Art Redmond is Ford Motor Co.'s global trend-tracker. Since joining the No. 2 automaker in November 1999 in the new position of executive director of global consumer insight and global marketing, Redmond, 47, has found that the industry lags in brand-building, preferring to offer incentives to boost sales. He also has identified several trends, including:
The mid-sized car market is vanishing.
Technology such as hydraulic lifts for sport-utilities and night vision will become standard to attract aging baby boomers.
Auto service centers, like some grocery stores, will operate 24 hours a day.
Redmond's job is to help Ford identify global consumer trends and focus on global marketing research. He held similar positions at PepsiCo and Citibank.
Redmond talked about his new challenges and his views of automotive marketing with Editor Kathy Jackson.
What do you mean the middle market is vanishing?
The middle market may have to go to extreme measures like the P.T. Cruiser. What was successful with the Taurus may not work in the future. The echo boomers (people in their early 20s or younger) are not intrigued by traditional cars.
Do automotive marketers set trends? Are they good at their jobs?
Packaged goods marketers have always been more aggressive as marketers because of the competition - i.e., Pepsi and Coke. The automotive industry only recently has started to embrace consumer feelings. And even when they do, it's usually not for marketing purposes but for product purposes. I come from financial services and, like automotive, they have at their disposal consumer information, but they are two of the worst industries for using that info to market products. The biggest equation for marketing is branding. You can create demand and aspiration around the brand. As I look at marketing in the auto industry, it is mostly promotional - discounts and giveaway options.
What companies do you think do a good job of marketing?
Coke, but it is making mistakes now. Sony, McDonald's, Disney via its service platforms, Nike and Starbucks coffee.
Why do you think the automotive sector lags behind the packaged goods industry in marketing efforts?
The retail side may be hurting automotive. There needs to be more collaborative efforts between the factory and the dealers. Corporate is unaware of what the dealers are doing, so it's not a unified effort. There is no strong emotional tie led by the automakers. The consumers are driving that.
Why did you go to Ford?
The challenge. I like putting new systems in place. Ford has a strong marketing research organization but spends too much time looking inward and not enough time looking outward.
Can the Internet hurt or help automotive marketing efforts?
The Internet is the do-or-die sword. On the negative side, it puts you at a bigger disadvantage because the awareness of product levels is at an all-time high.
What are the strengths of the auto industry?
The level of rigor and study placed on the product, and the huge numbers of smart people. I don't think the packaged goods people know their business nearly as well as the automakers. I attribute that to longevity. Try to get a packaged goods guy to have that knowledge. At Pepsi, the average longevity for a brand guy is four to five years.
What are the weaknesses?
They don't look outside enough for examples; they're too insular. They don't have enough good marketing concepts. Size can be a curse because decisions move slower.