Ford's 2020 Global Trend Report reveals loneliness as epidemic

But the automaker has tips for how marketers can help solve the problem.

People around the world are lonely, uncertain and feel detached from their peers, according to research from Ford. But don’t worry - it’s not all doom and gloom.

While the annual 2020 Looking Further with Ford Trends Report, which is in its 8th year, reveals some disheartening themes, it also highlights opportunities for brands and people to better connect going forward. 

The survey, conducted by Harris Insights & Analytics, includes online interviews from more than 13,000 people across 14 countries, including: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Spain, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.

According to the report, nearly half of adults worldwide (45 percent) say they feel lonely on a regular basis, with even more Gen Zers falling into that category (62 percent). Of those Gen Zers who feel lonely, half feel lonely even when they’re with other people. 

One of the main triggers of loneliness? Social media and technology. 

More than four in 10 people between 18 and 40 years old said social media makes them feel lonely. And according to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 19 to 32 who spend more than two hours a day on social media are twice as likely to report feeling lonely than those who are on social 30 minutes or less.

Sheryl Connelly, Ford’s global consumer trends and futuring manager, said that brands have the opportunity to help people find connection and comfort. For example, spending time in nature and dancing are two antidotes to loneliness, so companies that tap into those solutions in their marketing efforts or events may help people. 

For Ford, Connelly said more than half (52 percent) of respondents said they have the best conversations on long car rides, and 46 percent said they usually use their commute time to catch up with friends and family on the phone.

Another trend Ford identified is called "Identity Matters," which focuses on the complexities of how people identify - whether in terms of gender, ethnicity, religion, ancestry or more. 

"Companies need to make sure they’re empathetic and understand their customers," said Connelly. "Great products and services won’t be enough - you have to have a deep understanding of your consumer base, and that includes understanding the nuanced needs of individuals."

The "Call to Stand" trend in the report is around making sure companies know where they stand internally on their values before aligning with causes. It’s also a reminder that causes don’t necessary drive purchase decisions since 59 percent of adults globally said they care more about convenience than values when it comes to buying items. 

This also links closely to "Below the Surface, a trend that shows how consumers will dig and find out whether or not a company is actually living up to its values. Nearly seven out of 10 adults worldwide said, "Once a brand loses my trust, there is no getting it back."

Connelly said people are becoming increasingly interested in how products are manufactured and where raw material is sourced from, which is why companies have to walk the walk from beginning to end.

Ford has even trained its technical engineers around the world on how to notice signs of forced labor at factories and how to report them.

The in-depth report also touches on trends climate change, consumer expectations and re-commerce.

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