisher’s founding partners understood – ahead of their time in an agency context – was that to create effective change you must anticipate, interpret and create for change as one seamless journey: Identifying the emerging voices – from the experts in their field to scientists, technologists, artists and people on the street – to build an understanding of change and then use this knowledge to inspire new design visions and behaviors that illustrate what change will really mean for brands in the future.

In turn what brands – and their agencies – must do is reinstate brand leadership with conviction in these ideas, and ideals. It is often human nature to reject what is new but when created through thorough strategy and design driven from the heart of the brand it is this expertise that creates our future.

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Thinking this way takes both vision and bravery but by recognizing the power of design we can embrace change made real, introduce the new and realize a successful future for brands and their audiences. Below are our top five ways to design your way to a better future.

1. The future should resolve a tension.

Our best innovations come from understanding a real deficit and providing an exciting, game-changing answer. Be insightful and be committed to real solutions that make lives better.

2. The future should be better AND easier.

We no longer need to compromise. The future is our opportunity to make things better, for everyone. Be visionary but have clarity and always make it easy.

3. The future should feel uncomfortable.

The future is new which can often feel challenging and unfamiliar but without change there is no future. Be brave and embrace the unknown.

4. The future has got a lot nearer.

We now have the ability to each affect and shape real change. The future is in our hands. Explore closer connections. Embrace a more accessible world. See the future sooner.

5. The future is yours.

It’s easy to follow trends and competitor change but the future should come from the heart. Lead – don’t follow. Be instinctive and independent. Draw your own influences and make your own future.

Images show a selection of concepts Pearlfisher has designed, some  of which are now coming to fruition through initiatives and products in the real world. Find out more on Pearlfisher.com where our new Futures Reports are now launching. Please visit our store for further information or to purchase.

Sophie Maxwell is Insight Director at Pearlfisher

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