How Ford prepares for the future

Stephen Whiteside

Nearly 50 years ago, one of Detroit's Big Three automakers assumed an aggressive – and progressive – marketing posture. "Ford has a better idea," it announced. The company still has a keen eye on planning for the future and, to that end, has an intrinsic interest in tracking changes in consumer attitudes and behaviour. The unique dynamics of the auto industry, however, mean this activity is as challenging today as it was in 1968.

In short, sometimes you need more than a better idea.

"If you're in the type of business that I'm in – where we have a three-year production cycle and an extraordinary capital investment – you have to try and understand what consumers are going to want," Sheryl Connelly, the firm's global consumer trends and futuring manager, told delegates at ad:tech New York 2013. "And it's not as simple as just going to them and saying, 'What can we do to make your life easier in three years from now?'"