Henry Ford once said, “Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.”
Ford's planned auto-innovations will enable cars to run apps, read your Twitter feed to you, let you update your Facebook status, and surf the web, all while driving! Ford executive Sue Cischke: “Telling younger people not to use a cellphone is almost like saying, ‘Don’t breathe.’”
We know that texting while driving is more dangerous than being drunk or stoned, and yet Ford, in their quest to be "with it" have chosen to pander to kitsch ["Cischke" <--> "kitsch"?] and actually enable distracted driving to win younger buyers - now there's a strategy - let’s proactively help young drivers "stop breathing...” - not sure this is the path to repeat business.
In talking to high-tech C-level executives, I know they are desperate for strategies to help "connect with the consumer." This despite the fact that most of their revenue comes from corporate clients, whose values and priorities are decidedly not-consumer. Corporations (and older people) are interested in function, economic value, predictability and vendor stability; young consumers are interested in form, social value, creativity, and “new.”
So why are large corporations like Ford and others desperate to be hip when their real (paying) customers value the opposite?
In the old days, for costly items like trucks or computers, it was easier to get corporations to buy - they had more money to spend, there were fewer of them (easier to sell/market to a smaller segment), and they could write off the costs of these purchases, making them even cheaper. Whereas the consumer had less money, was much harder to reach, and didn't have the tax advantage. The barriers to entry were lower at the office.
Today corporate customers are extending the lifecycle of hard goods like cars and PCs; they’re reluctant to deplete their cash reserves; and they’re negotiating when they do buy. None of these problems exist in the home, and more specifically, in the minds of new buyers. The barriers to entry are now lower at home and with younger people.
Their example is Apple, who has seen non-corporate, young-consumer sales also drive adult and business purchase behavior. But their “cool” comes from an uncompromising commitment to the product and its design. This priority is why people buy, and why they can command a premium price in tough times. It is also what justifies the "adult" decision.
Executives at Ford (and many high tech companies) are glomming onto social media in the belief that being Twitter/Facebook-enabled associates them with youth and “cool,” and winningyoung and hip customers, leads to “adult” sales as well. This is just badly-executed imitation.
It feels like Ford (and other) executives no longer believe they can “do a thing,” and desperate to remain relevant, are vainly grasping at social networking straws in the hopes that that becomes their new killer feature.
They should know better. Marketing and random features don't compensate for bad decisions and weak products.
The first step is simple - be clear about your “why” - once you know why you exist - what your fundamental purpose is, then the what and the how become much clearer. There is no doubt about Apple's "why." I fear that companies like Ford have gotten so pendulous that their “why” is lost somewhere in the folds of their quadruple chin.
Instead of enabling distracted driving, get on a treadmill, and work off the fat (high priced consultants, MBAs, etc.) that has caused you to misplace who you really are.