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Driving the Future of Brand Experience at Ford

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Q&A with B-to-B Dream Team Member Garett Carr

When it comes to showing off the latest and greatest that Ford Motor Company has to offer, B-to-B Dream Team member Garett Carr is in the thick of things as the automotive giant’s global auto show and events manager. That puts him everywhere from behind the scenes to right on the show floor, escorting VIPs through the Ford experience. We caught up with him to talk about his challenges, the importance of brand experience, and what grounds him as a marketer.

Q: Thanks for sitting down with us, Garett. Tell us a little about what’s happening at Ford these days.

GC: Our company is in the middle of an exciting period of transformation. There is a lot of news out there about autonomous vehicles and the future of car ownership — and because of that, a lot of non-traditional companies like Google and Apple are trying to come into the automotive space.

But Ford is very well-placed to cover the mobility side of the business, so there is a big focus on telling our story in mobility, as well as making great cars and trucks to serve those areas. There was a recent study from Navigant that ranked companies in order of which ones are the most ready for autonomous vehicles, and Ford is number one! We’re really focused on innovations in every part of our business and becoming a leader in emerging mobility solutions.

Building Strong Relationships Through Brand Experience


Building Strong Relationships Through Brand Experience

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Q: That sounds really exciting! But innovations always come with their own sets of challenges. What do you consider your biggest challenge?

GC: People say the auto industry will change more in the next five to 10 years than it did in the past 100 years, thanks to things like electrification, autonomy, and car sharing. The biggest challenge is making sure Ford is a part of that change. We’re doing a lot of experimentation in the marketplace and doing lots of pilots. We have to make sure we are communicating those innovations and that mindset in the auto show space — and beyond — to help consumers understand where we are heading.

If you look at Lincoln, for example, it’s one of the fastest-growing luxury brands in the United States, and we have to stay ahead of that fast-moving curve. Luxury is about experience — people value time and experience much more than stuff. Our challenge is how to communicate the luxury and services that come along with a Lincoln purchase in an auto show environment with an engaging experience and a space that gets people to stay and explore. 

Q: Speaking of engaging experiences, why is creating a great experience so important at Ford?

GC: Experience is a huge part of our business, especially in the automotive space where getting behind the wheel — “butts in seats,” as we call it — is so important to get people to fall in love with your product. We do a lot of experiential tours, inviting people around the country to come test the cars, and of course auto shows, sponsored events, and official sponsorships. It’s not as easy to reach the masses anymore, which is why a one-to-one marketing approach is so important. It’s more expensive per person, but it’s also more effective.

We have a great opportunity to make a really good impression on the consumer in a low-pressure auto show environment where consumers can see all the brands at once and figure out which ones they want to form a relationship with. You can engage consumers at multiple levels, particularly at an emotional level — it’s hard to do that in other forms of communication. For our experiences, we use a lot of different methods to tell the Ford story and draw people into our message. We want to have the best experiences of any company competing in the same space. Ultimately, our goal is to have greater customer engagement by pushing the envelope and keeping ahead of the competition.

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Q: What advice can you give for creating experiences that consumers are excited to not just engage with, but also share with their networks?

GC: All our product specialists have social media channels with lots of followers. We encourage them to post about the city they’re in, and for bigger shows we create a promotional video in the host city to bring as much attention to a show as we can — and that Ford is going to be there. For Lincoln, we do less social, more traditional. One popular activation is Date Night for Lincoln, in which consumers can take a Lincoln overnight for a trial run.

And I think virtual reality and augmented reality are going to become more and more important in the vehicle space to create the wow-worthy, sharable moments. People want to put on a headset and race around Le Mans to feel like they’re in the car. They still need to touch the metal and see it with their own eyes, but it’s good for them to be able to experience it in different ways.

Q: Where do you draw your inspiration from for what you do? Do you have a favorite motto?

GC: “Don’t focus on the black dots.” This is one of the things I learned in yoga — I’ve become a big fan of yoga in the past few years, so I love being in a hot yoga studio and just enjoying the moment. It is very peaceful, and it can be hard to shut off your mind in life. The studio is one of the places you can just focus on what you’re doing and shut out everything else.

There are so many possibilities in life, so much white space, but as humans we focus on the black dots, the things that are going wrong. In our business, and as businesspeople in general, we tend to be overly critical of ourselves instead of looking at what we’re doing right. I try to be more positive these days.

To learn more about what brand experience brings to marketers all over the world, download the stat pack: The Value of Brand Experience.

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