Rajoielle Register, Head of Global Brand Experiences at Ford Motor Company, will be chairing the Effective Use of Tech category of this year’s WARC Awards for Media. Here, she tells WARC about how Ford reimagined customer experience for the virtual world, the need for tech to be relevant to consumers’ lives, and what she hopes to see in the Awards’ entrants.
Describe your role and what it entails.
I lead all of Ford’s global brand experiences, which include global auto shows and other consumer-facing events like CES, SEMA and AirVenture. When our brand is present at these experiences, it’s my team’s responsibility to develop the strategy, lead customer engagement and, from a KPI perspective, ensure it will deliver upon our business objectives.
Aside from showcasing and amplifying our launch products, our job is to attract consumers to the brand and use these experiences as a platform for them to learn about our vehicles and new technology offerings. It’s not all about selling cars, but immersing consumers into how Ford is evolving our portfolio and value proposition. We have such an incredible story to tell and so many new products with amazing technology and connectivity.
Brand experiences have evolved so much over the past year – how did you approach this change at Ford? What has been your biggest challenge?
I saw it as an opportunity for us to look at our business in a disruptive and modern way, a chance to simplify how we go to market. I treated it as a whitepaper exercise: if we were to start over, how would we go about it? In a company like Ford, where there is tradition, it was stimulating to explore how we excite consumers during the pandemic and beyond, investigating hybrid approaches to experiences.
We mapped out our customer journey to figure out what people wanted to hear, feel and see from Ford, and ensured that we delivered upon relevancy. It created a lot of energy within the system: we realised we could still create excitement around our products virtually, without going dark, and use these learnings to inform our strategy when we were able to return to live events.
For example, the 2020 SEMA Show – a yearly automobile trade event held in Las Vegas – is a special occasion for us, as it gives us a chance to highlight our products in a unique and custom way. When it was cancelled last year, we created our own platform, called Virtual SEMA Ford Auto Nights. Utilising an Augmented Reality scenario, we launched a complete programme live on social media, including hosts and subject-matter experts representing our project vehicle line-up, while also creating an experience where customers could ask questions and learn more about the vehicles. Consumers still felt like they were at SEMA and we took advantage of the global footprint provided where we reached those with interest outside of our typical US market. This experience showed us we could still do major activations in a unique way, continue the momentum for our key strategic goals and maintain engagement and excitement for consumers – for me that was a big pride point.
Over a year into the pandemic, which are the learnings that you see yourself applying in the future?
One of the biggest lessons for me was to use technology in a way that serves you most, but without overdoing it. In the virtual space, there are plenty of opportunities with AR and VR and while customers have some appreciation for the newness of technology engagement, they really want to know more about the product and why they need to engage further. There needs to be a balance: we need to show the relevant technology but also how it relates to consumers and their daily lives. Reaching consumers today means offering them an experience that both captures and keeps their attention, while improving perception of the brand and imparting some useful information.
Our learnings have led the brand to take full advantage of the opportunity to gain excitement by bringing consumer-focused experiences to them in unique and innovative ways inclusive of in-vehicle immersions. This shift in strategy was important to show customers how a brand like Ford was relevant for work and play in their daily lives.
Now that live events are coming back, we see a big opportunity. With all the different ways consumers can spend their time today, and with all the brands out there competing for a share of a consumer’s valuable attention, it’s vital that Ford continues to meet consumers wherever they are in order to change hearts and minds. With experiences hosting millions of visitors a year, auto shows and events are the perfect opportunity to do that.
How do you think tech's role in communications has evolved in recent years, and how has this been impacted by the pandemic?
We need to determine what’s impactful technology and what is a ‘nice-to-have’. Pre-pandemic, there were several different features and options, and many times consumers didn’t relate them to a specific need. Corporations should take this gap as an opportunity to show how technology impacts consumers’ daily lives, how it relates to them. For example, I see brand partnerships with Alexa, with explicit examples showing how it can help make your life easier, simpler. That’s where tech has had to shift: instead of being the greatest, newest, most advanced thing, now it’s all about how it relates to you and how it can make your world and those you are connected to better.
I’ve been impressed by how automotive companies are using technology and communicating to customers the new way of the future. It’s great that multiple OEMs across automotive are showing how technology and features, especially from a safety standpoint, are driving the industry in a way that is helpful. This consistency provides a platform to help customer education as technology evolves.
What are you hoping to see in this year's Effective Use of Tech entrants?
What resonates with me is when brands have the ability take an idea and make it relevant to consumers and their lives, showing how it’s impactful. It’s broader than being the best or the first: for me, it’s more about the ‘How’ and ‘Why’ you are the most impactful company for a certain audience.
This applies to the DEI space as well – I’d love to see how the product and brand is reflective of the community you are serving. From my perspective, it’s important to have clear and intentional insights about the community and customer, and how they relate to your product – that’s where the magic happens.
Do you have any advice for entrants?
Be clear and concise: tell us what you’re trying to achieve, what your KPIs were, and how you delivered upon those goals. And if there was any ‘glitter’ – any unexpected, positive result that you didn’t anticipate but would be a lesson learned for the future – tell us! As marketers, we set out to achieve certain things and it’s nice when you have surprises that help inform your business. To me, that’s success: when you achieve the goals that you expected but also learned lessons that you would put in place to impact your business going forward.
The WARC Awards for Media are open for entries. The deadline for submission is 22nd September, 2021.
This free-to-enter, global scheme will reward effective comms planning across four categories: Effective Use of Tech, Best Use of Data, Effective Channel Integration and Effective Use of Partnerships & Sponsorships.
For more info on the competition and to submit your work, visit the Awards website.