Business

How Ford Is Using FOMO To Sell Cars

Ford Motor Co. put out a report last Thursday describing 2014 consumer trends, peppered with phrases like FOMO, JOMO and “old school.” It might sound crazy but the company says there is ultimately a connection to car sales.

Consumers are facing a “tug of war” between FOMO, the fear of missing out, and JOMO, the joy of missing out — and Ford Motor Co. is on it.

Ford published a report on consumer trends last Thursday identifying 10 factors expected to influence shopper behavior next year. Some seemed rather obvious, like “old school,” the love of nostalgia, and “female frontier,” to describe the rising profile of women around the world. Others, like the FOMO-JOMO battle , were just odd to hear coming from a car company.

While FOMO isn’t typically a concept discussed by Ford, which celebrated its 100th birthday this year, the report is “a springboard for ideation inside the company,” according to Sheryl Connelly, Ford’s global trend and futuring manager. The car company is looking for insights into how consumer behavior is changing, and findings from the report may end up influencing product development, marketing and even internal procedures by way of human resources, she said.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the report is that it hardly mentions cars.

Ford, which made more than $130 billion in sales last year, and is on pace to make 6 million vehicles this year, is instead aiming to “be part of the dialogue,” she said. That’s not a huge surprise, given the auto industry’s fight for millennials, who are less enamored with cars than the baby boomer generation.

“Because of the long lead time and capital investment we have in terms of developing cars, we’re looking for things that are slow-moving — changes in attitudes and behaviors,” she said in an interview with BuzzFeed. It takes Ford three years to design and bring a car to market, she said.

So on the note of FOMO, “hands-free voice-activated devices allow us to maintain the same level of connection at home as at the office and at school,” she said. But for those experiencing the pull of JOMO, Ford has also installed “Do Not Disturb” buttons in its vehicles that send calls to voicemail and defer incoming texts, she said.

Meanwhile, Ford’s recognition of the growing prominence of women in the workforce and how that’s impacting household dynamics is something that could find its way into its local sales pitches to families, marketing, or car features.

“Men tend to be drawn to the technology, the science, the features, and women are drawn to the context, the solutions or the stories,” she said. “Men might say, ‘What’s the horsepower of this Mustang?’ while a woman might say, ‘When I’m driving this car and I’m merging onto the highway and an 18-wheeler is behind me and I have a child in the backseat, I need to feel confident that I’m able to get out of the way.’”

Car companies have been working to snap up young customers, a daunting task given the generation’s higher levels of debt and joblessness. Not only that, but recent studies have suggested driving isn’t as cool as it used to be. That might explain why Ford is making clear that it and its executives are well aware of what’s going on out there, describing selfies, Tinder and Rich Kids of Instagram in its report.

Ford’s acknowledgment that young consumers are displaying their wealth differently these days compared with baby boomers has a more direct correlation to car sales than say, the trend of “chronic public journaling.”

“One of the things we would generally say about baby boomers is when they were coming of age they saw a car as an ultimate status symbol,” Connelly said. “If you were to ask young people what was the most important purchase, they’d probably tell you a cell phone. That’s the freedom and symbol of independence, and they make that purchase long before they turn 16… people are much more likely to pick up details about who you are and what you do by checking out your phone than checking out your car.”

Ultimately, Ford is hoping that recognizing these trends will help it make products that will make consumers’ lives easier.

“We don’t want to be so myopic that all we’re looking at is our own industry,” she said. “We want to see what’s going on in the rest of the world.”

Check out more articles on BuzzFeed.com!

Sapna Maheshwari is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Maheshwari reports on retail and e-commerce.
Contact this reporter at sapna.maheshwari@buzzfeed.com
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