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It takes Ford three years to bring a car to market. They constantly have to be ahead of the curve, and even have a department in the company focused on trends and futuring to make sure they’re not just reacting to what other automakers do.According to Sheryl Connolly, manager of Ford Global Trends and Futuring, it’s about changing the conversation and the way the company plans.
“My work is specifically designed to look outside the automotive industry. I look at big picture global trends in the social, technological, economic, and political arenas,” Connolly said. “As a futurist my role is to remind people that when we make a strategy or put together long term plans, we do it on a set of assumptions on how we think the future’s going to play out. So my job is to remind people that we need to pause and examine those underlying assumptions and question whether they’re wrong.”
For the first time, Ford’s releasing a report on the 13 trends they think are going to define the consumer environment next year. Here are a few highlights:
“Trust is the new black”
Trust has been hard to come by in the past few years, especially in institutions. Overall trust in brands is down 50 per cent over the last decade. Since it’s so scarce, it’s going to be more valuable than ever to brands that can actually build it.
The engaged consumer
There’s a new metric of political and social engagement beyond volunteering, donating, or voting. It’s how you consume. 65 per cent of people think they can change corporate behaviour by supporting responsible companies. More engaged consumers are going to hold companies increasingly accountable.
Honesty is better than perfection
People are increasingly suspicious of things that are overly processed, that appear perfect on the surface but really aren’t. At the same time, they value companies that actually admit and try to fix their flaws and mistakes rather than glossing over them.
The end of the scripted career
There used to be a standard pathway to success. Work hard, go to school and so on. The rise of the internet and the decline of some of those structures means more people are founding startups, freelancing, and skipping college. 91 per cent of millennials expect to stay at a job for less than 3 years.
Building your own feedback
There’s an increasing realisation that in real life, people don’t force you to do anything. More and more, people are learning to get feedback and data on everything from exercise to personal finance, and building their own rewards and punishments to keep themselves on track.
For Ford, it’s about providing real time data that helps drivers become more efficient.
More intimate cities
The largest cities in America are growing more rapidly than their suburbs. People value an array of opportunities and connection over space and anonymity, and are creating what Connolly calls “small town values” and intimate interactions in big cities.
Choking back information overload
As constant connectivity and the amount of information get overwhelming, services and brands that remove some of that clutter, offer the chance to disconnect, and give consumers some space will be in increasing demand.
Quality over quantity
Driven by environmental, economic, and social concerns, people want more out of everything they buy. That will come through not just in what they purchase, but how as well, with more bartering, renting, and swapping.
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