Luxury auto brand execs discuss the importance of customer connection, technology that allows better design and the concept of ‘brand as magician’.
PSFK recently attended a panel discussion on the luxury sector and how Ford’s premium brand would leverage the trends there. Surrounded by industry consultants, the best commentary came from those having to really sell in the market – namely the Chief Designer for Lincoln, Max Wolff, and the CMO, Jim Farley.
Next year Lincoln will reveal new car lines and Jim told the audience of journalists and writers that they don’t want to follow the German model of luxury – they wanted to be an independent brand that’s not for everyone. Three themes that emerged in the talk were the importance of customer connection, technology allows better design and the brand as magician:
The Importance of Customer Connection
The panel agreed that customer service was at an all time low but brands should never underestimate the importance of a high touch environment. The problem facing brands like Lincoln today is that customers would rather talk to friends about a purchase than deal with a sales person. Dealers are strategic partners, Jim said. Max agreed that they need to create a experiences where the customer meets the brand.
Technology Allows Better Design
Jim, who says that his grandfather was employee number 348 at Ford in the 1920s, told that audience that the luxury car market is in a zero-defect mode: brands make sure everything works and that this allows great throughput and efficiency but “conjurs no joy.”
Max, who says his job is to create the aesthetic interpretation of the Lincoln brand, talked about how technology innovation frees his team to do something different. “Because the new cars will have electronic shift, there are less mechanics and that makes space where we can create scultpture in the car. He also talked about how the graphical style of dashboard and other interfaces could be customized with downloads post-purchase.
The Brand As Magician
Max added that luxury is something that you want. You’ve got to say, “I want that.” Jim added that the automotive industry has lost site of luxury but there’s room for a brand like Lincoln with unique roots to position itself for independent minded people.
Lincoln plans to bring back a sense of the old world that you might get from visiting a tailor who knows you and has a social relationship with you. He explained that the original brand was designed to create unique personalized carriages and cars; but admitted that this was physically impossible in today’s market place. That said, Jim said they wanted to act like a magician where every customer feels like their car is unique to them. “Our customers want to be surprised, they want it to be personal. How to execute service and product to come across in an authentic way is going to be very hard but we have to do it.”