Report: Consumers Demand That Brands Have A Voice on Key Social Issues


10 Trends Now Influencing How Consumers and Brands Interact

By Sheryl Connelly, Corporate Futurist, Ford Motor Company

It used to be that consumers chose brands based solely on the products they sold. If someone liked a product or service, they typically became a loyal customer.

But today’s buyers demand more of companies. In addition to the products that line their shelves or appear in their catalogs, brands are often called upon to offer more — chiefly, a position on timely social issues.

This new reality is one of many learnings from the 2018 Further with Ford Trends Report, an annual analysis of trends impacting consumer dynamics.

Among the trends identified in this year’s report, many of the top 10 examine the impact that today’s issues are having on consumerism. The Edge of Reason highlights how social tension, inequities and even the fall of beloved entertainment icons have contributed to driving a wedge between people of different ideologies. For example, 68 percent of adults globally are overwhelmed by suffering in the world today, a fact that weighs greatly on how people view their roles and responsibilities in society.

As a result, another trend — The Activist Awakening — has emerged. Through protests large and small, consumers have been jolted out of complacency and inspired to act. Three-quarters of adults globally believe they can influence positive change through their actions. Similarly, the trend of Minding the Gap has people calling for an end to inequality, whether racial, gender or otherwise. Eighty-one percent of adults globally report being concerned about the widening gap between rich and poor.

The Compassionate Conscience details the trend of consumers reacting to the always-on media presence that dominates our lives. Furthered by social media channels that allow people to share experiences instantly, consumers today are more aware than ever of conditions in faraway places. The result has left many people questioning their own role in improving the human condition. The digitally connected world in which we live has also had the negative impact of leaving many people feeling less connected with one another, and has led to the need for Mending the Mind. Collectively, people are recognizing the importance of mental health — as well as the real dangers of conditions such as depression.

For relief, consumers often turn to brands for help in coping — or Retail Therapy. Fifty-two percent of 18- to 29-year-old adults globally say they expect brands to take a stand on social issues. Meanwhile, consumers have also become more and more reliant that company’s act responsibly with personal information that is readily available. Helplessly Exposed examines the balance between consumer concern over their personal information, and an admission that they have little control over that once-private data. Thirty-nine percent of adults claim they do not mind sharing personal information with companies, but 60 percent are frustrated over how much of that information becomes public.

The presence of technology in society is widely accepted among consumers, but as high-tech evolves, they wonder what the future will look like. Technology’s Tipping Point looks at artificial intelligence and autonomous technology, and how consumers are left to wonder and imagine the impact that intelligent technology will soon have on our everyday lives, while companies building these technologies bear the extraordinary responsibility to create products and services that augment people’s lives rather than disrupt them. Sixty-one percent of adults globally are hopeful about the future of autonomous vehicles, but just over half believe AI will do more harm than good, and one third already feel they let technology do too much of their thinking.

The role of autonomous technology will no doubt play an important role in cities of the future, which highlights another noted trend: Big Plans for Big Cities. Projections indicate that by 2050, three-quarters of the world’s population will live in urban areas. Planning for those densely populated cities of tomorrow begins today, and plans must take into account the changing needs and demands of consumers who are certain to face new challenges in terms of transportation, employment, housing and recreation.

This year’s Trends Report, while providing more questions than answers, signals more than anything the notion that consumers and brands around the globe are committed to identifying — and fighting for — solutions that make us happier, healthier and better as people. With these trends in mind, and driven by the principles that have guided us for over 100 years, we at Ford are relentlessly focused on providing trustworthy mobility solutions that improve consumers’ lives.

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