How Ford Spots and Creates Trends

By Ford Social Member

What if someone could predict your every need, want or desire before you even knew what it was? That’s a down and dirty way of explaining what Sheryl Connelly does for Ford as Manager, Global Trends and Futuring. In her role, she looks at consumer trends in five areas: social, technological, economic, environmental and political. “If we can identify and track the right trends, it will give us some insight into the forces that will eventually shape consumer values, attitudes and behaviors,” Sheryl explained. She studies trends to offer insight on what consumers may want in the years to come.

Despite the “Futuring” in her job title, “our fundamental premise is that no one can predict the future,” Sheryl said. Rather, it’s about making assumptions, and that’s not an easy task. “The only way to navigate in the face of uncertainty is to consider a broad range of possibilities and assess how we would fare in each of those possibilities,” Sheryl explained. “If we can find a business plan that works in a varied state of future scenarios, then we don’t need to know the future. We just know that we have a really robust business plan that can weather ups and downs.” In other words, Ford will be ready to thrive regardless of how events unfold, and when you can do that, you don’t need a crystal ball.

“I do a lot of work upstream with engineers in advanced research and engineering who are deciding what technologies to invest in over the next 10 to 20 years. I also work with design, product development and advanced product marketing,” Sheryl said. “If you are developing a product at the front end, my hope is to shape and form the products and services that Ford eventually brings to market. Our conversations start with the things we have absolutely no control over.”

Trend indicators come from a variety of influences. “We work with thought leaders outside the automotive industry, saying here are stories that we’ve crafted about what the future might look like, tell us what you think we’ve got right and wrong. They often change our whole viewpoint of a scenario. It’s great to get these outside voices that see the world differently and pair them up with the expertise we have in-house.”

For example, the economic recession meant each one of us was probably being extra careful about our purchases and have also held onto products longer, rather than buying what we’ve wanted right away. “Translated into car speak, that means consumers may keep an existing vehicle instead of buying a new one and try to upgrade it to get the new features they want," Sheryl explained. "So the company might take that concept and look at ways of making more cool accessories available through vehicle personalization.” Ford has responded to the trend of an increased desire for personalization by adding features such as ambient lighting colors that can be changed to fit the driver’s mood, driver’s seats with customizable settings that adjust automatically with the push of a button and decal kits for the Fiesta.

“The appeal of accessories reflects on other trends in society, including the desire to personalize phones, computers and clothing.” said Sheryl. “People don’t customize to stand out from the crowd; they do it to create a more meaningful connection.” Brighter, more vibrant paint colors have been gaining momentum with buyers, and while black and silver still top the list, Ford responded with colors such as Lime Squeeze for the Fiesta and a Yellow Blaze Focus. New paints mixed with glass or metal flecks have also been a response to personalization.

Something else Ford was able to address was seamless connectivity between technologies in consumers' house, office and car, as well as safety, infotainment and convenience while they're on the road.

“Consumers today want to stay connected and they want the drive to be an experience, especially since the amount of time Americans spend in the car has nearly doubled in the last 10 years,” Sheryl noted. Remember infotainment 10 years ago? That was an in-dash compact disc player and speed control system. Now, voice-activated controls, real-time traffic and Wi-Fi mobile can be found on many 2011 Ford products, and vehicles equipped with SYNC® can stream Internet radio like Pandora and play music from USB plugged-in digital music players and memory sticks.

Today’s Ford vehicles are equipped with new technologies that make driving easier and safer too, including self-parallel parking, rear back-up cameras and rain-sensing wipers, while terrain management is available on the 2011 Explorer. "Consumers today are constantly bombarded with safety scares – from food contamination to lead paint in toys to violence – and that means they seek more safety in things they can control, such as the vehicles they want," Sheryl said. To that end, 10 years ago the average car had at least two airbags; today, most vehicles have at least four, with some models equipped with up to 10 airbags. And the airbags themselves have improved – Ford is the first automaker to introduce inflatable second-row safety belts.

And that idyllic lifestyle of driving with the wind in your hair, not a care in the world might be a thing of the past.“We don’t have that many open roads any more; we don’t even have the gas to travel them. We need the time we spend in the car to be more productive. At Ford, we can’t give people more hours in the day, but we can make the time they spend in the car more comfortable, more luxurious.” Not to mention they'll be behind the wheel of a vehicle that looks good to fellow commuters.
Loren Dunn 08/15/2011
Hi Sheryll, I was wondering if you guys could please make a new 2013 or 2014 Ford Ranger that is mixed with these designs of the 2011 Ford Ranger and the 2011 Ford F-150. For example, Have the new Ranger mid-size truck have the same Front design as the 2011 Ford have the new Ranger have the same back lights of that of the 2011 Ford F-150/ You guys may need to make the lights smaller because the new ranger is going to be a midsize truck instead of a full size truck. But, please leave the sides, the hood, and the door handles the same as the 2011 Ford Ranger. Also if you do make this..keep in mind for making a new stepside & for keeping the lite metallic gray color as usual. Anyway if my idea sounds good, Please feel free to contact me, Your Friend Always, LJD...Also if this is possible make sure to make a crew cab to go with it... By: Loren D.
Akash Deep Rawat 08/11/2011
i love u ford
Akash Deep Rawat 08/11/2011
love u christie
Daniel Shostak 08/09/2011
A very nice 'overview' of applied futures/forecasting thinking. No question about the increase use of drive time for productivity. Many folks have checked voice mails from the highway for years. E-mail to voice builds on this.
Sarah Ewing 08/08/2011
Do you do online listening as well? Or just regular focus groups?
Johann Schuster 08/08/2011
I'm gonna go ahead and say it: The Next Mustang needs to be 3.7L-V6 & 3.5LEB-V6 for the GT. Keep the 5.0L-V8 for Boss editions....
Johann Schuster 08/08/2011
The man's got a point!
Paul Schacknies 08/08/2011
Here's a thought. You guys finally got with the program and made the V6 mustang available with a 6 speed transmission. But wake up and offer the automatic with paddle shifters. I mean common the Taurus gets them but not the Mustang?
Shelby Wunderlich 08/08/2011
Love Fords :)
Paige 08/07/2011
I was a die hard fan of the other guy, fearing the stories of what the word FORD meant to perivous owners. But after being blessed to purchase this my 1998 FORD F 150 I can say that I have never been found on the road dead during my 7 year ownership and even in the condition its in I still recieve complements on its style.
Brandon Nelson 08/07/2011
The car does not run solely on water, it has a chemical reactant built into the tank that gets used up. It is neither cost effective nor sustainable. When something seems too good to be true , you know the rest.
gstreby 08/07/2011
Please learn from past experiences, Ford Taurus survey was the worst in Ford history, Lesson learn was good design prevailed all. Educate the buyer! Dictate good design and the buyer will follow. Marketing trends are usually short- live, good design = good history.
Akash Deep Rawat 08/07/2011
my ford i love u
Rodney Timms 08/07/2011
It's too bad Ford has tried to jump too far too fast into today's "in love with technology" generation. I own a 2010 Taurus Limited with standard SYNC sysem, and it's a great asset. It never misunderstands my voice, and after hitting one button on the steering wheel, I simply talk to the computer with my eyes on the road. Today's "advanced" systems are proving unpredictable and undependable, with commands misunderstood and touch buttons unresponsive. Not only that, but the touch screens require the driver to look away from the road to navigate the system. This seems like an obvious step backward from a safety standpoint. As I find myself saying more and more today - everything that's new isn't progress! Were leaping way too fast into "technology for technology's sake.
Justen Thompson 08/07/2011
Make a Ford Probe comeback to shut up all the civic fanboys like it did in the 90s!!
Johann Schuster 08/07/2011
Ford Taurus Station Wagon w/ Vista Roof & front bench seat... and can tow 4,000lbs... in AWD. Kinda like a more performance oriented Edge with room for six.
Chris Podnar 08/07/2011
Offer manual transmissions on all vehicles in all trim levels. Some people like myself HATE driving automatics, and would like to have a stick tranny in a non-base level vehicle. What's wrong with a vehicle that has a premium sound system, sunroof, leather, etc., AND a manual tranny? It's not available from Ford...gotta go bare bones to get a stick. Hell, you can't even GET an F-150 in a manual...they're all automatics now. That sucks, some people prefer three pedals, and you've shut us out. What gives?
Shannon Conley 08/07/2011
While I agree with you on all safety issues. I am not sold on those tech-no upgrades. As long as there is wind in MY hair and highway 66 still exists ( and beyond) my love for the open road and the feeling of freedom that goes along with driving an American Classic, Ford, will always be at the top of my list. Let's not forget why we drive the cars we drive....Heart.
Ryan Hotrod 08/07/2011
Just go to youtube type in car that runs on water.
Joel Anderegg 08/07/2011
Bring back the small coupes, like the zx2, look back at sales of the zx2, the neon up to 99, the cavalier and sunfire, they sold ALOT.
Ronald Duke Gillingham 08/07/2011
Please do enlighten us all Wyatt Brenda Wayne, which Japanese auto maker is selling that car in the USA today?
Wyatt Brenda Wayne 08/07/2011
any kind of water.
Wyatt Brenda Wayne 08/07/2011
The Japanese have made a car that runs on water. Price around $5500. Where is our ingenuity.
Jerry Upchurch 08/07/2011
Hopefully it is more vehicles BUILT in USA
Ambar Parashar 08/07/2011
vry true
How Ford Spots (and Creates) Trends
How Ford Spots Trends
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