In search of happiness

It's elusive, but there's hope based on the latest micro trends compiled by Ford.

ford_trends_1Car companies spend millions every year just so they can better understand consumers. The fourth annual edition of Ford’s publication of micro trends, Looking Further with Ford, is a compilation of the most compelling micro trends across the globe (and for this story, in Asia Pacific) that are shaping how we live, work and engage with the world around us. This year’s collection focuses on the themes of inspiration, ingenuity and a strengthened sense of self-identity.

According to Sheryl Connelly – Ford Motor Company’s in-house futurist tasked with tracking global consumer trends to aide in the discussion of long-term planning and strategy across the entire company, including design, product development and corporate strategy – nearly two-thirds of adults today say that the world is a worse place to live than it was when they were growing up.

Sheryl Connelly
Sheryl Connelly, Ford’s futurist.

Considering the challenges of the past decade – and the past year specifically – this bleak perspective is perhaps not surprising. The mounting refugee crisis, ongoing acts of terrorism, and the unexpected downfalls of once-beloved icons are just a few of the many disappointments that have rolled up into the continuum of disillusionment.

And yet, consumers across the globe are defying despair. Fed up with frustration and resignation, they are shifting from coping mechanisms to hoping mechanisms. There has always been a desire to make lives better, but now there’s even more drive to make it happen. While disillusionment and despair are prevalent and contagious, but so too are hope and optimism. Thanks in large part to social media, hope is spreading faster – igniting a pay-it-forward chain of goodwill that shows no sign of abating.

Embracing heroes

Across the world adults say they are disillusioned with civic and political leaders. But where goodwill is faltering among established leadership, it’s gaining among communities and individuals who are rethinking what it means to be a good citizen, neighbour and person. Forget the need for superheroes – everyday heroes are now stepping up to the plate, and they’re inspiring others to do the same.

Still searching for the truth: Mulder and Scully definitely qualify as ‘on-screen’ heroes.

It’s easy to find everyday heroes….

…at work: (% of adults who agree)

Indonesia: 41%
Malaysia: 47%
New Zealand: 43%
Philippines: 58%
South Korea: 55%
Taiwan: 81%
Thailand: 66%
Vietnam: 48%

…in the community: (% of adults who agree)

Indonesia: 53%
Malaysia: 57%
New Zealand: 64%
Philippines: 59%
South Korea: 58%
Taiwan: 82%
Thailand: 64%
Vietnam: 63%

…in government: (% of adults who agree)

Indonesia: 29%
Malaysia: 38%
New Zealand: 17%
Philippines: 40%
South Korea: 36%
Taiwan: 65%
Thailand: 51%
Vietnam: 32%

Trumpeting good news

Mainstream media is notoriously bleak, seemingly fixated on news that’s depressing and negative. And yet consumers are more likely to click on happier stories. A study conducted by Wharton professor Jonah Berger shows, positive stories on the New York Times’ website are more likely to make the “most-emailed” list than negative ones. But media are catching on, offering uplifting antidotes to the daily downers. Readers can turn to Upworthy for inspiration, the UK’s for “Feel-Good News,” Reddit for “Uplifting News,” and Huffington Post for “Monday Matters: The best feel-good stories, videos and campaigns that blew up last week.”

Ford Motor Company Fund at work to feed infants in need.

“I am more likely to share positive news stories on social media than negative ones.”

Indonesia: 93%
Malaysia: 80%
New Zealand: 74%
Philippines: 89%
South Korea: 77%
Taiwan: 91%
Thailand: 90%
Vietnam: 79%

Swiss army life

A rising emphasis on self-reliance has created an ethos of purposefulness and utility. From tiny homes to smartphones to utility vehicles, consumers are increasingly seeking to attain a trifecta from their purchases—quality, versatility and durability. Today, better living is not about having more things—it’s about living smarter by pushing to get greater use out of fewer things.

A Lego set, albeit one that features a Ford Mustang, should last for life.

“When I buy a car, I intend to keep it at least 10 years.” (% of adults who agree)

Indonesia: 58%
Malaysia: 76%
New Zealand: 67%
Philippines: 75%
South Korea: 63%
Taiwan: 83%
Thailand: 74%
Vietnam: 71%

Time poverty

Today, where greater connectivity means we’re increasingly “on call,” time feels more elusive than ever. The blurred boundary between work and home has resulted in a plugged-in society that’s often anxious, and people are desperate for solutions that allow them to keep all balls in the air. This is particularly pronounced for younger consumers—nearly half of adults under the age of 35 say they feel compelled to check their work email in their off hours.

Just like many Malaysians, this gentleman also has a ‘second job’ keeping tabs on social media.

“Staying on top of social media is starting to feel like a full-time job.” (% of adults who agree)

Indonesia: 64%
Malaysia: 61%
New Zealand: 45%
Philippines: 59%
South Korea: 46%
Taiwan: 65%
Thailand: 81%
Vietnam: 75%

“Text Neck”

The prevalent condition of hunching over one’s smartphone. Experts say that long-term, this poor posture can reduce lung capacity by as much as 30%.

“Expected response time for electronic communications is getting shorter and shorter.”

Indonesia: 75%
Malaysia: 84%
New Zealand: 87%
Philippines: 74%
South Korea: 83%
Taiwan: 81%
Thailand: 91%
Vietnam: 84%

Remember the Milk

Remember the Milk helps you stay on top of your to-do list so you won’t forget the important details (like, you know, the milk). The app connects across all of your devices, pulling from Gmail, Outlook Evernote, and more to get everything organized in one place. Downloaded worldwide, this handy app now has more than 5 million users.

“I feel compelled to check my work email during my off hours.”

Indonesia: 74%
Malaysia: 54%
New Zealand: 35%
Philippines: 55%
South Korea: 59%
Taiwan: 62%
Thailand: 41%

58% of those who say they feel compelled to check work email in off-hours say they resent this feeling (below responses include ONLY those who marked “Agree” for the previous question “I feel compelled to check my work email during off hours.”)

Malaysia: 54%
New Zealand: 57%
Philippines: 42%
South Korea: 51%
Taiwan: 57%
Thailand: 79%
Vietnam: 58%

The EZ life, brought to you by the connected concierge

Today, we’re seeing the rise of “full-service” technology, as products shift to become more anticipatory and self-sufficient. With the growing support of artificial intelligence, we can outsource more and more responsibilities to technology that learn and adapt to our needs – expanding our sense of hope and possibilities for a better life ahead.

“I can easily imagine how I would fill my time if I was riding in a self-driving vehicle.”

Indonesia: 81%
Malaysia: 80%
New Zealand: 51%
Philippines: 62%
South Korea: 67%
Taiwan: 68%
Thailand: 77%
Vietnam: 63%

“I can see myself buying a self-driving car in the future.” (% of adults who agree)

Indonesia: 83%
Malaysia: 71%
New Zealand: 39%
Philippines: 66%
South Korea: 75%
Taiwan: 80%
Thailand: 78%
Vietnam: 75%

“I believe the benefits of autonomous machines (drones/artificial intelligence/self-driving cars) will outweigh the risks.”

Indonesia: 76%
Malaysia: 70%
New Zealand: 49%
Philippines: 63%
South Korea: 79%
Taiwan: 68%
Thailand: 71%
Vietnam: 79%

The Ford Fusion (Mondeo in Malaysia) Hybrid undergoing autonomous testing in the snow.
Mindful goes mainstream

Once the purview of monks, mindfulness has made its way into homes, schools and boardrooms. Two-thirds of consumers across the globe say that mindfulness is not just a fad, and studies show the practice can mitigate the impact of stress. As our lives become increasingly complicated and demanding, the solution for many is to be less mind full and more mindful—giving ourselves the time and space to breathe, reflect and regroup.

“It was easier to live in the moment before we had all these digital devices.”

Indonesia: 38%
Malaysia: 66%
New Zealand: 75%
Philippines: 55%
South Korea: 79%
Taiwan: 79%
Thailand: 75%
Vietnam: 49%

“I make a conscious effort to disconnect from my devices.” (% of all adults who agree)

Indonesia: 31%
Malaysia: 41%
New Zealand: 56%
Philippines: 54%
South Korea: 40%
Taiwan: 45%
Thailand: 51%
Vietnam: 60%

“I feel anxiety when I am away from my devices.”

Indonesia: 61%
Malaysia: 45%
New Zealand: 16%
Philippines: 52%
South Korea: 58%
Taiwan: 48%
Thailand: 53%
Vietnam: 57%

Is mindfulness just a fad? No. (% of all adults who say mindfulness is *not* just a fad.)

Indonesia: 47%
Malaysia: 47%
New Zealand: 75%
Philippines: 59%
South Korea: 70%
Taiwan: 60%
Thailand: 43%
Vietnam: 56%

Well, Jay Leno isn’t really that old, but he sure has some precious old toys…
In awe of aging

The first humans expected to live to age 150 are already alive, according to experts on aging and longevity. Yet as people live longer, healthier lives, the notion of aging is being re-defined. Shifts in health care, nutrition and medical science are driving today’s seniors to defy stereotypes and make sure that those “extra” years of life are healthy, meaningful and dignified.

By 2050…

…2 billion people in the world will be over the age of 60, more than 2x the number now.

… 400 million people in the world will be over the age of 80. That’s nearly 2x the population of Brazil.

…more than 40% of the respective populations in Japan, Korea, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain will be over the age of 60.

“I expect to be more active in my golden years than my parents were.”

Indonesia: 89%
Malaysia: 76%
New Zealand: 72%
Philippines: 88%
South Korea: 72%
Taiwan: 79%
Thailand: 84%
Vietnam: 85%

“Society is less age-focused today than it was in the past.”

Indonesia: 72% agree
Malaysia: 74% agree
New Zealand: 57% agree
Philippines: 70% agree
South Korea: 54% agree
Taiwan: 83% agree
Thailand: 85% agree
Vietnam: 70% agree

Fit for misfits

Today, one size fits nobody. Some people seek ways to stand out, while others simply don’t want to get lost in the crowd – and society is more openly celebrating diverse opinions and interests. To adapt, marketers are shifting from neatly defined customer personas and segments to a recognition that consumer identity can’t be so easily buttoned down. Nearly seven in 10 consumers say that contrarian ideas are celebrated as critical to shaping great ideas. As a result, mainstream connections between brands and consumers are taking a backseat to more unique, personalized and meaningful ties.

LAS VEGAS, Jan. 06-2015--Ford World Rally Cross Driver Ken Block at the Ford Motor Company display during the 2016 CES-- the display highlights mobility, autonomy, connectivity, customer experience and data and analytics. Ford announcements include tripling the amount of fully autonomous vehicles on the road, giving Ford the largest test fleet of all automakers; a developer challenge with drone-maker DJI to create drone-to-car communications software; collaborating with Amazon to pair connected vehicles with smart homes using Amazon Echo; and driving innovation in mobility solutions by supporting Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit, a start-up accelerator program. Photo by: Sam VarnHagen
Not a conformist: the original hoonigan (aka Ken Block) making an appearance for Ford at the 2016 CES.

“Standing out is more important than fitting in.”

Indonesia: 42%
Malaysia: 33%
New Zealand: 40%
Philippines: 55%
South Korea: 33%
Taiwan: 57%
Thailand: 36%
Vietnam: 41%

“We tolerate disagreement more than we did in the past.”

Indonesia: 83%
Malaysia: 69%
New Zealand: 56%
Philippines: 62%
South Korea: 49%
Taiwan: 78%
Thailand: 69%
Vietnam: 67%

“Contrarian ideas are celebrated as critical to shaping great ideas.”

Indonesia: 74%
Malaysia: 79%
New Zealand: 85%
Philippines: 87%
South Korea: 55%
Taiwan: 69%
Thailand: 63%
Vietnam: 75%

“I say what I think, even if I know it’s going to offend my friends and family.” (% of all adults who agree)

Indonesia: 46%
Malaysia: 48%
New Zealand: 46%
Philippines: 50%
South Korea: 45%
Taiwan: 52%
Thailand: 57%
Vietnam: 52%

Waste not, want not

Many would agree society has an obligation to reuse materials and reduce the amount of trash it creates. That means everyone needs to play a role—business, government and individuals alike. Today, innovators are finding ways to get creative with refuse—extracting value from stuff nobody wants. This latest trend in sustainability promises to push the boundaries of both imagination and resourcefulness.

Fossil fuel is finite, every drop counts.

“I feel guilty about the amount of waste I generate.”

Indonesia: 77%
Malaysia: 64%
New Zealand: 44%
Philippines: 83%
South Korea: 46%
Taiwan: 65%
Thailand: 81%
Vietnam: 68%

“I tend to favor products that are made from recyclable content versus those that aren’t.” (% of all adults who agree)

Indonesia: 92%
Malaysia: 73%
New Zealand: 58%
Philippines: 85%
South Korea: 67%
Taiwan: 89%
Thailand: 89%
Vietnam: 73%

“Companies can have the most impact on reducing waste.”

Indonesia: 31%
Malaysia: 14%
New Zealand: 40%
Philippines: 10%
South Korea: 25%
Taiwan: 33%
Thailand: 12%
Vietnam: 23%

Are you ready for the flexible economy?
Buying into the flexible economy

The world of work is changing, and fast. The rise of sharing economy platforms and freelance models are making “gig” jobs more accessible and more lucrative. Business models are adapting to maximize resourcefulness while allowing for greater flexibility and fulfillment. And workers are finding new ways to make their investments work for them, extracting value from once-idle goods like cars, homes and tools.

9 million: Global number of registered freelancers on Upwork, the world’s largest platform for freelance jobs.

$1 billion U.S. worth of work: The value of work completed annually by its freelancers.

4 million: The company’s total number of registered clients.

290: Number of cities Uber operates in around the world as of May 2015.

62%: Percentage of Uber drivers who have at least one additional source of income.