Brands to watch out for in 2016

Roughly an 8 minute read by Tom Scott

With digital activity increasingly taking a bigger share of many brands’ overall marketing budgets, 2016 is set to be another year of forward progression for the industry. We had a little think in the Engage office about the brands we are expecting big things from in 2016. Here’s our list.

Under Armour

The ever-growing sportswear brand has already started to mix it with the likes of Nike and Adidas, throwing money into kit sponsorships of major sports team. It had a billion dollar quarter at the end of 2015 and all signs point to this plucky “underdog” brand finally joining the big leagues of the sportswear world in 2016.

The big thing to watch out for is the brand's move into wearable tech. They have taken the all-in-one strategy with their “Healthbox” product which includes scales, a health band and a heart rate monitor which straps to the user's chest. You may recall Nike getting in on this game several years ago with the now discontinued Fuelband, but the market has matured significantly since then and Nike’s decision to abandon the market now seems premature.

Oculus Rift

Back in 2014, Facebook set it’s sights on a $2billion acquisition of a company specialising in Virtual Reality. Zuckerberg has bet big on Oculus Rift and, more specifically, the role that immersive 3D experiences are going to play in our futures. It is still very early days and the price point has surprised a few people but there are several million unit sales forecasts for 2016 and by the end of the year (with a price cut) it’s likely we'll see virtual reality become less of a novelty experience for the enthusiast market and move into the mainstream.

Let’s face it, white goods are essentially the most dull market in the world - that’s why we think AO’s business is fantastic and one to keep a close eye on. They have created a brand and business which not only meets people's needs, but their engagement with their market is phenomenal. They’re a brand which have fully embraced the digital world and use all available channels exactly how they should be. One of many examples is how they’ve built a network of customers who film ‘real’ reviews and testimonies, adding social belief as well as being genuinely useful. They’re already an eComm giant and we think they’ll be an interesting watch over the next 12 months!


The online entertainment giant didn’t do much chilling last year, as it continued to produce award-winning shows and grow its user base. The brand isn’t afraid of a good old PR stunt, often using Twitter as its starting point to grow a conversation. Keep an eye out for activity around the launch of House of Cards Season 4 and most likely a push to ever increase the functionality of its core streaming service. There’s is also speculation that they will be entering the daily news (think the Daily Show) and late night sectors (Letterman).


If you haven’t taken a ride in an Uber then where have you been in 2015? The taxi app has shaken up the industry in the same way that Airbnb shook up the accommodation industry. Just like many brands which will be mentioned in this blog, Uber are not shy of a bit of self promotion. From DeLorean taxis on Back to The Future Day to Christmas tree delivery, they’ve usually got the major events covered.

Business-wise Uber has already utilised their huge fleet to deliver food with UberEATS, products with UberRUSH and so on. The possibilities are massive and it is likely we will see more trials and innovations in 2016.

Unfortunately the company is facing some issues in 2016; there are lawsuits aplenty, as well as the ongoing battle they face from existing taxi firms that take issue with regulation and unfair competition. This is unlikely to stop Uber from driving forward and you can expect to see a lot of PR/Digital stunts from the brand this year to counteract this negative press.


A relatively small company compared to the big hitters in the rest of this post, Bellroy is still one of the leading brands creating stunning content which speaks clearly to its audience. Many brands start a blog because they were told to on the digital marketing site of the month but after a while, all that's left is the introduction post and the "a little about me" write-up from the intern that left six weeks ago. There aren't many companies which have a blog about relevant topics written with genuine passion (because let's face it, it isn't easy!) but then there's Bellroy, they have two!

Carryology was created by Bellroy to share their passion for the minimalist lifestyle with the myriad of digital nomads out there. Not only does it feature honest reviews of some of the best gear by people who know their stuff, it's proved popular enough to get some of the community and other passionate writers on board as contributors.

You can see more of this "content for the user" mindset at work if you check out their Medium blog which features behind-the-scenes insight, articles on self-improvement and a great interview series under the banner "Ten moments with …".

This will get them exactly where they want to be: in-front of Mr Minimal's accounts, whether it's Facebook, Medium or in the search engines. I'm excited to see how they push this (arguably) simple but excellently executed strategy in 2016.

Lena Dunham

Whilst technically she’s a person, not a brand, Lena Dunham and her talented pals spent 2015 building the start of a media empire. Experimenting with formats that many would dismiss out of hand, Lena is redefining what it means to communicate online and build a dedicated community. So far there’s the Lenny Letter newsletter, which brings smart, feminist longform(ish) articles into your inbox in a shake-up of everything we’ve ever been told about content marketing and email newsletters, and the Women of the Hour podcast. Watch this space…


Single or not, by now I’m sure you’ve heard of Tinder. Taking the online dating world by storm in 2012, the app has racked up an estimated 50 million users and sees a staggering 1.6 billion swipes a day. Not only is this great news for singletons everywhere, it’s exciting and very enticing news for brands across the globe.

Last year, Tinder teamed up with the messaging service Chill, as well as running campaigns with the likes of Domino's, Bud Light and Amnesty International. Targeting its rapidly growing Millennial audience, brands have begun cashing in on Tinder’s success by offering users promotions, deals, event tickets and more!

As recent as December 2015, the NHS hooked up with the app in a bid to raise awareness of organ donation with celebrities such as Made in Chelsea’s Jamie Laing as the face of it all. Grabbing the attention of thousands of young people one swipe at a time, Tinder certainly has the power to both influence and convert in 2016 making this simple dating app one to watch!


They practically invented modern console gaming, and can claim to have created some of the most recognisable characters in pop culture, loved by millions worldwide. Who hasn't played a Mario game?!

After a couple of disappointing hardware launches starting with the N64 and losing out to console new boys Sony and Microsoft, they came back with the cultural phenomenon that was the the Wii. Its sequel, the Wii U, again failed to live up to past successes. Nintendo needs another hit stay relevant and top up the bank account.

With the rise of mobile phone gaming, handheld consoles (traditionally a Nintendo cash cow) are no longer the necessity for long car journeys around the world and is another area Nintendo sees itself under threat.

2016 needs to be a big year for the Japanese company.

This year sees at least one radical move from the company: a series of mobile phone games, something they have always shied away from as their software has traditionally sold their hardware. Should Nintendo be able to have the impact on the mobile phone gaming market they have in other areas in the past, this could be huge.

Their next home console, codename Nintendo NX, is to be announced this year and promises to introduce a "brand-new concept”. Rumours of a console/ portable hybrid, allowing users to take their home console experience on the go. A powerful system to rival that of the PS4 and Xbox One, the flexibility of a handheld, combined with Nintendo's own games could be a winner.

They have risen from the ashes before and changed the entire industry multiple times so we wouldn't bet against them this time round.