Note: Similar to my trip in 2012, I’m trying my hardest to make this post unlike an advertisement. The truth is, Ford is a cool, innovative and responsible company doing interesting and important things in the automobile industry. I’m a big fan.
For a second time, I was lucky enough to have been invited to attend Ford Motor Company’s 3rd ever Trend Conference in Deerborn, Michigan.
“Barb – How do you get invited to things like this?” – Simple! Make friends with people who work for PR companies! [But seriously, thanks Sean]
Over the 2.5 days that I was being spoiled rotten in Michigan, I heard from leaders in style, trust, health & wellness, the environment and even retail (!!) about trends in the global market and where consumers will be spending their time and money and where they’ll be placing their trust in the future.
Here are 20 highlights from the conference this year.
1. Upon arrival in Michigan, the 125 (or so) of us were whisked off to the Henry Ford Museum. If you’re not familiar with this place, it’s one of the largest collections of American History in the world. The museum owns things like; the Oscar Meyer Wiener Mobile, the actual bus where Rosa Parks wouldn’t give up her seat (that led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott) and The Wright Brothers house that was picked up and relocated from Dayton, Ohio.
2. We were greeted with remarks from Alan Mulally, the the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ford Motor Company. What I found so interesting about the greeting from Mr. Mulally… was that he took non-scripted questions from the floor. And answered them – WELL!
3. Alan was joined by Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computers, to give an introduction to the Trend Conference and to welcome us to Michigan. STEVE WOZNIAK, YOU GUYS!
4. The museum was unreal. After dinner, we were free to explore the museum on our own. The collection of CARS (and not just Ford) and HISTORY that the Henry Ford Museum has is staggering. HERE IS A BUGATTI.
5. The next morning, we were greeted by Bill Ford, the Executive Chairman of the Ford Motor Company and the great-grandson of Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. I found Bill to be really FUNNY.
(quoting his great-grandfather…)
“If I asked my customers back then what they wanted, they would have said ‘a faster horse’ “.
6. The sessions we were to attend during the day were picked ahead of time. I liked this. To be honest, there are topics that I’m just not that interested in. Being able to pick my top 3 (of 5) made it such that I could really enjoy the entire day.
7. Session 1: Trust is the New Black. I loved this session.
8. Hearing Anajli Kumar from Warby Parker talk about their brand and the way that they engage their customers gave me some sort of renewed hope in retail. Warby Parker is not unlike brands like TOMS where they are philanthropic givers.. i.e. “one for one”. Warby Parker sells glasses for $95/pair (in the USA) and promotes programs like “5 pairs, 5 days, 100% free” where you can try on and wear 5 pairs of their glasses for a week before you invest in your own pair.
9. Jim Farley from Ford, from what I’ve heard, is a rock star. Jim is the executive vice president of Global Marketing, Sales and Service for both Lincoln and Ford. It was interesting to hear his take on regaining trust with consumers.
10. Session 2: Sculpting the Future. Seth Godin was hilarious.
11. Rachel Shechtman is the brains behind one of the coolest stores in New York City, Story. Story is a space that has the point of view of a magazine, changes like a gallery (maybe even more often) and sells things like a store. Each month the shop changes to reveal a different story… HIS Story, ART Story, Design Story, Wellness Story…
12. I definitely got to touch, sit in and ogle at the new Ford Atlas concept car. It’s a beauty. Jealous?
13. Oh hey! It’s me and the Woz!
14. On Tuesday evening we were invited to a party to celebrate Mustang‘s 50th BDay. (Remember last year when I got to drive one?)
15. On Wednesday we were given the keys to a new Ford Escape along with the civic address of three Detroit landmarks. Lucky for me, I was with two people who didn’t care to drive so I happily accepted the role as chauffeur.
16. First stop: The Detroit Institute of Arts.
The purpose of this stop was to see the Diego Rivera murals of the Ford Rouge Factory.
This is a photo of a small portion of the north wall which represents the important operations in the production and manufacture of the engine and transmission of the 1932 Ford V-8. To see a photo of the entire wall (and to get a sense of just how small this photo really is – click here)
This is a photo of a small portion of the south wall which is a culmination of the automobile manufacturing process – production of the car’s exterior. To see a photo of the entire wall (and to get a sense of just how small this photo really is – click here)
17. Here I am, thinking.
18. Second stop: Michigan Central Railroad Station. This was such a magnificent sight to see.
19. Third Stop: the Heidelberg Project. Artist Tyree Guyton created the project in 1986 to restore his childhood neighbourhood that had been deteriorated in the aftermath of the 1967 Detroit riots. The project takes up an entire block of Heidelberg Street in Detroit.
20. After our tour of Detroit, we hit the Ford Test Track to do a lap in the electric Fusion and then to practice our soccer skills with the Ford Fiesta.
Using the backup assist feature in the Fiesta, we had to maneuver around pylons to eventually hit a soccer ball into a net. Of course I nailed it.
(Full disclosure, this isn’t me driving the car. This was the guy after me. I went really fast and got it in on my first try. But that’s because I’m really good at backing up vehicles.)
Just like last year, the conference was extremely well organized. Every detail was thought of and I was never wanting for anything.
I can’t thank Ford enough for allowing me to participate in this conference.
Fingers crossed that I make the list for 2014!
Full disclosure: I was not paid to attend this conference. My hotel, airfare, food and accommodations were paid for by the Ford Motor Company. There was no obligation to make this blog post and all views and opinions expressed above are my own.