Out of Touch or Ahead of the Curve: 10 Critical Trends for Businesses in 2014

To reach their audiences, businesses must know what matters to their customers. They can't form a connection if they're dealing with outmoded attitudes or messages. Buzz Marketing Group gathers extensive information about current and coming interests, needs, and desires of consumers, and this is the firm's top 10 trends for the year ahead.

1. Generation C

We have seen Generation X and Generation Y ... now be prepared to witness the rise of Generation C. They are today's pre-teens, tweens, and young teenagers, best defined by their status as digital natives.

Why "C"? Because they're connected, conscious, creative consumers, and curators. This generation will become a new powerful target demographic for companies and marketers.

2. The Mighty Mobile

To ensure that a website is successful today, it must be fully functional on mobile devices as well as on traditional desktop computers and laptops.

Although desktops and laptops are still being used on a regular basis, Millennials are spending increasingly more time on their smartphones and tablets – especially when they're on the go. The majority of today's Millennials use their smartphones and tablets on a day-to-day basis for Internet usage more than on their laptops.

3. Upping the Upworthiness

Sites like Upworthy are becoming more and more popular among Millennials, because such sites satisfy Generation Y's craving for meaningful messages while catering to the need for interesting, visual content.

There is a steady movement among Millennials to engage in sincere and serious discourse about important issues they have encountered. Since 76% of 20-somethings are not afraid to discuss and share their beliefs, there is a greater feeling of openness and freedom within this generation when it comes to talking about problems and solutions.

4. Causeaholic

As we've pointed out previously, companies like American Eagle Outfitters  (NYSE: AEO  ) and Keds are on the decline, while companies such as TOMS and Warby Parker are experiencing immense success – especially among the Millennial generation.

Consumers are seeking a true value proposition when they purchase products; they won't settle for anything less. Our research shows that 74% of Millennials are much more likely to purchase an item if the proceeds go to charity or if the company employs a buy one/give one system (such as the system at Warby Parker). The successful companies will be the ones that encourage transparency and allow Millennials to both give and receive.

5. Tantalizingly Temporary

After hearing stories about leaked photos that damage reputations and Facebook  (NASDAQ: FB  ) posts that damage job opportunities, it is not surprising that "temporary" media platforms are on the rise.

Snapchat paved the way when it allowed users to send pictures and messages that would disappear after an allotted time. Apps like Erodr have followed up on this trend, and there are definitely more to come.

This rising trend of temporary media provides users a way to contact friends and use social media without the fear of future backlash based on a silly picture or an inappropriate message. Temporary media also emphasizes the authenticity of the present rather than the nostalgia of the past (which is what Instagram and its faux-vintage filters aim to provide).

6. Capitalizing on Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is definitely on the rise. Although Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are the most recognizable names within this business genre, more than 600 sites are dedicated to crowdfunding.

Innovative minds and entrepreneurs from every corner of the world utilize these sites to cross borders and raise money for projects that donors believe to be worthy. This facilitates funding for projects and helps individuals to get more involved in causes that they believe in.

7. Creative Commerce

The economy has still not fully bounced back from the recession, so people are finding other activities that not only serve as a source of extra income but also as a creative outlet.

The surging popularity of Etsy is an example of such focus. People are using their creative skills to create beautiful jewelry, clothing, and even food.

Another interesting example of this trend is the string of new gluten-free bakeries that have been started by individuals or families from their homes.

8. Omnimedia

Omnimedia involves the combination of media and the utilization of various forms of mass communication. Brands aren't just on paper anymore – they're branching out across different platforms and through different methods.

Take a look at Esquire Magazine. It decided to partner up with NBC Universal and start a new network, the Esquire Network, through which it would use its own brand and cater to the same audience, but through the new medium of television rather than just through the magazine.

Other companies are taking similar actions by launching mobile apps, hosting live events, etc., in order to better cater to their existing customers and entice new ones.

9. Creative Native

Today, everyone can make everything look perfect in pictures. Not only are we documenting the majority of our lives and sharing with those around us, but we are also focusing on aesthetic quality. We use tools like Studio Design, PicsArt Photo Studio, Polamatic, Pic Stitch, and Instagram to show off details of our lives, ourselves, and our experiences.

The same creativity is extended to videos, in which we use tools available at our fingertips to make creative decisions about how to record and share the precious moments of our lives.

10. Brandamonium

This will be a big year for brands.

We have seen and will continue to see a lot of brand comebacks, because many brands are investing time, effort, and money into developing the right ideas and reacing the right people.

Over the last couple of years, Gap  (NYSE: GPS  ) and Old Navy have made a huge comeback, and now that they are hiring former Nike, Calvin Klein, and J Crew staff members to their creative and merchandising teams, they will probably continue to revitalize themselves.

Such companies also have a slight advantage in the game because they can classify themselves as "retro" and tug at consumers' heartstrings through their branding.

Brandamonium could also easily hit T-Mobile (NYSE: TMUS  ) , which is working hard to compete with bigger companies, especially by offering great deals (such as paying customers' fees for breaking contracts with Verizon and AT&T) and a new advertising campaign. 

Companies that stick with outmoded ideas of their customers' desires are doomed to decline or worse. Those that understand where their customers are -- and where they're going -- are the brands that will endure.

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