A week from right now we will well into 2015, and I have a hunch that 2015 will be another year of surprises in branding, just as 2014 was.

Throughout 2014 I kept tabs on what my branding agency was being asked to create, as well as how the guidance we provided steered toward certain trends. Here are 4 of those branding trends I experienced in 2014.


4. Saying goodbye to the sidebar

A mobile-friendly, responsive website is now assumed by visitors to a website. Google rewards responsive websites. A website that still requires zoom-to-enlarge is now old and dated, seen as yesteryear’s thinking.

There are implications to design, though, now that mobile-friendly websites are assumed: What do we do with the sidebar?

The sidebar is the slender column to the right or left of the main content. For non-eCommerce websites it might contain a contact block, “top posts,” an ad(s), or other misc. info. For eCommerce websites it contains your shopping cart, sorting mechanisms, or ads. To be clear, I am talking about non-eCommerce websites in this trend because the sidebar is still a useful user experience for buying online.

When responsive design first took root, we simple shoved the sidebar to the bottom of the page. The reason: the page content must funnel from a wide/horizontal view on a laptop to a smaller and usually narrow view on a phone and tablet – even when the mobile device is in horizontal orientation. When this happens, and the sidebar gets pushed to the bottom, it is viewed as an afterthought, and that’s because it is!

The solution: Get rid of the sidebar.

Let’s be blunt: What purpose does a sidebar serve on non-eCommerce website? It’s a distraction. It might be a useful distraction for eCommerce, but for non-eCommerce it’s a distraction from the main content. So by removing the sidebar we get two benefits: (1) Content responds better to mobile and desktop screens because there’s no afterthoughts at the bottom of the page, and (2) the only element at the bottom of the page is the Call To Action (CTA).

This approach keeps the shiny objects to a minimum, and gets your visitors to where you want them to go.


3. Excellent packaging for all

2014 was the year of small minimums when it comes to packaging, and thanks to the strong emergence and innovation of digital commercial printing presses, we can now produce beautiful packaging with affordable minimums.

For example, one printer my agency works with is ILS out of Hamilton, Ohio. They were one of Coke’s printing partners for the summer “Share A Coke With [name]” campaign, and yet ILS was also my agency’s printing partner for body care startup Innate™ when they printed packaging for Innate’s kickoff line of products. Because Innate is a startup, their first printing of product labels and packaging were nowhere near what the likes of Coke would order, but because digital printing allows for more manageable minimums, Innate was able to launch with well-branded, top-of-the-line printed branding for their products.

Digital, nimble packaging is here to stay, and the savvy vendors who know this are thriving. I am elated that we are part of this shift in the CPG niche, and can guide our clients to this type of solution.


2. A change in how we communicate

Nomenclature fascinates me. Every industry has it, uses it, and in branding, specifically, it tends to change more often than other industries.

Case in point: Web versus Digital.

It makes sense when you think about it: A website is but one spoke of a bigger digital wheel.

How do we describe the opt-in email marketing that takes the recipient to the app to buy the thing for their device? That’s not web. That’s digital. What about the website that talks to your home’s thermostat and your body’s health stats via a wearable devices? That’s digital.

Yet all of these digital experiences require a branded user experience where we are constantly re-purposing brand assets from touchpoint to touchpoint. Thus, the need for a change in communication.

This is a “blue car syndrome” thing where, now that I’ve told you about it, you will start noticing how marketers are using “web” less and “digital” more. It’s a useful change in nomenclature.


1. Print is dead not dead? Really?!

At the start of 2014 I would not have imagined that we would have found print to be so useful and effective, and that we would have designed so much printed materials for brands.

There is a mantra among marketing pros that says “print is dead,” but 2014 turned out to be the year that silenced my joining in on the chant of that statement.

Consider just the brochures we designed. They were targeted within niches (think: food…for people, for animals…for men, for women, etc.), they were sized to be easy to store and carry, and the businesses we collaborated with knew that these materials were highly disposable. These brochures varied in number of pages and sizes, but were printed with low quantities by the aforementioned nimble digital printing presses.

We designed catalogs, postcards, business cards, note cards, tri-fold mailers, sell sheets, trade show materials, pocket folders…oh, my!

Yet the interesting thing about all this print work is that 100% of it worked in tandem with the brand’s digital strategy. Print directs to the digital experience, and it aides the reader wants to learn more on their own (ahem: content marketing, anyone?) which is why print and digital must work hand-in-glove.

Side note to this particular trend: The flaw of the specialist branding agency is that they cannot handle print and digital. They can only handle digital because even at these higher levels of activity for print in 2014, there’s still not enough print work to keep print-only agencies afloat anymore. What’s more, the talent that only works in digital is totally lost when it comes to print, and we heard about it from those businesses who experienced all sorts of disasters caused by digital specialists who thought print was easy. This is something to keep in mind when assessing what needs to be done, and who will do it.


So there you have it: 4 branding trends I experienced in 2014. I have a hunch about some trends we will experience together in 2015, but I admit I do enjoy the surprises each year gifts us with. What do you think 2015 will include? Share your thoughts on one of our social media posts where this was shared.


Dan Crask

Author Dan Crask

Hello - I'm Dan Crask. I help brands discover who they are, then express it visually. I co-own Brand Shepherd, am a husband, father of four children, and I don't believe in a work/life balance - it's all life, and all of it matters.

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