Ford CMO: Electric Vehicle Critics Mirror Early Mobile Phone Skeptics

Suzy Deering has done a little bit of everything throughout her marketing career, she built corporate relationships at The Walt Disney Co., ran marketing campaigns for eBay, and even helped shift the public opinion of wireless phone technology with Verizon Wireless.

As Deering, now Chief Marketing Officer for Ford Motor Co., sat down with iHeartMedia Chairman and CEO Bob Pittman for the latest episode of his marketing podcast Math & Magic, she discussed her latest challenge, the electric vehicle.

“The parallels of us going from (internal combustion engine) to electric are so incredibly similar for me, it’s like going from landline to wireless,” she said. “You know, with wireless phones, nobody really understood, ‘Why do I really need it?’ until there was that need, or you got the first experience.”

Deering said changing consumer minds about electric vehicles goes beyond a typical test drive. She told Pittman drivers need to experience what it is like to drive an electric car in order to truly be sold on making the change.

“It's so exciting for me, when I can sit in a cab with someone who's never driven an electric vehicle and it's almost like their eyes just light up,” said Deering. “t's like being at Disney World and you go on that first Space Mountain ride, or you get to have this incredible experience that you weren't expecting. That's the feel of it.”

There are other hurdles facing Deering and her team when it comes to reassuring the public about the benefits of electric vehicles. She explains that the biggest anxiety amongst consumers is their car battery dying during a drive. Charging stations are becoming more common, but that doesn’t mean everyone knows where they are or how they work.

“We know that's a big challenge, because for consumers, they know where a gas station is. They don't necessarily see charging stations,” Deering said. “But you are actually leaving your home every day with a full charge. How many times in a week do you leave the house every day with a full tank of gas? Probably not ever. It's very often that you got a quarter of a tank or half of a tank.”

“It sounds like that as a marketer, your real challenge is to get people to realize they really don't need charging stations that much,” said Pittman. “But how big a problem is it for travel or how many times will they really need that charging station and how does that infrastructure get built? Is it public or is it private?”

Deering explained that the number of charging stations will increase with the demand for electric vehicles, much like gas stations did for the Ford Model T. There will also be collaboration with the government and other partners to ensure there is accessible charging locations across the country.

Listen to “Suzy Deering: ‘We are at the moment where everything changes. And a big reason we’re at that moment, is the F-150 Lightning,” the latest episode of Math & Magic: Stories from the Frontiers of Marketing with Bob Pittman. Listen along as Pittman sits down with the most gifted marketing disruptors of our time to find out how they cut through the noise of today’s world. Available on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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