Five Trends to Watch in 2015

h/t: @briansolis, @SocialChorus, @Gartner_inc, @entrepreneur, @WIRED, @sparksandhoney

It’s a new year. This is a new blog. So let’s start with some new stuff. Since it’s already January, I’m cheating a little. But here are five trends in health and digital that I’ll be watching in 2015:

1. An Obsession with All things Generation Z

Remember when all everyone talked about were the Millennials? They are our “digital natives,” which essential means they’ll never know the pain of using a card catalog or calling their friends on a landline. They are both socially conscious and completely self-obsessed. They are our country’s future. Except now the generation after them is starting to take shape, and marketers are considering them our newer, shinier future. Research on this younger generation – Generation Z – is just starting. Since most of the cohort is still under 18 years of age, it’s hard to tell what their defining characteristics will be, but that hasn’t kept the speculation from starting. Many believe that growing up during of one the largest recessions in recent history has shaped their worldviews. Some characterize them as an industrious group of self-starters. To learn more, here’s a great presentation from Sparks & Honey. We don’t know yet what these data will mean for effectively communicating health messages to our youngest generation, but, whatever the research shows, move over Millennials. There’s a new cool kid in town.

2. Content as Public Relations & Corporate Social Responsibility as Marketing

No longer can brands simply hire an advertising company or place a few corporate sponsorships and call their marketing campaigns complete. In recent years, brands have learned that consumers pay more attention to valuable content than sales ads. So, this year, we’ll continue to see companies spend big bucks to create vast amounts of positive content for or around their products. ExactTarget has a great article on the 30 Most Genius Content Marketing Examples of 2014. For health, this will mean the massive amount of health information available online will continue to grow, with public health, big pharma, food manufacturers, and the fitness industry all vying for the same consumers’ attention. Similarly, research has shown that some consumers, especially Millennials, prefer companies that give back. In fact, 85% of millineals report a correlation between their purchasing decisions or their willingness to recommend a brand and a company’s good deeds. To win the hearts of younger consumers, organizations will continue to tout their philanthropic activities. For health-focused non-profits, this is a great time to develop more public-private partnerships and make new connections with corporate social responsibility offices.

3. An Overcrowding in the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is a term that descries how the inanimate objects in our lives connect to the internet and begin to plot our demise (like when my Nest smart thermostat checks the weather periodically and adjusts itself to keep the dog at a comfortable 67 degrees throughout the day). According to Gartner, Inc., there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the Internet of Things by 2020. So in 2015, we’ll see a lot more of these products come online. This is an exciting opportunity for health devices – whether it’s a prescription bottle cap that reports via an app how many times your elderly mother took her medication today or a wearable monitor that can transmit vital signs directly from your house to your physician’s office – the Internet of Things offers a vast range of possibilities for individuals, healthcare providers, and insurance companies. Here are some current examples from, and I expect to see even bigger and better products in 2015.

4. Employees as Brand Advocates

Giving employees the platform and freedom to speak directly with consumers is the ideal mix of content marketing and peer-to-peer sharing. But it’s only recently that larger brands have become brave enough to make this a reality. Leading the pack is Whole Foods, which recently shared details of their impressive employee advocacy program in a Social Chorus webinar. Based on the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer, which showed that 52% of consumers trust an average employee’s opinions and content posted by employees is shared eight times more than content from traditional brand channels, Whole Foods put their employees out front and are already seeing positive results.  In 2015, look for more brave companies who are willing to build and nurture employee advocates.

5. Expansion of the Sharing Economy

Sometimes referred to as the collaborative economy, the sharing economy is the “shared creation, production, distribution, trade and consumption of goods and services by different people and organizations.” Essentially, it's helping people help one another (think Uber and RelayRides). While the internet has long been used for ecommerce, the sharing economy fits nicely into our current feel-good focus on the environment and sustainability while also delivering financial incentives for businesses. Experts predict expansion and diversification in the sharing economy this year, and I’m hoping to see more examples in health. With being a longstanding example of the power of bringing individuals together to share health information, this is the perfect time for the sharing economy to drive big advancements in peer-to-peer support networks.

This is an exciting time in health and digital, and I look forward to seeing what 2015 will bring. Have ideas of other trends to watch? Leave a comment, tweet me, or email me, and let’s discuss.