Modern business concept In early 2014, I wrote an annual trend post (http://bit.ly/1hMt7zj) that avoided talking about all of the trend predictions, because keeping up with all of them could be a challenge. However, there are a lot of interesting things going on in the world of marketing and consumer behavior that are important to take note of and see how they might apply to your business and your efforts in the new year.

So, in no particular order, here are some of the more engaging 2015 predictions I’ve come across and things we’ll be keeping our eyes on in the coming year as we help our clients grow and adapt.

Expect content marketing to keep growing
The Content Marketing Institute generates a lot of great content, of course, but also some key research. Check out their B2B Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends for 2015. While most businesses have adopted content marketing (86 percent), just 36 percent find themselves to be successful at it. Producing engaging content and producing consistent content are the two biggest challenges marketers face, followed closely by measuring their content’s effectiveness. So, while this is an exciting area of marketing, there’s still much work to be done to become expert at it in 2015.

An interesting example of content marketing, and a trend report, is Ford Motor Company’s “Looking Further with Ford.” Trends for the upcoming year are presented, alongside the occasional plug for Ford vehicles. One trend of note is “No Strings Attached,” which focuses on the sharing economy. For the automaker, and perhaps for a heavy equipment manufacturer, too, a trend away from purchasing and toward sharing among friends or strangers has interesting business implications.

Stand for something
One of the more provocative trends included in the Trendwatching.com “10 Trends for 2015” report is “brand stands,” stating that “when consumers are surrounded by an ocean of branded content, constantly occupying neutral ground means a slow drift to obscurity.” Most companies like to play it safe so as not to offend, but when everyone does that, it all becomes vanilla. What actions can your brand take to stand for something? To break from the pack? To champion a controversial cause? To accept that you might piss off a few people?

Serve your customers — however they want it

Customer service is a critical part of brand experience, particularly in the B2B world. As this article in Forbes points out, businesses need to meet their customers on the customers’ terms — whether that is via text message, serving themselves online or through social channels. As an example of serving themselves, it’s important for brands to develop how-to content, particularly in video content. If you can walk your customer through a problem online, you can save them time and frustration — and save your business money as you divert customer service to other channels that your customers really want to use. Win-win!

Travel well
Since travel is a passion of mine, I’ve noticed that the year-end travel magazines are filled with “best of” lists and predictions for the new year. Travel + Leisure identifies several trends to be on the lookout for, many of which involve creating better connections. Whether using our smartphones to meet up with interesting people or get up-to-the-second travel information, or traveling to new destinations to reconnect with customers or meet new people, travel plays a central role in the lives of most businesspeople. Making it more efficient and productive should always be a goal each year.

This is just a sampling of the thousands, if not millions, of trend listings out there, but the best advice is not to just follow them and try to keep up, but to pay attention to them. See how they impact your business and your customers. See which ones apply most to your business. And, as always, start a few trends of your own. Take a “brand stand,” and be the one others are talking about next year.

About Patrick McGill

Patrick McGill is our very own Sherlock Holmes. As the managing director of strategy, Patrick puts his detection skills to work by helping our clients develop successful strategic plans that more effectively communicate with their target audiences. When he’s not immersed in research you’ll more than likely find Patrick traveling – those travels have taken him to all 50 states. You can email our inquisitive Mr. McGill at patrickm@2rm.com.