As the in-house futurist at Ford Motor Co., Sheryl Connelly's job is to predict the future -- not necessarily about driving or cars, but about how consumer behavior is changing. Ms. Connelly's findings, however, often have a bearing on how the automaker designs, builds and markets cars.
A few years ago, for instance, she predicted that there would be a backlash to the fact that technology has enabled people to be constantly connected. "I said I think by the time the year 2025 comes around you are going to see people looking to their car as a sanctuary. And indeed that is currently our strategy on the interior of our vehicles," she said. Cars should "be a quiet respite from noisy, active world around you."
The insight is evident in the technology Ford uses to pair bluetooth-enabled devices with in-car entertainment systems. "Probably the unsung hero of that platform is the do-not-disturb button which allows people to shut off incoming calls [and] shut off reminder notice of emails and text messages," she said.
So what is on her mind this year? Ms. Connelly, whose formal title is manager-global consumer trends and futuring, outlined some trends to watch in her latest report, called "Looking Further With Ford." The findings are partly based on a custom survey of 8,100 people across U.S., U.K., China, Brazil, India, Spain, Germany and Canada. This is the fifth year that Ford has publicly released the report. Below is a quick look at some of the findings. Ford posted the full 2017 trends report at fordtrends.com.
Trust Is the New Black
Ford began documenting the mistrust of corporations, governments and media in its first trends report five years ago. The situation has gotten worse with the concept of truth now on trial. "Where truth was once indisputable and often self-evident, today's 'truths' are often heavily influenced by perceptions and reinforced by like-minded viewpoints," according to the report. In the survey, 65% of people agreed that "people today are less likely to consider opposing viewpoints." For marketers, this means transparency is more important than ever.
The Good Life 2.0
"Bigger isn't always better and ownership isn't equated with happiness," the report finds, adding that wealth is an increasingly outdated measure of success.