(Alan Hall, Technology Communications, Ford Motor Company)
You’ve already partnered with Pandora, BlackBerry and Android in developing apps for SYNC. How important are partnerships to SYNC’s success, and what other brand collaborations do you have in store?
Collaborations and partnerships are integral to the success of SYNC. We developed a connectivity platform that is agnostic, so it works with all devices and networks, and we work very closely with many consumer electronics and telecommunications companies and app developers to continue to expand our “ecosystem” of features and services.
Do you have any plans to embed revenue streams in SYNC? For example, will drivers be able to purchase songs, podcasts or, say, Skype credit while on the road? Will any branded content or entertainment be available on the in-car system?
Our revenue stream is from selling cars and SYNC is proving to help us do that by attracting new customers to the brand. Our focus remains on continuing to leverage SYNC’s platform approach, which allows us to add new features and services without additional cost to the customer.
In terms of branded content, we have great partners including Sirius XM, for instance, and are expanding entertainment offerings through our new SYNC AppLink software allowing the voice control over smartphone applications, such as one of our first app partners, Stitcher Internet radio services.
How do you take into account the rapid pace of technological change when designing a car that’s built to last 5, 10, 15 years?
SYNC has been the key strategy for us to be able to move at the speed of the consumer electronics industry. Being an agnostic platform that leverages a connection through the customer’s mobile device, either USB, Bluetooth or now Wi-Fi, we are flexible to always be able to leverage new hardware enhancements and their network speeds.
As the phone gets smarter and the networks faster, SYNC will get more powerful.
(Scott Monty, Global Digital and Multimedia Communications Manager, Ford Motor Company)
As the voice behind Ford’s corporate blog and Twitter account, you have become something of an Internet celebrity. I posed the same question to new media expert Chris Brogan earlier this year: How do you prevent the brand from becoming inextricably linked to one individual or personality?
It’s generally accepted that people trust people like them, which is a key part of our strategy to humanize Ford Motor Company. We hear all the time that people would rather interact with a person than a faceless entity. But there are two elements to our social media efforts that will protect us from having only a single person connected with the company.
The first is succession planning, which happens at all levels of management within Ford. If you think about how Apple suffered when the health of Steve Jobs was a concern, it was clear that the future of the company was associated too closely with just one person.
The second element is the concept of cross-training our staff so that the function doesn’t reside solely with one individual. We envision an organization in which we have multiple online spokespeople who represent the brand in one way or another.
We’re not suggesting that the entire employee base fill this role, but rather a handful of experts who can regularly engage with customers online around their particular areas of expertise.
(Dean Stoneley, Vice President of Marketing, Ford of Canada)
How do you maintain a consistent brand image when you are trying to serve such a wide spectrum of customers? Can you expect to reach 20- to 30-year-olds in the same way as the 50-plus crowd? Rural Canadians as well as urban Americans?
Yes, I think we can. We use different channels to speak to different audiences – Twitter is a way to deliver your message, TV is a different avenue and newspaper is yet another. How we behave and our core values – our focus on being a leader in the areas of quality, safety, fuel economy and smart technology – doesn’t change.
How have you dealt with the gradual loss of control brands have over their image and message in the new media age?
If you were to go back, say even 15 years, you would have consumers talking to their friends about their vehicle experiences. People still do that today. What has changed is the reach of the consumer voice. Consumers have always helped to define a brand, but how they share their experiences and opinions, and the channels available for them to do that have grown.
We’ve always listened to consumer feedback and now we have the opportunity to use different avenues to do a lot more listening and more interacting.