By: Sandy Cuesta, Brand & Marketing Strategist based out of New York City

Ah, the end of another year. The time when marketers all over the world are scrambling to pull together their plan for the coming year. It’s also that time when marketers like myself like to pretend to have clairvoyant abilities as we peer into our crystal balls and envision what’s to come for the future of our industry.

So, without further ado, here are my predictions for what the world of branding might look like in 2023…

The Metaverse as the Third Place

Brands should never be static; they should be ever-evolving, continuously flexing to the world around us. While this year held a lot of doubts about the metaverse and Web3, the metaverse is already in full force. Statista estimated that the metaverse market could reach $678.8bn by next year. And while 2023 won’t jump into the full-fledged OASIS from ‘Ready, Player, One’ just yet, marketers will need to continue to channel their unbridled creativity in how they engage with consumers in these new worlds. Once perceived as a physical place in-between home and work, the third place is quickly becoming a place in the digital world. And it’s exciting because the sky is truly the limit. Marketers can now craft fully immersive, unique experiences that consumers crave beyond previously possible in traditional mediums. We’ve already seen many brands integrate into this new space, such as Microsoft’s Mesh platform, allowing teams anywhere in the world to collaborate with each other’s lifelike holograms to replicate the sense of being together in person. This year, the Australian Open created the world’s first metaverse global sporting event, and fashion brands like Balenciaga and Prada took the lead in creating high fashion for Meta avatars. Starbucks has also recognized its need to shift to becoming the ‘digital third place’ launching ‘Starbucks Odyssey’, hosting virtual experiences to Starbucks roasteries and coffee farms in Costa Rica to learn about the brand’s heritage. While the Metaverse may seem intimidating to some, key marketing learnings from recent years will hold true— community engagement is pivotal, user-generated content is invaluable, and creating personalized experiences will be game-changing.

Employer Branding Will Take Center Stage

With thousands of Big Tech ex-employees now on the market, Twitter firing employees on public forums, and Amazon rescinding job offers, the world at large has lost trust in employers. While 2023 may mark the year of a looming global recession and hiring slowdown, it will be critical for organizations to rethink their employer branding for when it’s time for the ‘great comeback.’ Traditionally an internal exercise, we’ve now witnessed (all over social media) how pivotal it is to have an authentic employer brand in place that is experienced beyond its four walls to ensure that brand reputation continues to attract quality talent. Employers that will come out on top will be the ones that skip the flowery words and back them with meaningful actions — promoting true transparency, two-way feedback, and prioritizing their employee’s mental and physical well-being.

From Purely Purpose to Intentional Impact

While creating strong brand purposes has been a key focus these past few years, the next few years will be about creating intentional impact. No longer will having a grandiose, yet passive or even conflicting purpose statement on making the world a better place suffice. Instead, brands are going to have to bake their efforts into their DNA. Consumers, employees, and investors alike are interested in being aligned with brands and organizations that take strong accountability for their actions and active responsibility for their impact on the world. In 2021, the United Nations reported that country pledges on climate changes were insufficient. Since then, conscious consumerism has been on the rise as customers become more deliberate about how their purchases impact the world. According to research commissioned by Google Cloud, this year 82% of shoppers want a brand to align with their own values of embracing sustainable and people-first practices with three-quarters of shoppers parting with brands that conflicted with them. This past October, Patagonia made a move to transfer their profits, after reinvesting in the company, to a non-profit to support climate initiatives and protect undeveloped land globally. While not every organization can make such drastic commitments, all brands can head towards becoming more sustainable — from rethinking the little things, such as investing in more sustainable swag, to collaborating with non-profit partners who help activate your purpose. So instead of focusing on putting out wordy, elaborate purpose statements, put the actions at the heart of your brand and let your purpose shine through it. In 2023, more brands will realize these moves aren’t mutually exclusive to a successful business. Instead, they are the catalyst for it.

New Tools for New Possibilities

“Design Never Stands Still” is a quote I’ve heard repeatedly in my career journey, and it’s one thing I know to be true. This year, new open-source AI tools like Dall-E 2 and Midjourney have already had a huge effect on the design community. While some fear this could be a threat to the world of illustration, others see it as a step forward in leveraging technology to amplify our potential, sharpen our creativity, and create new disruptive ways to capture the world’s attention. For marketers specifically, there are many times when we conceptualize things we can’t fully explain. These tools can help translate our far-out ideas and inspire new ones, enabling better collaboration among design and brand teams. Long gone are the days of scanning google for images that fit into the specific objective for your moodboard. By leveraging these tools, creative teams can source more suitable examples of what they need while simply refining the wording to get the best results.

Building for All

2023 and beyond will focus on brands expanding their lens to include people from all walks of life — from embracing global and cultural nuances, to accounting for neurodiversity and ensuring accessibility. This year, Apple launched new features that help users with disabilities better use their products — from Door Detection features for those with impaired vision to Live Captions with auto-transcribed messages for those hard of hearing, further activating their brand commitment to creating the best products for everyone. These features were highlighted in their latest campaign, “The Greatest.” But not all brands can significantly adapt their product strategy as quickly. Others have made strides from within their walls. Diageo, for example, has announced plans to provide inclusive design training to give their marketers the tools to create brands, campaigns, and products that are accessible and relatable to everyone. To truly get this right, brands should bring in diverse groups to the table to deeply understand the challenges these groups face every day. It’s only when marketers truly channel the voice of who they are designing for that brands can ensure they are building in service of all.

From a Brand to A Stand

You might say telling brands to become more human is a ‘tale as old as time’, but customers continue to prefer brands that act like living, breathing beings — empathetic, apologetic, and inviting to create lasting bonds with their audiences. And part of being human is taking a stand, especially in the face of discrimination or injustice. Adidas, who took forever to take a stand drop Kanye after his controversial remarks earlier this year, caused many customers to question their future loyalty to the brand. In 2023, brands can no longer afford to be neutral or indifferent. They need to put the people within their ecosystem at the forefront. They need to provide genuine interaction. They need to listen to their audiences, and more importantly, they need to recognize their mistakes. Brands that allow their humanity to shine inside and out will win the hearts of the customers of today and tomorrow.