Ford exec warns marketers about mobile as isolation medium


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NEW YORK A Ford executive at ad:tech New York 2013 spoke about mobiles role in alienating face-to-face conversations these days and the marketing implications with consumers glued to devices at all times of the day.

During the 10 Trends That Could Change the World keynote, the Ford executive spoke about different global trends that are affecting the marketing space, one of which is technology. Although there is a big opportunity to target consumers across multiple devices today, technology is also making it more difficult for consumers to form real-life connections.

Theres another dark side about being addicted to information overload, and it comes from Sherry Turkle, who is an MIT professor, and she wrote a book called Alone Together, said Sheryl Connelly, global consumer trends futurist at Ford Motor Co., Dearborn, MI. 

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Whats interesting about Sherrys story is that she was a pioneer, heralding the benefits of all the societal gifts that Web connectivity provides, she said. But two decades later, shes done a complete turn-around she worries that we use technology as a device to escape the loneliness.

The real concern now has a lot to do with innovation. If we never get accustomed to being alone with our thoughts, the birthplace of insight, what are innovations for? What kind of future are we likely to see?

Plugged-in consumers
With consumers bombarded by information and messages these days, it has never been more difficult for consumers to decipher what is credible or accurate, according to Ms. Connelly.

This is likely due to the boom of mobile and digital devices that are constantly turned on and continuously ping consumers. This means that marketers need to inject brand messages at key times when marketing is contextually relevant.

At the same time, the emergence of multiple devices is isolating consumers to the point of not wanting to engage with actual people.

For example, Ms. Connelly described a situation where attendees were in a room where they did not know anyone. Instead of starting a conversation with someone else, nowadays it is normal for consumers to turn to their mobile device first to kill a few minutes or connect to social media.

This can potentially be dangerous if consumers solely rely on their mobile devices to connect with the world, per the Ford executive.

Predicting the future
Social, technological, economic and political will all shake up the global marketplace in the coming years.

Ford specifically dedicates its focus around understanding global consumer trends.

The automaker defines a trend as something that has a deep-rooting change that will influence Ford’s three to five year production plan.

Compared to chasing fads, the purpose is to try to pick out some of the slower-moving consumer values, attitudes and behavior.

Besides technology, a stronger women work force, changes in population, falling fertility rates and an increase in the average lifetime are also top trends that are shaping the world right now.

Since mobile hits all areas of consumers day-to-day lives, mobile marketers should be looking at some of these global trends to better influence how marketing is tailored towards consumers who have a shortening attention span and are consuming content as quickly as possible across all devices and mediums.

If you have enough what-ifs, invariably youre going to run into some things that actually play out, Ms. Connelly said.

Final Take

Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York

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