Another year, another brand trend article? Yes, it’s that time of year where we all want to know what trends are going to stay for 2021, or if there is something of value to take note of.

Well, we wanted to look at corporate brand trends for 2021. Many of the trends we have forecast are a by-product of the events of 2020. We see, for many corporate brands this year, the importance of authenticity, optimism and inclusivity. Last year brought a lot of uncertainty into the world. Your corporate brand has the power to provide clarity and a roadmap to a positive and sustainable future. Businesses can do this by adopting corporate brand principles that provide clarity, and an engaging and memorable story of positive direction to your stakeholders.

2021 is a year for many brands to rethink

For many, seeing 2020 in the rear-view mirror was – and still is – a relief. However, what your brand means to your stakeholders today is not the same as it meant pre-April 2020. Many brands had to pivot, react and adopt new practices through forced innovation. These brands have found a new rhythm. New environments and behaviours create new meaning or interpretation of your characteristics, values and personality of your brand. 

From crisis often comes opportunity: we see more corporate brands looking to be able to clearly define and articulate what their brand means for their leadership, employees, customers, investors and supply chains, through implementing brand strategy projects that lead into visual identity projects to effectively signal the change.

Purpose statements will be everywhere and leveraged for action

To support and break through the challenges of uncertainty, we believe corporate brands will look to leverage their purpose statements, coupled with compelling vision and mission statements. We believe after last year's level of uncertainty, stakeholders will crave clarity and be attracted to the brands that can provide why they exist, why you should care and where you are heading as a business. Being more human is critical for 2021 and beyond; efficiencies may have been achieved through shifting to digital approaches, but your aim should be to create and maintain trust with your stakeholders.

This year, we predict that corporate brands will focus on bringing their purpose to life, and identifying whether their purpose really is fit for purpose. We see empowered communications and marketing teams that will be tasked to amplify your purpose message. However, we hope to see HR taking an active role in accountability and the evolution of purpose within the organisation. Those corporate brands who find ways to get their organisation to understand the purpose, and what it means to them and can translate it into daily tasks and decision-making, will thrive through authenticity and clarity.

Sustainability and your brand

Your stakeholders would have taken note during last year of the organisations that continued or ramped up doing good for the world. This will be more important in 2021 as fund managers and analysts are looking to corporate brands to answer legislation requirements and report on activities. Whether you are making adjustments or going to implement a new sustainability strategy, we see many corporate brands needing to review their entire brand to ensure that this strategy is included as part of or integrated into the corporate brand strategy. 

Authenticity – behind the scenes

Just telling a good story won’t be enough. Your stakeholders will want proof. We see corporate brands showing what happens behind the scenes, highlighting employees’ achievements, social initiatives and environments such as factories and logistic centres.

Authenticity – ditching the stock imagery

With distributed working and lockdown, everyone improved their digital presence. It was no surprise to see brands that sit in the same or similar markets dash to stock imagery to support and elevate their messaging. What everyone swiftly found out was that digital platforms got busy and noisy quickly. With the downside that everyone started to look the same or maybe, with some adjustments, at best, looking similar. Experiencing and interacting with corporate brands through digital channels is here to stay. This means the experience of these corporate brand communications on digital platforms will be critical for many to truly differentiate and tell their stories.

This year, we foresee budgets being implemented or increased so corporate brands can truly own and be authentic with their visuals. We see this mostly being focused on photography, but there will be those who will go further to invest in illustrations, video and animation. 

Storytelling through social

If your corporate brand didn’t ramp up its digital content on social platforms, then you are already behind. Your stakeholders want clarity quickly, so why give your stakeholders a harder time to get to your brand stories? Social media is the first place where almost everyone begins and ends their day: on their phones. If budget is a concern, remember you will have a huge amount of content from your corporate communications strategy to repurpose for posts. Select the right platforms based on your goals, and don’t just duplicate the same message across all of them. Videos are still key for top engagement, but if budget and resources are a challenge, then using imagery within sliders is another sure-fire method.

Slide into 2021

As mentioned above, sliders are going to become very popular for brand storytelling. Using (well-branded and designed) static images and text, you can quickly educate your audience on whatever your subject or brand story is. These have become a quick and easy way to tell stories as they can communicate a lot through a simple carousel. We will see slider use increase over 2021 as it is both cost effective and requires less specialist skills to create and broadcast.

Accessibility – minimalism and corporate identities

Minimalism has taken the world by storm in recent years. It looks like this movement has caught up even within the corporate brand arena. With more corporate brands embracing digital, either through planned or forced activities from 2020, they are becoming more likely to remove clutter from their brand identities to be effective on these platforms. Logos are becoming simpler in form, and typography choices are predominantly sans serif, to support the digital and modular environments these assets have to perform in. Fewer colours are being utilised with brands focusing on one or two key colours to provide contrast, attention or differentiation to their identity. 

Another reason we believe corporate brands are adopting, and will continue to adopt, minimalism practices is to not only support their merger and acquisition activities, but to strategically provide the opportunity for their identity to become iconic and timeless. With a product or customer brand, many forget that the timescales typically align with a campaign, whereas a corporate brand identity should last the length of the company’s existence, and could be paired with any supporting visuals and still be recognisable.

Word to the wise, though: if you are minimalising your brand identity, you may become more recognisable within your space, but testing must be done regularly to ensure that you haven’t transformed into a bland and boring brand. Minimalism done well and continually monitored should support increased levels of clarity, interaction and engagement.

Accessibility – shape shifters

We mentioned the desire to become iconic. Logo adaptability is crucial if you want to be recognisable across any digital platform, and it can change in size, complexity and even colour depending on how it needs to be used. It means that your identity needs to work from building signage to something as small as a favicon. Although this isn’t a new practice, logo updates and designs take this all into account and solutions are far more elegant and sophisticated in their execution, rather than forcing the fact as new logo requirements emerged previously. The goal for corporate brand identities is still consistency, but your logo now has to work harder to ensure it can adapt and be recognised across websites, social media, video, app tiles, favicons, buildings and printed literature.

Accessibility – designs go dark

Dark themes have gained popularity in 2020 and it’s not going to fade in 2021. It is here to stay and will continue to impact design for years to come. You may have seen on your own device’s apps, social networks, and operating systems have the dark mode option available for their interface. The initial benefits of dark modes were battery usage, upload speeds and reduced eye strain. However, many also like the modern, sleek and sophisticated look it creates. We have found that dark themes are influencing printed materials to ensure the brand is consistent.

If you would like any further support or guidance in navigating the corporate branding world, get in touch with us, we would love to help!