With less than a few weeks left before we all enter the year of 2012 (as some believe, the last one in our calendar), we are looking back at what innovations captured consumers’ attention over the past 12 months. Some of the new projects and products appeared within the trends, which emerged earlier, and some of them are truly innovative and ambitions and pave the way for something completely unseen and unpredicted by average minds.
In this review, we will remember the most intriguing and game changing projects of 2011 realized or announced by major global brands in key industries.
Google had a clear lead for the most of the year, with their impressive offerings revealed throughout the past months. The web search giant has created a range of new services, taking on most of other popular platforms on the web:
—In February, Google rolled out Google Art Project, inviting people from all across the globe to visit the world-renowned museums and galleries such as Altenationalgalerie (Berlin), National Gallery (London) and The State Hermitage Museum (Saint-Petersburg, Russia) to name a few and see world-famous paintings to the brushstroke-level detail;
—In June, Google launched the Google+ social media network, a competitor to Facebook (though, despite the company’s activity aimed at integrating the new platform into its other popular products like Gmail or RSS Reader, it’s gaining popularity slowly). Google+ was opened for mass registration in September, and in early November it allowed companies to create brand pages;
—In mid-November, the Internet search giant has launched Google Music, the new music service, which is “about discovering, purchasing, sharing and enjoying digital music in new, innovative and personalized ways.” And beating the competitors like Apple as well.
—In mid-December, it revealed the Schemer service, allowing people to schedule events, which comes as a rival of Facebook Events.
As to Facebook, which now has over 800 million users, it doesn’t seem to introduce any groundbreaking innovations, which would shape users experience in the whole industry in a completely novel way. Still, the brand had a range of new features such as Tag Suggestions, Timeline and updated the new feed, but the social media network mostly became brands friendly than user friendly with brand tagging Sponsored Stories, brand tagging and Facebook Studio.
Twitter hasn’t had any profound changes this year until December—recently, the micro blogging website has revamped its design and introduced brand pages. You might also want to take a sneak peek into what social media world will be like in 2012—for this, take a look at the infographics by FastCompany.
Apple, which has ranked high in most of the global charts including the Greenpeace’s “Guide to Greener Electronics” or Best Global Brands 2011, has also achieved prolific results this year. The biggest loss of the company this year was the passing of the brand’s father, Steve Jobs, who managed to make Apple one of the most wanted fruit on a consumer’s plate. This year, the brand launched new versions of its two key products, iPad (in March) and iPhone (in mid-October) and released a new Mac OS X Lion desktop operating system, iCloud and the advanced mobile operating system iOS5. The tech giant also announced the construction of the eco-friendly spaceship-shaped Apple Campus in Cupertino, California, which should inspire other companies to build sustainable headquarters as well. Apple’s iPhones and iPads were also used as platforms for launching new innovative applications by other brands—and the world might have seen more iPad ads. Of course, we won’t talk about all of them, but the following ones are sure to be worth mentioning: Björk released its ‘Biophilia’ album as iPhone and iPad apps, allowing the audience to have a completely new multi dimensional experience, and Starbucks created a application to enable its consumers pay in-store with their mobile devices (since the launch of mobile payment in January, there have been 26 million mobile transactions to date [December 6. On the mobile front, since January 2011, there has been $110.5 million reloaded onto Starbucks Cards directly through the mobile app). In summer, Starbucks also released the Android version of the app.
Intel, another tech giant, in early January unveiled its next-generation core processors, the core i3, i5 and i7, and was also featured on The Top 100 Brands list by Interbrand, one line above Apple. The brand, which also teamed up with Black Eyed Peas front man Will.i.am, who engaged in a multi-year, hands-on creative and technology collaboration with the company, also powered low-cost Classmate PCs to spread tech power and boost education in developing countries.
Here are some more top events, which happened in the tech world in 2011:
—Virgin Galactic opened gateway to space in October;
—Philips unveiled its hilarious and breath-taking Microbial Home Probe, the eco-friendly home of the future;
—Panasonic announced its groundbreaking plan to build a fully sustainable Smart Town in Japan by 2014, as a response to the ecological disasters and an example of how the world should live in the nearest future.
—Nokia unveiled the most affordable mobile phone models, Nokia 101 and Nokia 100, at the price of about €20 ($30)—they will definitely match to the world’s cheapest non-branded tablet Aakash, launched by the Indian government this May.
Food and Drinks
This category hasn’t seen any groundbreaking innovations this year, most of food and beverage companies just unveiled new products, which filled the gaps in the ranges—like Dr Pepper Ten or new Starbucks blends. But still, there’s something worth mentioning in this field as well. Packaging—or bottles, to be precise. Both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo released eco-friendly bottles to reduce their environmental impact—the first one continued the PlantBottle global roll-out (it was launched in 2009), while the second one has introduced the world’s first 100 percent plant-based, renewably sourced PET bottle back in March and five options of eco-friendly, recyclable and compostable cups in September. This year, the rivalry between PepsiCo and Coca-Cola gained momentum: Pepsi, which was No.2 soft drink on the U.S. market for decades fell to the third place (9.5% of the market share) behind Coca-Cola (17%) and Diet Coke (9.9%), as Beverage Digest reported.
The auto world exists thanks to innovations and creativity, and almost each day global auto brands unveil new future car concepts, which redefine the industry and our life on the whole. The major auto trend of the previous year—eco cars—seems to be continued in 2012. Nissan, which was named ‘The Car of the Year 2011-2012’ in Japan, announced the charging pad for its Leaf eco-model, and BMW teamed up with Siemens to produce a non-contact recharging solution for electric vehicles, which was tested in summer.
These innovations along with numerous updates and driver-friendly services and networks like Toyota Social (the brand also actively promotes its hybrid Prius range) or a set of new solutions presented by IBM are shaping tomorrow the world of cars. The German auto giant has also previewed a family of new electro vehicles, which are sure to redefine driving experience. BMW has created a sub-brand, BMW i to fit into the developing urban areas and be driven by electric power alone. Web giant Google also put down roots into the auto zone as it continued to work on its driverless car technology, introduced in 2010.
Clothing and Apparel
In early 2011, Nike launched its Nike Better World website in the interactive storytelling format to highlight the brand’s most important achievements in the field of sustainable and smart design and activities. This became the key motif for other clothing labels as well. This year, apparel and footwear brands have embedded resource efficiency and sustainable business targets into all layers of their business and teamed up with environmental organizations to manifest their commitments (for example, major sportswear brands such as adidas, Nike and Puma as well as world-known retailer H&M signed up to Greenpeace’s ‘Detox’ campaign).
Levi’s, which is also committed to living a sustainable life and ranked No.1 jeans brand by GoodGuide, started selling Water<Less jeanswear, produced with less amount of water than is traditionally used, in January. In November, the oldest jeans label announced that a range of new products arriving in store next spring will be made of denim manufactured of Better Cotton.
Producing apparel from recycled packaging is not a novel idea, still every time a brad decides to jump to using this type of materials to make its goods, the effort earns them a warm welcome. In November, New Balance and Dasani teamed up to produce a shoe called newSKY using materials produced from recycled PlantBottles.
The technology is getting deeper and deeper into the apparel field as well. Earlier this year, BMW was displaying the stunning concepts of wearable means of transportation (the brand doesn’t say if it’s going to realize the projects, but if so, it would be a truly groundbreaking effort) and adidas, which is also announced its plans to release $1 shoe in India, presented Speed_Cell, a new gadget for its miCoach product line—the first ever device, which gets embedded into training apparel and captures data while a person moves, in every direction, and measures key performance metrics including speed, distance and time during practice and competition.
This year, if you wanted to get noticed, you had to be social. Some brands put online before offline and chose web as the primarily destination to launch their collections—for instance, Burberry showed its SS12 collection as a ‘Tweetwalk’ on Twitter before unveiling it in the offline runaway show.
The new year of 2012 is not expected to introduce any mind-blowing changes to the industries, primarily because it is already quite hard to impress humanity with anything new, but the next year is sure to make our world yet more technically developed, with sustainable businesses, which, hopefully, will bring us happier lives.