After two difficult years because of extenuating circumstances, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel and here, Jon Blakeney – Group Partner & Managing Director, Emre Kuzlu – Group Partner & Istanbul Managing Director and Pete Champion – Group Partner & Creative Strategy Director from I-AM Global Experience Design Agency take a look at a selection of key trends for the future that will aid brands moving forward.

Refik Anadol’s Alkazar’s
Dream Installation

We have reached a year of cautious yet positive optimism, a year of hope and trust towards science and technology, an outlook towards new ways to protect the environment and building lives around community and joyful reunion.

There is so much to look forward to: The Covid vaccine is leading the way into further research for cancer vaccines, open discussion about mental health creates space for freedom of exploration of self, the internet is upgrading its capabilities to provide more freedom, balancing work and life, and there is more compassion towards life and nature with consumerism shifting from a mindless habit to a purposeful ideal.
We have expectations based on stronger convictions about how the future should look. Let’s dive into the four key trends, for the coming years that will help brands rise to the challenge.

Communitas:
Communitas is sharing through spaces built for community needs, where every member is equal. It is a simple and deeply human concept to keep the experience in focus. We keep going back to the place that makes us feel valued and part of society. Brands have the unique ability to push limits and immerse into “out of the box thinking” to create unique experiences. These provide opportunities to build positive association in line with the brand purpose. Building connections with people and places is possible through a harmonious relationship between digital tools and bricks-and-mortar; neither is complete without the other. It’s time to get together and feel the love:

Sharing Joy
Public spaces are regaining popularity as areas of activity where people spend their free time through socializing, shopping, listening to music and immersing in artistic expression. These places act as stages for self-expression and hubs for a community’s culture and values. As democratised spaces they have the ability to create memories and build Communitas.

Social Bonding
With the difficulties brought on by urban living and busy schedules; our communities were already fragmented before the pandemic pushed them into their individual spaces. The desire for “Real life” social engagement will create opportunities to bond communities and increase social cohesion once again.

Re-Establishing Trust
As more people bond through a unified experience, the provider of the experience will evoke trust. Holding space for people for reasons beyond commercial interaction is valuable, leading to exciting exploration of brand offerings.

Examples:
Refik Anadol’s Alkazar’s Dream Installation – Nike Hope Alkazar in Istanbul, Turkey: Nike and renowned media artist Refik Anadol collaborate once again to create a place where art, history and physical movement merge. This immersive dreamscape utilises over 100 films to create a space where visitors are able to dance, exercise and practice yoga in a land of fantasy.
Branch Design to cater for social engagement – Virgin Money, UK: Virgin Money stores open to both customers and non-customers and provide facilities for entrepreneurs to co-work and create in the social media studio. The stores are a platform for social engagement, hosting a diverse range of networking events, seminars, panel discussions, even morning yoga and evening gigs, all tailored to the needs of the local community.

Virgin Money
Manchester, UK

2.Fourth Space:
The fourth wall is an imaginary wall that separates the storyteller from the audience. Now is the time to identify where and how your brand can utilise the metaverse to satisfy the changing needs of tech-savvy customers. Digital twins on Metaverse offer the chance to test an idea. Brands will be able to use data to create curated products and services, producing the commodity, putting it out on meta as a test run before selling it in the physical world.
We will see more brands step in to the Metaverse as a way to prepare for the future. The possibilities are endless; there is no physical limitation to what can be created. This opens up access to a space where reciprocal interactions are possible – this is the Fourth Space:

Building Rapport
User demographics, localisation and behaviour patterns enable UX designers to create experiences that are personalised. Going further and designing the digital space, where data speaks to the consumer, is an invite into the Fourth Space.

Enter the Metaverse
The metaverse is a convergence of physical and digital worlds and embodies the next stage of how the physical interacts with technology. It’s a place where people can interact, and where digital assets – land, buildings, avatars and even names – can be created, bought and sold. To succeed here brands need to understand how their customers exist in this new world.

Intangible Extravagance
Investing and indulging in NFTs from art to real estate has exploded in the past few months with incredible prices – 60 million US dollars last year. This market is expected to democratise ownership of art – being accessible to anyone who can afford it.

Balenciaga Digital World

Examples:
Fashion steps into digital worlds Balenciaga: Balenciaga announced the establishment of a unit within their organisation entirely dedicated to this parallel world. They teamed with the popular game Fortnite and the luxury fashion brand is bringing its clothing and signatures into the game.
Big brands buy in to the new dimension Samsung, Decentraland: Samsung has opened a virtual replica of its New York 837 flagship store
in the metaverse platform Decentraland. Visitors to the digital store will be able to explore an “experiential playground” and earn NFT rewards by completing quests. The brand aims to showcase its connectivity, sustainability and customisation stories.

Westfield, London, UK

3.Empathy:
2021 saw a new openness around mental health and equality. Brands leaning into empathetic understanding are looking to make their customers feel empowered and included. Empathic understanding of the needs of existing as well as potential customers will open up a whole new world of customer profiles. Create a journey so safe and empowering that everyone will feel welcome. As the dialogue turns to intersectionality and inclusivity; empathy should be on the top of every brand’s agenda.
How can empathy be woven into the brand architecture?

Compassion
Compassion enables brands to rethink their offer and recreate a rich brand expression. Humanising their approach allows the consumer to make a conscious evaluation of what is on offer.

Support
Empathic understanding extends beyond wellness; it reaches out to diversity & inclusion too: race, gender identification and people with disabilities are pressing agendas.

Inclusivity
Most consumers walking into the online marketplace or bricks-and-mortar store do not have the financial means to make the purchase on a whim. Most consumers spend time looking at reviews and comparing brands and product features and need support to make an informed decision.

Examples:
The new try before you buy Situ Live, UK: Teaming up with 75 brands, Situ Live is the destination for people who want to discover and experience products as they would in real life and then speak to knowledgeable experts who listen and recommend products that improve their lives. Visitors are able to compare products in close detail before deciding whether to discover more or purchase directly from the manufacturer simply by scanning a QR code.
Resetting the senses Blue Bottle Coffee – Umeda Chayamachi Café, Japan: By merging digital tools and interior design, the cafe aims to give way to a new experience giving customers the joy of discovering the coffee brand’s familiar colour through various lighting features and materials. The space has a special area flooded in blue light to stimulate visitors’ senses allowing them to fully reset.

Levi’s Haus, London, UK

4.Symbiosis:
Symbiosis is the interaction between different species with an understanding of mutual benefits. The changes we witnessed with nature’s revival, when humans were under mandatory lockdown, showed symbiosis in action. Build, produce and serve responsibly to create positive impact. Leave a flourishing world for the next generation. Respect should drive the leading edge in every design decision we take. The choices we make have an impact not only on other species and the environment around us but also on how we choose to represent ourselves and the life we build for tomorrow:

Eco Concerns
The responsibility for the way we act and consume lays in the more conscious treatment of the environment. It provides a gateway to a meaningful understanding of ourselves. A clean and positive environment has a significant impact on all aspects of our existence.

Repair, Reuse, Recycle
Facing empty shelves, created a shift in consumer mindset – nothing is forever. Moving from of abundance to an understanding of scarcity, people began to look at what they owned and how necessary those things were.

Cohabitation
Consumers know that they have the power to choose responsibly and expect brands to provide them with open and honest information. They have acute senses in detecting greenwashing.

Mandaluyong, Philippines

Examples:
Reimagine recycling Levi’s Haus, UK: London’s Levi’s Haus is new store concept built around the brands focus on circular fashion. The store includes a tailor 2021 shop where customers are able to not only customise but also repair their old worn-down Levi’s. The space holds a recycle area where products no longer in use are reformed into accessories. The “reimagine” area is for crafting low environmental impact designs using organic dye.
Brand giants test and learn McDonald’s, Philippines: McDonald’s green & good concept reinforces its commitment towards using environment-conscious and climate-friendly restaurant solutions by testing and learning sustainable practices with green building construction and utility
efficient solutions.