Staying on top of industry trends

The notion of looking into a crystal ball to peek into the future is far from a reality.

Despite that fact, Sheryl Connelly looks to the past, evaluates the present and “sees” into the future.

And it’s technically her job!

Connelly holds the title of Global Consumer Trends and Futuring for Ford Motor Company.

She’s also no stranger to Thursday’s Women at the Wheel column.

The last time we spoke, she addressed the evolution of luxury; what it used to be and what it is now, and what it will most likely look like in the future.

Our most recent conversation revolved around the Looking Further With Ford Trend Report that she and her team developed.

It looks at the micro trends that she and her colleagues have identified as shaping consumer attitudes and behaviours in 2014.

“A year before last, we decided to start publishing a book of trends, a collection of what we call micro trends, that were going to shape the next 12, 18, 24 months,” Connelly explains.

“What’s unique about the endeavour, to begin with, is that we get to publish this information publicly.”
She adds that 10 years ago when Ford started these projects, they were proprietary and wouldn’t be shared.

“And now what we found though is that the more we shared, the more we get back. We enjoy really engaging in a public discourse on these issues.”

As to the term ‘micro,’ she notes, “these are called micro trends because they’re still emerging … we call them micro trends so we can keep them fresh so we can engage year after year.”

When looking at various facets of society, social media and culture, she says that what emerged was a collection of trends from a global standpoint that we put under the umbrella theme of mindfulness.
“It seemed like 2014 was a time to stand back and re-evaluate. Evaluate the relations with the world around us.”

So, here are Ford’s 10 trends expected to influence consumers and brands in the coming year:

1. Innovation’s Quiet Riot: Fast-paced and disruptive innovation is becoming increasingly institutionalized and ubiquitous — fundamentally changing the way consumers work, play and communicate.

2. Old School: Consumers are romanticizing how things used to be, finding comfort and connection in products, brands and experiences that evoke nostalgia.

3. Meaningful vs. the Middle Man: Seeking more intimate connections with retailers and service providers, consumers are hunting for stories of identity and meaning in their products and services.

4. Status-phere: Across the globe, consumers are broadening the ways they display their wealth — sometimes it screams, sometimes it whispers — upending traditional expressions of status and influence.

5. Vying for Validation: In a world of hyper-self-expression, chronic public journaling and other forms of digital expression, consumers are creating a public self that may need validation even more than their authentic self.

6. Fear of Missing Out/Joy of Missing Out: A tug of war is emerging as the traditional FOMO is challenged by the JOMO. On one end, consumers are persevering to take advantage of everything at their disposal. On the other, they are mindful of the need to focus on, and enjoy, what matters most.

7. Micro Moments: With so much information at our fingertips, downtime has given way to filling every moment with bite-sized chunks of information, education and entertainment — seemingly packing our lives with productivity.

8. Myth of Multi-tasking: In an increasingly screen-saturated, multitasking modern world, more and more evidence is emerging to suggest that when we do everything at once, we sacrifice the quality — and often safety — of each thing we do.

9. Female Frontier: Profiles of women have reached new prominence; demographic shifts are changing household dynamics and definitions. Together, women and men will redefine roles and responsibilities in 2014.

10. Sustainability Blues: The world has been fixated on going green, and now the attention is shifting beyond recycling and eco-chic living to a growing concern for the power and preciousness of the planet’s water.
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About Alexandra Straub