How Brands Can Thrive in a Post Selfie World: A Look Ahead at 2017

I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of ready to drop the mic on 2016.  Instead of looking back and thinking about how things went so horribly wrong, I’d rather look ahead and think about what 2017 holds and, specifically, what opportunities - and challenges - lie ahead for brands…

  • Welcome to a post-selfie world: I have a feeling that when historians look back and wonder what the eff we were doing in 2016 –– they will be less baffled by BREXIT and Trump than they will be by the inordinate amount of time, effort and money spent over the past few years capturing the perfect selfie. I mean at this point, surely even Kim Kardashian is bored of them.  God help the brand (and fire the agency) who has so little originality that they are still suggesting ‘selfie’ executions in 2017. 
  • The Year of V3: Perhaps you’re wondering what do to with all the time the descent of the selfie has freed up… Fear not, there will be plenty to look at -- 2017 will be the year of V3: Visuals, Video and VR. Imagery, especially moving and immersive imagery, will dominate most social and digital platforms. Facebook and Insta are investing heavily in video - to the extent that the first message that greets you in your feed every morning ‘Good morning, Avra, and yes, it is raining again’ – will soon be delivered via video.  And I know everyone swore that last year was all about VR, but with the mainstreaming of new technologies – including Samsung’s more affordable consumer options and Google’s DayDream -- I think it is finally going to happen.  Put your headset on and watch this space.
  • Second era of silent cinema: As we are surrounded by video, it is fascinating to think how much of it - it (85% on Facebook!) is viewed without sound (in my case because I’m probably supposed to be on a conference call or listening to my husband recount his day at work). The return silent cinema requires a new approach to storytelling; running 30sec TVCs without sound just won’t cut it. Today most content heavily relies on captions and subtitles -it will be interesting to watch how branded video story telling continues to evolve, maybe we’ll see the return of a Chaplin-esque approach to acting that will capture our attention through over-the-top facial expressions and physical humour – kind of like a human emoji, no?
  • From mega to micro influencers: Over the past few years we have watched influencers grow from precocious teens filming in their bedrooms to multi-million dollar brand operatives, contoured to within an inch of their lives and charging brands astronomical fees to highlight products and services. While mega influencers have an important role to play in terms of reach – increasingly strict advertising guidelines (#ad, #spon) strip the content of the ‘authentic’ feel which at first made these content creators seem more appealing and accessible than distant celebrities. With engagement dipping significantly on receipt of a 100-thousandth follower or fan, I anticipate that brands will shift towards micro influencers, those with 1,000 – 10,000 followers – replacing reach with credibility and authenticity.
  • Brands go to the dark side: Creating more authentic connections will require new ways to connect, and in 2017 more brands will venture to the dark side (of social). Turns out we are secret sharers, and more likely to share things via private message apps than posting on platforms for all our followers to see.  For brands this is an appealing, but largely unknown, terrain and creates opportunities to connect in new ways.  The challenge remains is that what makes dark social ‘dark’ is that exists outside the bright light of traditional measurement – which makes it harder for marketers to demonstrate return on investment. Adidas went first to lots of attention and fanfare, let’s see who follows in their footsteps…
  • Gen Z finally steps into the spotlight: I am so bored of hearing about millennials and I swear it is in no way related to the fact that I am not one. I predict that in 2017 marketers will shift their attention from Gen Y to Gen Z, the oldest of whom will be turning 21 this year.  This is partially driven by the meteoric rise of Snap (still calling it Snapchat? That is sooo 2016 of you), the Gen Z platform of choice, and led by the increased prominence (and net worth) of the youngest Kardashian (who is actually a Jenner in case you are a purist).  Brands will seek new ways to engage Gen Z audiences – ‘dropping’ new products instead of ‘launching’ them and the continued merging of IRL and digital experiences.
  • We have reached peak fempowerment: Between #LikeAGirl, #ThisGirlCan and #HeforShe, the past few years have seen campaigns that are fantastic at galvanising the public in support of women’s equality. While I applaud these efforts with both clappy hands and strong arm emojis, I noticed that brands have increasingly tried, and failed, to jump on the bandwagon – suggesting that we have reached peak fempowement.   A Wrangler campaign encouraging women to accept that they are more than their bum proved a failure…women were quick to respond that they never thought they weren’t!  In 2017, brands will be expected to move beyond hashtags and towards action – empty platitudes will be answered with attitude.
  • Marketers will share the load: Remember the amazing Ariel film ‘Share the Load’ where the dad (gasp!) did laundry, or the ‘This is Wholesome’ campaign that was lauded for displaying diverse families. My sincere hope for 2017 is that the depiction of diverse families and yes, men doing housework, will be the expectation not the exception. Unilever totally gets this and committed to unstereotype its advertising and eradicate outdated portrayals of gender – let’s hope they keep their word and others follow suit – not to mention if I see one more advert featuring a well-groomed, smiling woman cleaning her floor I can’t be held accountable for what I’ll do my TV…
  • Subtle is the new obvious: In a world where everything seems to be on display (for the third time in this list I reference the Kardashian family as a proof point), subtlety can be the most powerful way to stand out. In 2016, two campaigns (one on Instagram and a truly powerful film) that used the power of subtlety caught my eye, and I can’t help but wonder/hope if won’t we see more of this in the coming year. When everyone seems to be shouting, speaking in a whisper can be a provocative and ultimately effective way to capture attention and land messages.

So to summarize for those with limited attention spans: no to selfies, yes to subtlety, yes to videos, as long as the sound is off, and yes to feminism as long as its natural and not associated with a hashtag, Gen Z is a yes, Zoella is a no and brands will be infiltrating our message apps, in addition to our feeds.  And for those with super short attention spans – this year will be more about Kylie than Kim.   So, am I ready for 2017? Bring. It. On.

By Avra Lorrimer

H+K Admin

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search