Sustainability 2011/12


Understanding Customer Needs

We must keep pace with consumers’ evolving wants and needs in order to remain competitive. We monitor global market trends, shifting consumer interests, and social and political developments to identify issues that will likely affect our consumers, our industry and our Company. We rely on a global network of internal and external experts to ensure that we get a diverse, comprehensive perspective on consumer trends and how they will affect consumers’ future choices about vehicles and mobility. We apply these trend analyses throughout our marketing, product development, research and design organizations to guide future product and technology developments.

Our marketing experts use an intensive research and analysis process to understand who our potential customers are, what they value and what they want in a vehicle. We define a “brand DNA” and a “target customer” for each of our main brands and products. The brand DNA and target customer profiles go beyond simple demographic information such as age, gender and income; we build complete profiles of our target customer, including information such as what they like to do, what music they listen to and where they shop. Using a fully developed, typical customer as the focus for vehicle development brings our market research data to life and keeps everyone on the product development team focused on designing a vehicle that meets customers’ needs and desires.

We develop our target customer profiles based on psychological traits and archetypes that transcend national characteristics and customer desires. This is a critical part of our drive to develop truly global vehicles that appeal to customers in multiple markets. Toward this end, we are focusing more on the emotional and psychological elements of how customers choose their vehicles as well as the traditional economic criteria of price and features. In addition to developing vehicles that deliver best-in-class features and price for value, our goal is to develop vehicles that fulfill the dreams and aspirations of each target customer group. We believe this approach not only helps us to understand our customers better, it helps us develop vehicles that capture the imaginations, dreams and loyalty of our customers across the globe. Of course, we are keenly aware that economic pressures will push the boundaries of brand loyalties, and we will need to work even harder to define our potential customers and build vehicles they can afford.

We know that we cannot predict the future. However, we can prepare for a broad range of possibilities through “futuring” exercises that help us to ensure we have robust strategies in place, whatever the future might bring. Therefore, in addition to product- and brand-specific market research, we have an office dedicated to tracking shifts in social, technological, economic, environmental and political arenas. This Global Consumer Trends and Futuring team is part of our ongoing effort to identify trends that will impact the future of consumers’ values, attitudes and beliefs. The team collaborates with internal subject-matter experts and external thought leaders to ensure that we have a truly global and diverse view of the world. Ultimately, our goal is to see changes on the horizon and respond to them in a way that gives Ford a sustainable competitive advantage in terms of our product portfolio and business strategies.

The consumer trends we are tracking – and which currently guide our thinking regarding consumers and their future needs, wants and desires – include the following:

  • Increasing demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles. In the wake of the global recession, consumers have never been more keenly aware of the operating cost of vehicle ownership.
  • Increasing interest in safety and security. Safety and security remain a top priority, as concerns of health, wellness and well-being remain paramount in our day-to-day lives. Consumers are eager for products, services and experiences that provide lasting peace of mind.
  • Growing consumer interest in “ethical consumption,” or a desire to buy products from companies that reflect one’s own environmental and social values.
  • An increasing focus on “careful consumption,” in which consumers have to balance their values, passions and preferences with practical purchases, particularly in mature markets where economic growth is modest.
  • Expanding interest in vehicles that help consumers meet their increasing desire for information and connectivity and make the most of their time.
  • A changing definition of luxury and shifting status symbols. While bold displays of wealth remain the primary means of showcasing status in emerging markets such as China, India and Brazil, inconspicuous consumption or “discrete chic” is becoming more common in mature markets.