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These trends are defining the branding world right now. Everywhere you look, companies from the smallest small businesses to the largest international corporations are hopping on these bandwagons. Whether you decide to go with the flow or be a trendsetter yourself, start looking for these five hot branding trends.

Value. In an endlessly downward spiraling economy, Americans are looking to get the most bang for their buck. This doesn’t always mean buying the cheapest option, but rather the one with the most value. Upscale stores and discount retailers alike are spinning their products as high value—that is, they offer a lot of benefit for the amount of money they cost. This is a distinct rebellion from the blingy-ness and over the top luxury that have reigned much of the past decade. Companies from J. Crew to Tide laundry detergent are touting the high value of their products, and this is a message that should stay relevant well into the foreseeable future.

Accountability. Consumers are wary after having seen too many industry giants exposed as frauds. Whether your message is about eco-friendliness or the lowest prices around, you can no longer state what your brand stands for and leave it there. An increasingly savvy consumer base demands that you back up you claims with actions and facts.

Social Marketing. You have likely already noticed that this is on the rise; almost every company has a Facebook account and a long list of daily Tweets that you can sign up to follow. While social media is white hot, don’t expect it to overheat anytime soon. Studies are finding that this free method of marketing is as effective as or even more so than expensive ad campaigns. Companies everywhere should be jumping on the bandwagon in the next year.

Uniqueness. There was a time when people yearned for the conventional, but that time is resoundingly over. The market is getting more saturated with every passing minute. Creative ideas and new spins on tried and true classics are a dime a dozen now. In a world where there is nothing new under the sun, truly unique ideas are the ones that stand out. If you have a business with a completely unique attribute, this should be a core part of your brand.

Higher Expectations. This is largely a product of the drive toward value, uniqueness, and accountability. Consumers are expecting more from the businesses they deal with in every single area. However, the focus on economy demands that these high hopes be met without raising the price. Can you satisfy an increasingly finicky public while keeping costs down? This is the question that many small business owners are struggling to answer.

It’s a changing market, but knowing the new rules will make it easier for owners to stay in the game. Branding has never been so complicated, but it has never been so important either. Luckily, there are branding consultants to meet these needs, helping business owners develop a brand that will help them succeed in this millennium and beyond.

Can you believe another decade is already over? An old year has passed to a new one, which is sure to bring its own news and trends. While there is no way to tell the future with 100% accuracy, we are predicting that these five trends will be huge in branding over the course of this year.

1. Value is in. Although the United States and the rest of the world show hopeful signs of pulling out of the current economic slump, the recession is far from over. Because the flow of customers is slowing to a trickle as credit card balances inch ever higher, it is easy to predict that businesses will use value more and more to lure in the reluctant consumers. This can be done either by lowering prices or adding more features; either way, you can bet that value will be a key selling point in 2010.

2. Honest is the new black. With 2009 wracked by numerous corporate scandals, much of the public has lost confidence in businesses of all sizes. Creating an image of honesty and transparency will be more important than ever. Many customers will be willing to spend more and drive further just to feel that they are dealing with honest people. If you can convincingly market yourself as the choice with integrity, you may find that 2010 is your best year ever.

3. Philanthropy becomes an essential. The public is more aware than ever about social and environmental issues. While it used to be admirable for a business to contribute either time or money to a charity, it is quickly becoming more mandatory. 2010 will be the year that businesses who don’t make a point of caring about others in a very public way see their competitors surpass them.

4. Online and offline merge. People increasingly rely on digital sources for information and products, but they still need that personal touch. For this reason, we predict that 2010 will be the year that businesses begin marketing hybrid services that offer the best of both worlds. For instance, many spas will switch to online appointment services that allow customers to peruse services and prices without making a commitment. Most people are comfortable enough with the internet to see online conveniences as a benefit; best of all, these often save money for the business as well.

5. There’s no room for failure. …at least not when it comes to branding. More than ever, it will be crucial for businesses of every size to have a cohesive, professionally designed brand with compelling visual details. No longer can you leave your brand at the door, either. Branding will have to be extended to every aspect of the company. More than ever, the quality and extent of branding will affect a small business’s chances of success.

These are mere predictions, but they are based on years of watching trends. While the coming year is likely to bring a whole new set of news and scandal, these trends are strong enough to maintain momentum in almost any economic climate.

Mash Bonigala

Mash B. is the Founder & Creative Director of Logo Design Works. Since 1998, Mash has helped thousands of businesses express their brand messages through creative and award winning logo designs.