2017 YEAR IN REVIEW
We spend much of our time thinking about the future – spotting meaningful trends, helping brands be thoughtful about upcoming launches, and in the sandbox experimenting with new products and emerging technologies. But as 2017 winds down, let’s take a moment to consider the year that was. We asked some of our team (across departments, from design to digital, account management to sourcing), and here’s a partial list of what we’ll remember about 2017.
Thanks to Snapchat’s Dancing Hotdog, which took the internet by storm this summer, brands like Snapchat, Ikea, and Amazon, to TV shows like The Walking Dead and even children’s books are getting into the world of AR. Look for it getting bigger and bigger with the introduction of ARKit and ARCore into the everyday smartphone.
Unless you live in Colorado and/or your name is Woody Harrelson, chances are 2017 was the first time you heard the initials CBD, hemp-derived Cannabidiol (CBD). Since 2014’s Omnibus Farm Bill, allowing farmers to grow hemp as a “pilot program,” the crop is making a comeback after being an illegal substance for 70 years. Here’s the catch: products derived from CBD can’t contain more than 0.3% of THC, the active ingredient in pot. As CBD finds its way into more products (craft beer, honey, chocolate…), brands will need to build consumer confidence that claims match test results of product batches.
The Indio, CA-based festival continued its evolution into the grandaddy of music festivals. This year, Coachella became the first annual music festival to hit $100 million in grosses. The festival added an additional 52,000 tickets in 2017, bringing the total attendance to 125,000 people per weekend.
As the NY Times asked back in September, can a $300 cooler unite America? As Jason Raish writes, “in a country where we can’t seem to agree on anything, one opinion has lately reached a broad consensus…Yeti is awesome.” What other products can bridge the cultural divide so thoroughly while being “wildly popular in liberal Portland, Ore., and in the conservative South, beloved by grizzled dads who hunt and fish and their beachgoing daughters.”?
Our world is increasingly digitized, and life has never been more convenient. From paying for Uber & Lyft rides, “Venmo-ing” friends, to paying rent and receiving paychecks, it’s almost possible for all monetary interactions to exist digitally. That convenience comes with an irrational social contract: we entrust our personal data to our favorite brands. With data breaches of breathtaking magnitude, we are reminded of how risky that trust is. From Uber’s recent acknowledgement (57M users) to Equifax (143M users), the full impact of these breaches is unknown. Will hackers change our behavior before security companies can get ahead?
It might be a bull market, but the market’s gains pale in comparison to the rise of digital currencies like Bitcoin. Last month, Bitcoin surpassed the $10,000 milestone, an astonishing 850+% since January and, despite some recent instability, is north of $15,000 as of this writing. Will this roller coaster even out or keep taking the internet for a ride? Despite its meteoric rise, Wall Street still seems to have jitters. A Bitcoin exchange in South Korea has gone out of business after being hacked, with cyber-thieves stealing nearly a fifth of its clients’ holdings. Still, Ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency, is nearing $800 against the US Dollar, and the digital currency market is now around $300 billion. Is this a bubble or our future? One thing’s for sure, we’ll be (digitally) paying attention.
2017 was the year that digital marketing ($209 billion worldwide) overtook TV ($178 billion) in advertising spend. According to Magna, the research arm of media buying firm IPG Mediabrands, digital ad spending is expected to grow 13%, while TV ad spending is expected to grow 2.5%, thanks in part to the Olympics and some contentious mid-term elections.
Did Spotify single-handedly propel this design trend into the stratosphere? More brands are adopting this striking, high-impact look that combines the use of two colors in a photo. Also making the rounds … ombre and gradients, which were everywhere in 2017.
Digital is ascendant, clearly, but one giant takeaway from 2017 is the ways in which digital and experiential are increasingly and necessarily intertwined. Millennials and, especially, Gen Z’ers are looking for brands to empower experiences – brand storytelling becomes brand storyliving. Nearly 90% of Gen Z’ers use Snapchat on a regular basis, and a majority are checking Snapchat over 10 times a day. As of 2016, 53% of Gen Z’ers consume live video and 32% produce live video. Good storytelling will always matter, but successful brands will find ways to integrate brand consumption with consumer experience.
When Kellyanne Conway used (coined?) the phrase “alternative facts,” it perfectly captured the essence (and danger?) of one of the year’s biggest stories, the so-called rise of ‘Fake News.’ This is not just a thing in the United States, according to a new report from democracy watchdog Freedom House, fake news “played an important role” in recent elections in at least 17 other countries. How will tech giants (Twitter, Facebook, and Google) respond? This will be a fascinating story to watch in 2018.
When we look back on 2017, we may see the shine of the “gig” economy wearing off. This is embodied by the revolt against Uber, but will it also begin to spread into other companies and industries as well? Are we seeing the utopian idea of the gig economy as the future of work being dismantled? We suspect that, in the slightly confusing words of Winston Churchill, this is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, but perhaps the end of the beginning. In other words, cities and countries will continue to reckon with the “gig” economy (e.g. a bill in the UK parliament introduced earlier this month aimed at curbing the “mass exploitation of workers” by companies like Uber), and in the end, it will come down to authentic brands vs., well, ex-brands.
Flip phones, Treos and Blackberries … this was the grim reality before Apple dropped the game-changing iPhone ten years ago! Name a product in recent history that has so dramatically changed our lives. Go ahead, we’ll wait. As Arielle Padres writes in Wired, “the story of the iPhone has always been one about pushing the boundaries of what you could do with the power of a tiny computer in your pocket.” But, according to some, the story of the iPhone’s next ten years will hinge on Apple’s approach to collecting consumer data and making use of that data. Read more on that here.
2017 will be remembered as the year we started to call out creepy men. More importantly, it was also the year women bravely stood up and shared their stories. The #MeToo social media campaign, which invited women (and men) to tell their stories of sexual abuse and harassment, proves the power and reach of social media to empower and unify (and heal). It also demonstrated that, in today’s world, bullies and predators have fewer places to hide. There are now real consequences. Even business schools are taking note of its significance, with some professors now adjusting their courses for a post #MeToo world. Will 2018 see more erosion to the patriarchy, not just the bad apple patriarchs?
It would have been hard to predict the swift fall from grace of this list: Weinstein, Louis CK, Ratner, Piven, Spacey, Toback, Moore, Franken, Rose, Lauer, Simmons (Russell and Gene), Cassidy, Batali, Smiley…
Is the end of net neutrality the end of digital innovation? Probably not, but soon internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T can choose to “block content, slow video-streaming services from rivals and offer “fast lanes” to preferred partners.” Many (especially in Silicon Valley) fear this will affect the startup’s chances of breaking through and “up-ends the economics of the internet.” As Ryan Singel notes in Wired, Facebook, Amazon and Google succeeded, in part, “because they did not have to contend with access fees and fast lanes at their inception.” This is a big story to watch in 2018.
The Nineties are SO back. Nintendo is crushing it, Patagonia is releasing patterns like this, scrunchies are back, and the Urban Outfitters site looks like all the shirts that your mom threw out when cleaning your room in 2004. And while their music hasn’t made a comeback (yet), the Spice Girls’ platform shoes are coming in hot! According to Vanity Fair the Buffalo London shoe brand is the latest legacy brand to benefit from the Nineties craze.
Few things will change your perspective faster than Touchdown Tommy marching down the field at 39 like the boss that he is, to outscore the best team in football by like a million to none to win a 5th Super Bowl. It was incredible. And, if we’re being honest, so was Lady Gaga’s halftime show!
We’ve reached a time in rock history when the legends (of the 50s and 60s) are starting to take their final bows, but, damn, Tom Petty!! 2016 was tough (Bowie, Prince, Lemmy, BB King, Merle Haggard, Leon Russell, Glen Frey, Sharon Jones, Phife Dawg, George Michael…). In 2017, we lost Chuck Berry (one of the fathers of rock), Fats Domino (the other father of rock), Gregg Allman and Butch Trucks, Walter Becker (1/2 of Steely Dan), Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, to name just a few. But Petty’s passing seemed to hit hardest of all. In 2013, we celebrated the music of Tom Petty at our second Select Sessions. Thanks to Tom and all the greats we lost this year for sharing their talents with the world. RIP.
We can’t neglect the biggest story in the world, Donald J. Trump is President. As a company that collaborates widely with global brands, has an office in Shanghai and does a lot of work in China, we’re particularly interested in how the current administration navigates its relationship with China. While Trump pushes his domestic agenda (tax reform, building a wall…), his biggest challenge may be how he and his foreign policy team deal with Beijing.
After 70+ years … it’s finally coming into its stride as a medium. Netflix, Amazon and others are redefining TV and how we consume/binge it. From Stranger Things to The Handmaid’s Tale, and Rick & Morty, storytellers are pushing boundaries and audiences are hungry for their risk-taking content. These days, Kimmel, Colbert and SNL are required viewing as some of the most incisive and revealing sources of current events.
Millennials defy labels but also seek inclusiveness, adventure and convenience. These traits have inspired one of our clients, Barefoot Wine, and other forward-thinking wine brands to break down the barriers to drinking wine. Subverting expectations about wine (too stuffy, too expensive, too “bottled up”), these brands have delivered one of the biggest innovations to the industry since the wine cork, in the 17th century. Wine in the can is here to stay.
Beyonce’s Twins, Despacito, Jay Z’s internet take over to drop the 4:44 album, Pussy Hats, Wendy’s & #nuggsforcarter, The Distracted Boyfriend Meme, Millennial Pink
It felt like 2017 was a year we were all coming to terms with a new world order: Trump’s unfiltered tweets, Brexit, China’s ascendency, the passing of some of our cultural icons, the driving influence of millennial thinking to name a few. We wrestled with substantive ideas, things like accountability (#MeToo, Fake News, The National Anthem Protests), vulnerability (mass shootings, honest, risk-taking storytelling) and autonomy (gig economy, driverless vehicles, and the exponential growth of consumer choice). It’s hard to keep your hat on at this speed, but isn’t it all fascinating?! To our friends, clients and our world, cheers to a great 2018!
PHOTO CREDITS: Header Image(from left to right): Spoonflower Fabrics, Jim Rogash/Getty Images, Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Firefly Music Festival, newswise.com/UAB, Shutterstock, Shutterstock, bloody-disgusting.com/Netflix, cbsnews.com/Reuters/Shannon Stapleton, everfest.com/Lance Gerber/Coachella, Patagonia, White House/Shealah Craighead, Shutterstock. Article Images: AR-knowyourmeme.com/User:Scribbledud3, Cooler-chuggie.co, Duotone-theoutline.com, Gig Economy-dispatchtribunal.com, Patriots-wbur.org/Darron Cummings/AP, Petty-Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Firefly Music Festival, Wine-barefootwine.com, Honorable Mentions: Beyonce/Instagram, Wikipedia/Universal Latin/Republic/RBMG/Def Jam/School Boy, youtube.com/User:Bob David/Roc Nation/UMG, Wendy’s (@wendys)/Carter Wilkerson (@carterjwm), 2oceansvibe.com/@chuchugoogoo, codepen.io/User: Diana Chin (@redlotusdesignz)