These Trends Will Influence All Businesses And Brands In 2016, According To Ford

Sheryl Connelly, the automaker’s in-house futurist, sees 2016 as a time of “inspiration, ingenuity and identity.”

The Looking Further with Ford 2016 global trends report confirms what you can deduce by looking at your Twitter or Facebook feed right now—people are upset and frustrated by what’s going on in the world.


“Nearly two-thirds of adults around the world say the world is a worse place to live today than it was when they were growing up,” says Ford’s futurist Sheryl Connelly, who has been putting together trends reports for the automaker for more than 10 years. (Ford has shared them with the public for the last four years.)

Sheryl Connelly

The angst comes from the challenges we have been witness to over the last decade, and probably more acutely in the last year, Connelly says. Everything from the economic uncertainty that has shaken Europe to the heartbreaking refugee crisis, and ongoing terrorism attacks.

But rather than be crippled by disillusionment or despair, Connelly says that people are surprisingly resilient and “moving beyond coping mechanisms to hoping mechanisms, which may sound a little bit cheesy, but the patterns I see make me feel like the resilient nature of mankind allows people to look for the best in other people.”


Connelly, who was named of Fast Company‘s Most Creative People in Business in 2013, sees three themes emerging in the 2016 trends report—inspiration, ingenuity and identity. Here, she highlights a few of her findings:

People Look Up To Homegrown Heroes

Ford’s research finds that 68% of adults around the world are disillusioned with civic and political leaders. But that isn’t to say they haven’t found heroes to look up to. “People are looking for heroes in their local community who redefine what it means to be a good citizen,” Connelly says.

The heroes singled out in the 2016 trends report include a former Wall Streeter’s Philadelphia pizza shop that only charges $1 a slice, and encourages customers to donate a buck or two when they can to buy pizza for the homeless. The report also calls attention to the students who—on behalf of the Sierra Leone and Guinean Medical Students’ Association—travel to remote African communities to share life-saving information about Ebola.


“These are people who are not doing death-defying feats or performing acts of super-human strength. It’s more about goodwill and the way that they want to be part of the solution,” Connelly says.

People in general want to help solve problems, Connelly says, pointing to the success of crowdfunding site GoFundMe as evidence. The site has received $470 million in donations to personal causes from roughly 6 million donors.

Photo: Flickr user DanLopez.

The Pursuit Of Mindfulness Has Gone Mainstream

The concept of mindfulness has been around decades, but it is catching on in a big way now. More and more people have become aware that they need to give themselves time to reflect and regroup, Connelly says.


“It’s a really powerful movement that will become increasingly visible in spaces that will surprise you,” Connelly says, pointing out that a pop-up yoga studio in London’s Heathrow Airport is now permanent, and airports in the U.S. and Europe are also creating rooms in which travelers can take time to perform yoga or meditate.

The concept of mindfulness is also spreading to the workplace. “Yahoo! Japan is trying to teach mindfulness to their employees, and Eileen Fisher does a moment of quietness as they start off meetings to get everyone focused,” she says.

Also telling: The mindfulness app Buddhify is the number one health and fitness app in over 40 countries.

Photo: Flickr user Imad HADDAD

Retailers Make Shopping Personal

People don’t just visit retail stores to buy things—these days, they expect to have an experience that creates a more meaningful connection with the brand. “The product almost became an artifact of the experience,” Connelly says.

According to the Ford trends report, 81% of European shoppers say they will gladly pay higher prices for items in exchange for a better in-store experience, while 48% of U.S. consumers say they will buy more at a retailer that offers a personalized shopping experience.

Retailers are listening to consumers. While doing her research, Connelly found retailers all over the world that have created unique enticements to get people into stores. In the U.S., Casper mattress has created pop-up showrooms with snooze bars where consumers can take a 30-minute test nap on a mattress, dozing off to the music or podcast of their choice.


In Japan, clothing chain Vanquish is employing high-tech virtual mannequins. When a shopper holds up a piece of clothing near one of the mannequins, that particular of item appears on it.

And Burberry’s new London flagship features digital conveniences like micro-chip enabled clothing and interactive mirrors.

Photo: Flickr user Maegan Tintari

Work Is More Flexible At All Levels

Thanks to technology, there is less need for people to congregate in offices, and that can be beneficial for both employees and businesses. As noted in the 2016 trends report, call center workers at the Chinese travel site Ctrip were recently split into two groups as part of a study. One group was allowed to work at home. The other group had to work in an office. At the end of the experiment, Ctrip found that the employees who worked at home were happier and more productive. In fact, they successfully wrapped up 13.5% more calls than the employees who were required to report for work at the office.


Elsewhere, Haddad Partners, the firm that designed Ford’s latest trend book, is based in the United States but has a workforce of creatives working remotely from around the world. Given that everyone is in a different time zone, someone can always be pushing a project forward.

“If you’re a creative type, freelance has long been part of the landscape in terms of employment opportunities, but it’s spilling into areas that are surprising,” Connelly says, noting C-suite executives are increasingly available for short-term gigs.

The 2016 trends report introduces readers to the Texas-based startup Chief Outsiders, which provides chief marketing officers on a limited basis. Other firms offer access to temporary chief financial officers. “These types of services allow companies to get exactly to the heart of what they need on a short-term basis, which is necessary in today’s very unpredictable global economy,” Connelly says.


You can read up on all of the 2016 trends on the Ford Trends site that will be updated monthly as Connelly uncovers new information and insights.


About the author

Christine Champagne is a New York City-based journalist best known for covering creativity in television and film, interviewing the talent in front of the camera and behind-the-scenes. She has written for outlets including Emmy, Variety,, Redbook, Time Out New York and


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