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Someday in the not-so-distant future, branding as we know it will be thought of as so 20th century. With societal, cultural and technological changes occurring at increasingly accelerated rates, keeping your eye on the horizon of future trends in branding gives your company the advantage.

Peter Bishop, executive director of the Institute for Futures Research, points out that you can't predict the future but you can arrive there less surprised and more prepared by telling stories, thinking the unthinkable and creating alternate futures through scenarios. Nine out of the 10 scenarios you imagine won't come true. But you'll be ready when that one vision does become reality.

What trends are already reshaping our ideas of branding?

1. Consumers Are the New Creative Directors

Brands that create a process of discovery drive passion and ownership of the brand. Consumers like being the creative director and feeling in control of shaping the products and brand. Born from consumers' desire to differentiate themselves from the mass market, this trend toward customization will continue to grow with the flexibility and efficiencies offered by technology at home and in manufacturing.

Consider Timberland's BOOTSTUDIO, where you can "build a boot as original as you are," including adding your own monogram. Nike ID also allows customers to control the look of 27 footwear styles and view their final creation from five different angles.

Lab21 takes customization to new heights by creating individually formulated skin-care products based on your DNA. Customers take an at-home DNA test and answer a questionnaire about the health of their skin. LAB21's Skin Profiler System then creates a custom formula (with your name on the label) to treat specific conditions.

As diamond promoters encourage women to buy their own diamonds (why wait for a marriage proposal?), technology that allows a gal to design her own diamond ring in three easy steps is sure to increase sales. Diamond.com not only builds your custom ring but also clearly educates on the four Cs, grading reports, setting styles and how to find your ring size.

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image of Mary Brown

Mary Brown is president of Imago Creative. For more information, visit www.imagocreative.com.