Media & Marketing Techonomy Events

Ford’s Data-Driven CMO on Mobile, Newsrooms, Tesla, and More

Ford’s Farley says mobile tech changes everything for the auto industry.

Ford’s Farley says mobile tech changes everything for the auto industry.

Jim Farley of Ford joined David Kirkpatrick onstage at Techonomy 2013 in Tucson. Farley leads Ford’s drive to connect more closely with customers, and serves not only as Ford’s chief marketing officer, but also as chief of its Lincoln division. We’ve edited the conversation.

Kirkpatrick: Data is a theme endlessly repeated in tech. How does it change what you do?

Farley: On one hand, data makes us better marketers—more targeting, looking at trends, and much better revenue managers. But there’s a whole piece of consumer data we haven’t figured out yet. Think about what privacy means for a car company, when I know where you go and how you drive. There’s a responsibility to consumer data we have to think through.

Kirkpatrick: If you can navigate that right, ultimately you might get to a co-creation point, where customers are helping you and you are helping them, not only day-to-day, but in terms of what you build next, and you build a community that includes you and them.

Farley: I remember meeting Steve Jobs many years ago, and he basically said, not as politely as this, “Why do I have to step back so far in time when I get inside a car?” If we figure out the connectivity issue and bring in applications from the cloud, we can actually build an experience of operating a car that’s connected to your social graph. It’s informing you about how to operate the car efficiently and effectively. You can foresee a really different experience of owning and operating a car. And a dialogue with the company that’s constant. The million-dollar question is, “Will we as an industry try to monetize that, or will we serve the customer?” The great companies, I believe, build apps just to help the customer. They figure out the monetization afterwards. But as a big company, our tendency is to figure out how to monetize that process immediately. That’s the journey we are all going to figure out together.

Kirkpatrick: By 2019 it’s predicted there will be 5.6 billion smartphones in the world, meaning all your customers will have them.

Farley: The most fundamental thing for our industry is that most people’s lives are on their mobile device, and when they get in a car they expect everything—all the data and all their apps—-to run perfectly. But it’s not that simple, because some mobile ecosystems are closed, others are open. There’s going to be a whole transition in our industry over the next several years. You spend a lot of time in a car, and most people want to be more efficient than they are today.

Kirkpatrick: Talk about marketing. How good can targeting get?

Farley: We have to have different talent. We are going to a whole new level of targeting. The digital media companies—Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn—are evolving their targeting mechanisms. The challenging thing for a marketer is that each of the platforms is different. So how do we, as a company, figure it all out? On Twitter the way to find out if someone is shopping for a car is different than it is on Facebook.

We need a publishing strategy. We can’t have campaigns like we used to. We need a newsroom. If something happens in the Philippines, we have to tell what’s relevant to Ford and how we’re helping. It means a whole different rhythm. The digital advertising model is always on. It’s very different than the campaign model we used with radio and TV.

Kirkpatrick: I want to throw out one word and see how you react to it: Tesla.

Farley: Way to go. There’s a lot to appreciate. All of us in the car business want everyone to love the driving experience. The experimentation on the distribution model, how they sell and service the products—it’s fantastic. For us as an industry, electrification of the powertrain is one of the most fundamental changes, along with the mobile economy. We’re all experimenting. Last month we sold 3,500 plug-ins. Not battery-electrics or hybrids, but plug-ins. We’re about 35 percent of the U.S. market. That’s exciting. But there’s a fundamentally different relationship with the consumer when your car is electrified. You want to be smart about when you charge it, because electricity rates change during the day. So all of a sudden, apps become super-important.

Audience question (Arun Sundararajan of NYU): What is the right level of engagement with your consumers, especially for brands that are used to being high-end or exclusive?

Farley: Luxury in the past has been kind of an elitist idea, but that’s changed. Everyone should expect great design. The democratization of technology should be an expectation. I look at engagement the same way. As a brand, there’s nothing more important and exciting than a consumer who cares enough to share their ideas and interact with you. It’s hard to believe, but someone who’s satisfied isn’t any more loyal than someone who is dissatisfied with your brand. But someone who is engaged with your brand is twice as loyal as someone who is not engaged. You want to make sure that engagement fits the brand. So a 24/7 concierge fits the Lincoln brand. We want a one-to-one relationship, like a tailor. It’s a very old idea of retailing. It’s going to take us a long time to get there.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *