The consultancy Contagious highlighted consumer shifts, marketing and product innovations, and new technologies over the years.

At the Most Contagious conference in New York last week, the consultancy Contagious highlighted some of the consumer shifts, marketing and product innovations, and new technologies we’ve seen over the past year. Naturally, selfies were mentioned, from the papal selfie (demonstrating the new pope’s ability to connect directly with followers, a key trait for the times) to “selfie king” MrPimpGoodGame. Privacy was an unavoidable topic in a year that saw Edward Snowden’s leaks about government spying, which Contagious suggests is at least partly responsible for the rapid rise of Snapchat. In tandem, a broad privacy-focused marketplace is building steam, with tools like Blink Link, which creates links that disappear after a specified number of people have seen them, and the upcoming messaging app Hemlis from Sweden, whose creators promise “No one can listen in, not even us.”

Among the new challenges for brand storytellers is adapting to consumer “meercatting”—eyes darting constantly from platform to platform—observed Arwa Mahdawi, strategy director at Contagious North America. Marketers will have to produce more snackable content, like AT&T’s @summerbreak, a mobile-centric reality series that played out in brief segments on social media; the most popular episode was viewed some 400,000 times. Mahdawi also discussed the shift from user-generated to collaborative content, as illustrated in Intel and Toshiba’s “The Power Inside.”

As a growing number of consumers equate shopping with a sense of responsibility, purpose is much more important for brands, noted Contagious editor Alex Jenkins. Marketers can use what they’ve got to advance practical solutions that are rooted in the brand, he advised. One example: Unilever brand Lifebuoy soap’s “Help a Child Reach 5” campaign in India, part of a mission to prevent infections from poor hygiene; an inspiring campaign video has tallied 17 million views in the course of this year. Patagonia’s Rick Ridgeway, a former mountaineer who’s now guiding the company’s environmental efforts, outlined a highly counterintuitive initiative for a brand: an aim to “get consumers to redefine how they think about consumption.” The outdoor-gear marketer is encouraging customers to reduce, repair, reuse and recycle their Patagonia goods and helping them do so.

The day covered a lot more ground, from connected experiences to new types of retail experiences to designing relevant contextual campaigns. For more, see the Contagious report covering these and other themes, available here.

Image credit: Contagious