Ford 2017 trends report: disruption the status quo, “never more difficult” to find objective information
For the past five years, Ford has issued an annual trend report exploring societal shifts expected to influence consumers and brands (e.g., earlier post). The reports have focused on microtrends in consumer behavior; the fifth anniversary edition report—Looking Further with Ford: 2017 Trends—revisits three that surfaced in earlier reports, and highlights seven that are emerging.
Sheryl Connelly, Ford global trend and futuring manager, says there is no escaping the fact that disruption is now the status quo. At a time in which truthfulness tends to be subjective, two-thirds of adults say it never has been harder to find objective, fact-based information, while just 55% say what they put on social media is what they really think. An abundance of choice matched with uncertainty in the marketplace is bringing about a reluctance to commit—giving rise to a “sampling society” that prioritizes trying over buying .
As an introduction, Ford notes that at the cusp of what is shaping up to be one of the most—if not the most—dynamic time in the transportation business, consumers are at a crossroads. Change is the only constant, as the world seems to be in a perpetual state of flux. With truth and accountability front and center, consumers are rethinking priorities and changing how they define prosperity, value material possessions and use their time.
Key findings from this year’s report include:
With a heightened focus on truth and transparency, roughly two-thirds of adults worldwide say it has never been more difficult to find information that is objective. As information can be contradictory, consumers are confronted with a decider’s dilemma—and ultimately, end up conflicted by the choices they make.
Establishing relationships built on trust never has been more daunting—making trust the most precious of assets.
Consumers increasingly are holding themselves—and others—accountable for making the right decisions for society at large.
Globally, consumers are finding more joy in less, and taking advantage of access-over-ownership service models.
An abundance of choice in the marketplace is impacting attitudes toward commitment.
In an on-demand world, patience has become less of a virtue; there now are more ways to rationalize how we spend our time—rather than declaring it “wasted”.
The three revisited trends are:
Trust Is the New Black (2013): In the first report, coming in the aftermath of the Great Recession, Ford wrote that the social contract as it had been known had been broken, and people’s mistrust of corporations, governments and media was making integrity a new, rare form of competitive advantage.
Now, where truth was once held to be indisputable, it increasingly tends to be heavily influenced by perception—and reinforced by like-minded viewpoints.
Oxford Dictionaries recently selected “post-truth” as 2016’s international word of the year, defining it as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less in influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
The new Ford report notes that 80% of adults globally agree that social media is more about optics than substance, and the 65% agree that people today are less likely to consider opposing viewpoints.
The Female Frontier (2014): Three years ago, Ford wrote about the upsurge in recognition across women and men alike that rigid gender constructs hinder cultural, social and economic development. 78% of people across the globe say women have more opportunities today than they did three years ago.
However, the World Economic Forum’s 2016 report on the global gender gap attests that “more than a decade of data has revealed that progress is still too slow for realizing the full potential of one half of humanity within our lifetimes.”
The Ford survey found that 82% of adults agree that women and men are still not viewed as equals. But women globally—long with many of their male counterparts—are resolving to push for gender parity.
Sustainability Blues (2014): The 2014 trend book addressed the world’s increasing concerns about water. This trend has not subsided. In 2015, the World Economic Forum declared the water crisis to be the most devastating risk to society and now, it looms even larger. Sri Lanka, São Paulo and the US were devastated by floods this year. Further, Flint, Michigan, is a reminder that water contamination is as pressing an issue for developed nations as it is for emerging ones.
1.8 billion people around the world—nearly 25% of the global population—don’t have access to safe water. An estimated 2/3 of the world’s population may face water shortages by 2025.
The other micro-trends highlighted in the Ford report include:
- The Good Life 2.0: Bigger isn’t always better, and ownership does not equate with happiness. Consumers are finding joy in less, where “good” encompasses not just possessions, but also experiences and values.
Time Well Spent: In an on-demand world, punctuality is a dying art and procrastination can be a strength. Conventional ideas about time—and the rules that go with it—often are discarded.
Decider’s Dilemma: With the internet, consumers face an abundance of choice—impacting their attitudes toward commitment. Products and services are adapting to accommodate a “sampling society” that prioritizes trying over buying.
47% of adults aged 18-29 globally agree that new sharing services make it easier to avoid commitment.
Tech Spiral: In many ways, tech has made life more convenient and efficient, yet consumers are beginning to grapple with its downside—from lower attention spans and retention capacities to allowing their gadgets to do their thinking for them.
The more we read, it often feels, the less we know. There is an underbelly to technology that has become increasingly apparent to users, who are now beginning to grapple with the impact. Majorities world-wide agree that the quest to find “something better” is never-ending; that sentiment is the highest in China (94%). By contrast, US agreement with that clocks in at 78%.
Strong majorities find that information found online is frequently contradictory. That sentiment in strongest among the 18-29 age group: 80%.
Championing Change: Ford found that increasingly, we are holding each other—and ourselves—accountable for making the right decisions for society at large. 47% agreed that individual consumers had to most power to effect positive change; 28% put that with governments; and only 17% said that companies did. 8% chose “none of the above”.
The Parent Trap: As parenting styles proliferate, so does judgment – yet parents are more open and forthcoming about their struggles, looking to their peers for empathy and advice.
Community Ties: Today, community takes on various forms, shapes and sizes as citizens, educators, economic leaders and governments act in concerted, coordinated ways to build societies that give members purpose and hope.
88% of women and 83% of men globally agreed they were more likely to support companies that prioritize purpose over profit.
72% of adults globally agree that the their definition of wasting time is different than in the past. Adults are also agreeing that they are more impatient than in the past, with the highest percentage of those (63%) in the 18-29 years of age group.