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2008 Branding and Marketing Trends

What worked last year, and what will work in 2009.

Often, commercial printing involves being part of a large-scale branding effort. Our print design and web design departments also need to stay up to date on the latest trends. So when Advertising Age came out with its list of brand winners from 2008, it seemed like the perfect time to do a little trend tracking…

Balanced Ad Channels

One thing that really stood out for me was the balance popular brands seem to be maintaining between different forms of advertisement. TV commercials are almost always accompanied by outdoor print buys, while direct mail printing channels consumer attention towards a website with games or video to created extended brand engagement.

Brand Activism

The biggest trend, in print, online, and on the air over the last year seems to have been brand activism. Companies as diverse as Jim Beam, American Express, and Haagen-Dazs launched campaigns to raise brand appeal and awareness through supporting causes they believe in.

By this same token, many advertisers are taking the approach, when asked, that it's not about the money, or the fame, but the integrity of the brand, and the importance of good social works.

Over the next year, we can definitely expect to see this type of campaign all over the place, as advertisers strive to make what they do more than just a marketing trick.

Health Up, Green Down

That being said, green advertisers made a good, but not great showing this year, and the 'trend,' if you can call eco-consciousness a trend, seems to be fading as consumers seem to be suffering from 'green overload' thanks to the last few years of message-heavy marketing.

On the flipside of this coin, we're still in the thick of a health-obsessed culture, and brands that created healthier products, or launched new health products, such as vitamin water, had a great year, with little indication that there will be any slowdown in this sector, despite a glutted market and rising economic concerns.

However, the way people feel about money these days should be foremost in our minds as we engage in any marketing project. Over the last few years, selling not a product or a brand, but a lifestyle, has been a powerful advertising strategy. But consumer data shows that interest in luxuries and the high life is waning in favor of a savvy, bargain-hunter ethic. Expect to see many brands shifting focus in this direction throughout 2009.

Edge On The Web Still Appeals

Online, the big winners are still viral campaigns and the power of social media. Burger King had another successful year on this front, as did the Wii, and with the low cost of internet advertising, there's no reason why this segment shouldn't continue to experience growth.

Success With Outdoor Advertising

However, it's interesting to note that brands which did invest in traditional forms of advertising, like print, also continue to enjoy tremendously successful campaigns. And this all boils down to printing that hits the streets. Both Grand Theft Auto IV and McDonald's had a great year investing in large, outdoor print ads. Billboards, murals, and vehicle wraps should continue to show great returns in 2009.

Small Business Takes It To The Streets

And for small business, grassroots and guerilla marketing techniques are still proving to have a wider impact than advertisers often anticipate. A street team handing out sticker printing, postcard printing, and free product samples in Times Square can gain inter/national attention, thanks to the campaign's subversive appeal.

Trends May Shift, People Still Love Celebrities

Last but not least, it's necessary to admit that the celebrity endorsement is still worth its weight in good PR. Get a product endorsed by Oprah, or put LeBron James up on a billboard, and watch the special magic of fame and fortune happen.

All things considered, 2009 looks like it will be a year of new school brand philosophies and tried and true advertising tactics. While we're embracing a style of marketing dedicated to art, meaning, and good works, big budgets and high-profile endorsements can still get the job done, in print and on the web.

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