Ford Motor Company and Your Southern Ford Dealers are sponsors of our annual conference FLBlogCon. They flew Gotta Get Blogging’s Bess Auer to their Digital Trends Conference in San Francisco. All expenses were paid by Ford but the following post expresses Bess’s honest opinion.
Many companies have been using online influencers for years now, but few do it as well as the Ford Motor Company. In fact, their strategies for the media includes dealing with both traditional journalists (industry magazines, newspapers) and with what they are calling new media (bloggers from a variety of niches).
Long ago Ford recognized that the people buying their cars are, well, people with a ton of different interests, and they get their information about which cars to buy from friends’ recommendations and observations by the average consumer. So, while you wouldn’t think a fashion blogger, a beauty blogger, or a sustainability blogger would have much to do with reviewing cars, Ford understands that a girl wants to cruise around town in style and that many people consider the environment when choosing their next car.
In January, I joined several hundred journalists, bloggers, and online influencers at Ford’s headquarters for the Detroit Auto Show. This month, though, I was flown to San Francisco for my favorite conference of the year – the Further With Ford Digital Trends Conference.
Why San Francisco instead of Detroit? Because Ford has just opened a brand new Research and Development Facility in Silicon Valley and we got to check it out!
Each of Ford’s Digital Conferences have several sessions to attend, usually with a panel of speakers from the tech and marketing world. (One year I got meet both Seth Godin and Steve Wozniak!) Here are the sessions I found interesting this year.
Future of Sustainable Cities
Ford developed their 2015 SmartMobility Plan with the global population in mind. Mega cities loom on the horizon where scarce parking and congested traffic rule. So, why not bring in SimCity designer Stone Librande to help envision what a successful sustainable city of the future might look like. And then add in Detroit Dirt’s Pashon Murray to make sure there is a grass roots element to it. They made a topic I thought I had absolutely no interest in fascinating!
But what I liked best in this session was the presentation by Piyush Tewari of SaveLIFE of India. This is a guy who saw a real problem in India – too many people dying in roadside accidents because medical help could not get there in time either due to the lack of emergency response vehicles in a rural area or congested roads preventing the ambulances reaching the accident in crowded areas.
Piyush created social change by training and empowering a network of first responders across the country and then changed the law to keep those volunteers from being afraid of being sued if they try to help and something goes wrong. So how has it worked? The volunteers have rushed over 150,000 injured victims to hospitals.
As a blogger I’m impressed that Ford thinks enough of these ideas in order to showcase them at their Digital Trends conference. So, yes, I was live tweeting the event!
Keeping this idea of the future world in mind, Ford is testing out some ebikes they designed through a hackathon. The bikes would easily fold up in their cars and be charged by the car battery. The biker can pedal or go with the “sweat free” electric motor mode. Yes, please, I want one now!
The Automation Effect
This was another favorite session. Imagine the future where cars drive themselves!
Ford says this is entirely possible and will probably be in effect in five years or less. (In fact, some counties in California already allow self-driving cars!) Ford is smart, though, because they realize it isn’t the technology that is holding us back – it is our personal fear of giving up control to the mindless car that holds us back.
So, we got to hear from Genevieve Bell, a futurist at Intel, discuss everything from Frankenstein to the Terminator and how pop culture has actually helped create our irrational fear of machines becoming evil and taking over!
In reality, machines already are automated and in use in our everyday lives. Dishwasher, anti-lock brakes, etc. have simplified our lives without showing their wicked sides.
And Ford has developed some really cool technologies to help us be better drivers:
- Blind sport information system (always needed!)
- Lane departure warning and the lane keeping aid (if you are wandering out of your lane)
- Driver alert (if the car senses you are falling asleep)
- Collision mitigation (will apply the brakes for you before you run into something)
- Self-parking cars through Driver Assist
So as we move toward the self-driving cars, the question becomes what would you do with all that free time when you don’t have to be driving but rather you are riding?
The ABC’s of XYZ
This was probably my favorite session because it gave me information I can apply to marketing my blog(s) to different audiences. This session included information about how different generations are approaching and utilizing technology.
For example, take listening to music:
- Baby boomers = vinyl records
- Generation X = tapes and then CDs
- Genration Y = downloading music
- Generation Z (known as Millenials) = streaming music
The best quote from the session that directly applies to bloggers is this:
You don’t need a factory to change the world, you just need a laptop to change the world.” – Alexis Ohanian
Ford understands that tomorrow’s car buyers embrace different options like car sharing and bike sharing programs, and so I applaud them for exploring these concepts as well as other technologies like remote control cars. We later got to explore some of technology that will help make some of these ideas a reality!
Cruising San Francisco
So the day after the Digital Trends Conference, we got to actually get into the cars and drive the streets of San Francisco checking out the sights. I joined Atlanta-area fashion blogger Arkeedah McCormick and Orlando-based beauty blogger Brittany Minor as we cruised in a new convertible Ford Mustang to see the Palace of Fine Arts.
We periscoped while driving the streets (I got to talk with many of you while streaming!) and jammed to the music being streamed via Spotify. In fact in cars equipped with the Ford SYNC AppLink system, you can control the Spotify App from the driver’s seat through voice control, all powered by your Apple or Android smartphone.
Win 3 Months of Spotify Premium
So, to drive home this fact, I’ve got a give-away from Spotify Premium to go along with this blog post. Tweet out which Ford car you would most like to test drive and why and I will select my favorite tweet to receive three free months of Spotify. Be sure to include @gottagetbloggin in the tweet! I’ll choose the winner on July 17th!
If you would like to explore Ford and their cars (and the really cool technologies they have incorporated) then head to your local Southern Ford Dealer. Or you can always preview the cars at our annual blogging conference FLBlogCon.