Ford Social Trends Study Speaks To Our Behavior

Ford's second edition annual publication on micro trends is out. The research, overseen by Sheryl Connelly, director of global consumer trends, delineates some behaviors and opinions that define a lot of what consumers are looking for and how they respond to marketing campaigns. There are 10 that Ford examines, but, for the sake of brevity, we have chosen a few that seem salient to marketing. 

  • People are romanticizing about the past and products therefrom. "Heritage brands are taking off, and there's a new premium placed on the distinctive craftsmanship that existed before the age of mass-produced and impersonal goods that have come with globalization," says Connelly. Not hard to find examples of this. There are the Twinkies brand rebirth, “Antique Road Show,” retro bicycles, the Blind Barber, typewriters, vinyl, and Ford's own Mustang. And, of course, steam punk. The report says most Americans think vintage products have more character than new products. In fact, there's a market for brands that make new products look like old products.  
  • The water issue: droughts, floods, contaminated drinking water. The red waters of the Yangtze. There's a shift in environmentalism from green to blue. Ford's study says people and institutions are looking at "the other 70%" of the earth, and brands are focusing more cause marketing efforts around that. P&G has gotten lots of attention in recent years for its own clean-water cause, "Children's Safe Drinking Water Initiative" under its PUR brand. Coca-Cola has put up kiosks in water-desperate places that offer water and electricity. Last year, Levi Strauss launched the Water<Less brand of denim whose manufacture process requires 96% less water (depending on SKU) than traditional denim. 
  • Disintermediation: Ford's report suggests there's a backlash against who people conceive as the faceless middleman, be it brick and mortar or the faceless online mega-retailer. Consumers, so the report says, want to be directly connected to people making the products they buy. Sixty-six percent of consumers say they feel a "stronger connection with brands" when they buy directly from them.  
  • Awareness that the idea of multitasking as a virtue is a fallacy. Ford's report argues that companies, institutions and people are starting to get clued in to the fact that multitasking is a way to do a lot of things badly at once. Bolstered by research, companies realize that retention, critical thinking and engagement are eroded by multi-screening. Should advertisers give up on the idea that a consumer watching TV while surfing the web is the perfect prospect for brand experience? Will they remember anything? Are they conscious? Are they breathing?
  • Conspicuous displays of wealth are so pre-recession. Educated youth see ostentatious ownership of stuff as an encumbrance. And not just in the luxury category. Younger people don't want to consume things, they want to have experiences. Ford's study points out that real luxury nowadays is time. And 90% of people in Japan, 78% in China, 70% in Germany and 56% percent of people in the U.S. say displays of wealth are tasteless. And nearly 90% say what one does with one's money is more important than how much one has.



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