Ford Designer’s Advice Applies to Marketers, Too

24 05 2010

J Mays, group vice president of design and chief creative officer for Ford Motor Company, offered a keynote presentation at the Ward’s Auto Interiors Conference recently, and imparted some interesting insight and advice to the engineers and designers in the audience.

His advice also applies to those of us in other disciplines, especially PR and marketing communications. With apologies in advance to Mr. Mays, here are my notes of highlights from his talk.

The three most important things for designers to remember:

1) A design should be true to the brand

2) It should be meaningful to the customer, and

3) It should be differentiated from the competition.

Other advice from Mr. Mays:

1) Don’t be design blind and don’t be blinded by design – be authentic to your brand but open to new ideas.

2) Hit the reset button – don’t be afraid to start over.

3) Stay on story – your message should articulate your brand. Anything beyond your core story is just noise.

4) Make it magical – let your passion show in your work.

5) Be brand-led and customer-informed – not the other way around.  Starting your design with the brand in mind will focus you on what makes your product different.

Speaking of differentiation, Mays cited a Bain study that indicated 80 percent of CEOs believe their company’s products are differentiated, yet only 8 percent of customers believed they were. That’s quite a perceptual gap!

It suggests as marketers and communicators, we have to be careful to look at things from the customer’s point of view … avoid drinking our own Kool-aid … and keep our brand authentic.

Thanks, Mr. Mays. This is good advice for all of us – no matter whether we’re designing cars, developing PR programs or creating marketing plans.


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