Designers at Ford have come up with a novel approach to creating vehicles guaranteed to appeal to the desires of auto consumers.
Start by building the driver.
Using psychological profiles, Ford is creating archetypical drivers and identifying what they want from automobiles. While it may sound like they’re putting the chicken before the egg, company officials say the use of archetypes help designers keep the consumer at the forefront of their minds when designing new vehicles.Without data concerning what car consumers want, designers are left designing vehicles that they think consumers want, but those guesses can often be way off base. What a Ford designer in Michigan thinks is appealing, helpful, or fun can be very different from what a soccer mom in Florida, a trucker in Illinois or an artist in New York City is looking for in a vehicle. The profiles help ground designers and give them a touch point to consider when planning new vehicles for Ford.
Consumers shopping in Bloomington car dealerships and other Ford dealerships around the country can see the results of Ford’s interesting program by test driving Ford vehicles. Chances are that there is a Ford vehicle on the lot built to appeal to their stylistic and performance desires.
What Is a Psychological Profile?
Psychological profiling, in the context of business, is the use of data collected concerning demographics consumer behaviors to create personality archetypes. Psychological profiling has been used by criminal investigators for decades to help police get a better idea of who likely suspects in certain crimes may be. Identifying behaviors and personality traits helps them to narrow down their search, focusing their resources on likely leads rather than throwing a broad net that the suspect may slip through. The technique has been prominently featured in a number of books, films, and television shows about police investigative procedure.
Some of the same techniques that apply to criminal psychological profiling can be applied to help automakers develop a better idea of who their potential customers are. Company officials say that the archetypes created from the psychological profiles work to put a face on the dry statistical information that designers are provided. This makes the information more relevant and applicable for designers, who then incorporate cues derived from the archetypes into their design. The result should be more comfortable, attractive, and accessible vehicles.
How Ford Builds Profiles
Ford began using psychological profiling in its design process as early as 2002. Company leaders were inspired by the work of Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel-winning psychologist and behavioral economist. Kahenman, who has taught at Princeton and other top-flight universities, is known for his work concerning “hedonic” choice, that is, an exploration of how emotional factors such as pleasure and fun may have a larger impact on more logical factors and how consumers buy goods.
Kahneman’s work suggested aesthetic motivators may be more powerful than characteristics such as horsepower and legroom in a buyer’s decision to purchase an automobile. This flies in the face of much of the thought behind vehicle design throughout the decades, which focused on more practical aspects of designing vehicles for consumers.
Ford poured through mountains of statistical data and used the information to create characters that put a human face on this information. The data used includes marketing research, demographic information, survey answers, and much more. With the characters distilled from this research, the automaker focuses its designers. They also come in handy as a marketing tool to reach out to the general public. For example, at a recent North American International Auto Show, the company used a video of an actress chosen to portray one of their archetypes to explain the company’s Lincoln C design study.
Ford came up with a variety of archetypes based on its work. Some of these archetypes include:
Antonella – A fun-loving 28-year-old woman who loves dancing and parties. Antonella was used to help guide the design of the new Ford Verve.
Joe and Cal – Two regular working guys who help designers of Ford trucks relate to customers.
Natasha – A tech-savvy driver intensely focused on the gadgets and gizmos in her vehicle.
Jack – The “life of the party” and avatar for the Ford Taurus.
Ford executives say the composite characters created by its profiling experts have helped designers to keep drivers’ concerns foremost when designing new vehicles. Company officials credit the program with the Ford Fiesta’s success in Europe, where it was the No. 2 seller in its market in 2009.
Buying a Ford
The Ford Motor Company is an American automaker based in Dearborn, Michigan. Founded in 1903 by legendary inventor Henry Fonda, Ford has weathered world wars, depressions, and the growth of foreign automakers to retain its place among the top auto manufacturers in the world. Ford is consistently among the world’s five largest automakers in terms of sales volume and perennially leads other top car companies in truck sales.
Ford emerged from the Great Recession in the driver’s seat, as it weathered the financial collapse of 2008 much better than its domestic competitors. As the economy has recovered, GM and Chrysler have gained ground and Ford has needed to innovate to compete. Foreign manufacturing strength is also putting pressure on Ford. Company officials hope that the use of archetypes will help give car designers a more direct connection with the car-buying public, resulting in higher sales.
Auto consumers seeking a vehicle built around their needs and desires can check out what Ford has to offer at Bloomington Ford. Serving Bloomington, Indianapolis and Columbus, Bloomington Ford is a leading Ford dealer offering a wide selection of new and pre-owned Ford and Lincoln vehicles. Bloomington Ford’s finance department is dedicated to finding smart deals for car buyers, even those with less-than-perfect credit, and should be able to help consumers find a safe, reliable, and fun Ford.