Jennifer Kolstad on Creating a Cohesive Customer Experience Through Design

June 7, 2023
Jennifer Kolstad is the Global Design and Brand Director for Ford.
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Jennifer Kolstad is the Global Design and Brand Director for Ford.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Jennifer Kolstad is responsible for managing the aspects of Ford's brand that are outside of vehicle design.
  2. Her role involves overseeing the physical spaces, experiences, and ensuring a seamless and consistent customer experience.
  3. Ford's brand includes buildings, dealerships, food and beverage, hotels, and more.
  4. She works on projects that focus on the future of retail and aims to reimagine the automotive retail experience.
  5. Jennifer emphasizes the importance of creating a sense of refuge and comfort in the showroom experience, moving away from the intimidating and vulnerable atmosphere often associated with car buying.
  6. Ford's goal is to provide a human-to-human connection and tangible stimuli that can't be replicated online.
  7. The Experience Center is a renovated building that exemplifies Ford's human-centric approach and showcases the new brand identity.
  8. The Experience Center features a green, nature-oriented design with ample natural light and a clean, white aesthetic to allow the brand to grow and breathe.

Paul Daly: 0:00Today we're here with Jennifer Kolstad global brand and design director for Ford.

Unknown: 0:04

This is amplify, a retail automotive podcast brought to you by Reuters Events and ASOTU. It's time to make the most innovative voices in retail automotive. Louder

Paul Daly: 0:23

Well, Jennifer, it's a pleasure to sit with you today. Thanks for being here.

Kyle Mountsier: 0:28

Isn't that a vibe? The little intro music just sets you right in the spot?Right?

Jennifer Kolstad: 0:31

I like the voice. I like the tunes.

Paul Daly: 0:33

Yeah, good cover.Okay, so global brand design director, what do you actually do?

Jennifer Kolstad: 0:39

Everybody wants to tell me about their Mustang and their Bronco, and their issues and why they don't have their order. But that is not what I do at all. Keep it to yourself. I handle the stuff that's outside of your car. So I don't design vehicles. That's Anthony Lowe and his team. I do the other thing. So I like to tell people I am the manifestation of brand. So the way that we're sitting at his table right now,

Paul Daly: 1:01

I think we need a t shirt. For you. I am the manifestation of brand. Like it?I do. I like it a lot.

Jennifer Kolstad: 1:09

So it's the buildings, definitely Ford has200 million square feet of building footprint, including dealerships. That's a lot. I'm not saying like we're doing it all. But that's ours out there in the university. Yeah, yeah.And it's experience too. And it's the things you hear and taste. And I mean, we're standing at food and beverage and a hotel. We're doing a lot of things that people don't know about. But that is our brand now. Yeah.

Paul Daly: 1:34

And so that. So you're thinking about those types of things. Right? The the physical spaces, but also the digital spaces as well,

Jennifer Kolstad: 1:42

to a degree.Yeah. I mean, full disclosure, I don't code. I don't have like, I don't do the things. Yeah, but it is my responsibility to make sure that that experience is seamless, cohesive, you know,consistently Wonderful. So you,for example, Ford standing up an econ platform right now, I'm not designing that. But continuity is the key. So whatever I do stand up in this store of the future has got to be consistent from a CX perspective, equally awesome.

Kyle Mountsier: 2:13

Yeah. How do you how do you do that? When there's so many different players and hands in the pot, you know, like you were saying, already, right?For blue. And and the finally,the model is stuff like,already, that's tough. And then you layer in buildings and customer experiences on the ground level, like, what does it take for a team to kind of wrap its hands around and make sure that there's not drop off at touch points for customers where they feel like they just got plucked off a cliff off of your brand.

Jennifer Kolstad: 2:45

I'll tell you,when I joined Ford, I got a doctorate in diplomacy. It is all of this work. Now really,all of this work is dependent on relationships, you know, the people that you know, internal,the Ford and like you're suggesting, like they're everywhere, whole team stood up self sufficient and running.They got their own KPIs like they have everything they're going, so to infiltrate and make friends and like build the trust so that you can do the work.Because my work as you can imagine, is all that in between stuff. It's like the glue. Like,I'm neither, I'm neither for Blue Note nor model E. But in I'm both, I'm kind of the umbrella piece that will allow those things to live and breathe over time. And those groups also typically have a near view,because that's what they're tasked with doing. Right, like Wall Street wants to know how you do in Jim Farley. Right,quarter by quarter.

Paul Daly: 3:35

They definitely do.Yeah. So what's the far view?

Jennifer Kolstad: 3:38

The Far view is the horizon, right? We do a lot of futuring in our work,which is to like set our five year and our tenure targets.And, you know, large degree that to a large degree that speculative, that's like looking to other things and

Paul Daly: 3:54

relating. Oh, my God,what's gonna happen in 10 years?Who the heck knows Moore's law

Jennifer Kolstad: 3:58

is what? Yeah,right. Yes. And right now we're playing in technology and Metaverse and all of this stuff.10 years out.

Paul Daly: 4:05

Major platform change transition. Yes.

Kyle Mountsier: 4:08

What? As much peek behind the curtain as you can give what are what are one or two of the projects that you're working on right now that are looking at the world? In a far view?

Jennifer Kolstad: 4:19

I am definitely excited about future of retail. I mean, this one's really getting me going right now. Because because it is such an untapped category. And you're asked the question, what is the future of this? It's basically a start over it's like, we got to back up and stand up a methodology and reevaluate based principles like start from the beginning, which is very exciting when you're a designer.So we

Paul Daly: 4:42

had a we had a panel just a little bit ago and you said that when you needed to bring in an architect, you kind of zig where everyone else usually zags. Yeah, actually,

Jennifer Kolstad: 4:53

I heard one of our RM retail experts say to one of our external say, the future of retail is what Ever you think you should do do the opposite?Ah, I agree with that. Whatever your instincts are telling you pivot go the other way. So, you know, logic would tell you hire a really good commercial architect like a big like a Foster's like like sales, right one, right. So we did the opposite. I heard a residential architect, that is amazing at human scale work and understand sustainability, because future of retail should be what guys it should be net zero, should be carbon zero net positive should be all the things so you have to go into a different space category to get that. So you hired a residential architect.They do commercial too, but Well, primarily residential. Did

Paul Daly: 5:39

you get any any weird looks? Yeah.

Kyle Mountsier: 5:41

And that's for that's for thinking about the showroom experience? Yeah.

Jennifer Kolstad: 5:46

It's not just an architecture solution. But that's just to illustrate one of the parts and pieces, like, do the opposite.

Paul Daly: 5:52

Yes, yeah. So thinking about when you enter the new stores, or the new concept, you're gonna feel much more like you're at home than in some big glass, think

Jennifer Kolstad: 6:02

about what happens today. And, and use your human science terms that I was that I was talking about. So entry at this point is incredibly vulnerable and intimidating. It is inevitably a high or a double scale experience. So you as an individual step in and it's like step like a piece of meat on the savanna plane, you're vulnerable, you're exposed. It is it is a predatorial environment. We're

Paul Daly: 6:26

talking about Maslow's hierarchy of needs. And then when you're at the bottom of that pyramid, you're just thinking, survival. And in order for you to even get in the mindset of like, experience,surprise and delight, you have to be far up. In that pyramid.You say right now where the mentality is, when you walk in,you feel like the piece of meat,he's something's gonna get me.

Jennifer Kolstad: 6:45

So what's the opposite of that experience?Being

Paul Daly: 6:47


Kyle Mountsier: 6:48

being uncomfortable come in, can I get you a soda water drink, whatever it is,

Jennifer Kolstad: 6:52

what I'm describing to you is called prospecting. The opposite is refuge. So now you got to construct a state of of refuge.Instead, the opposite. That's the residential piece, like scale compresses your sheltered and safe. And now the choice is yours. Not the choice of someone else. That's what I mean, you sort of reengineering this experience using science?

Kyle Mountsier: 7:13

Yeah. Well, I've been an advocate for a shrinking showroom, that is much more homey and has like a feeling where you are accepted. And like, I remember, even as a kid,I like this is a sticky memory in my head as a kid, going shopping for a car with my parents, like this is the this is like old were you? Oh,probably eight or nine. Okay, we got it. We got a family van.Yeah, right. And I remember going into the store and just like looking around and being like, that's a big desk. That's a big ceiling. I've never seen this before. And then it's like,and then it's like five people with suits come out of an office. And I'm like, I never go anywhere with people suits.Right? And really,

Jennifer Kolstad: 7:56

where did they come from? They weren't there a second ago. But we're here now.

Kyle Mountsier: 8:00

Because they're all dressed the same concept.Yeah. And and then to go even further than just like, a smaller space. It's like, how does the space actually feel and invite me in? And you were talking about, like, when we keep saying omni channel, right?We think like, oh, that people can do the same thing everywhere. But experiencing the same thing like so if you're like, oh, I want to buy at home?Well, why wouldn't we also drag that experience into the other spaces that we're operating in as brands? Right?

Jennifer Kolstad: 8:30

Remember what I just said about do the opposite? That is actually the I'd say the broad base understanding of Omni, but that is not true. This physical space that we're trying to reinvent is to first begins with trying to understand what are the opportunities or what are the things that I can achieve in a physical space with people that I can't possibly do online? Yep.Right. Yeah. And then providing for that, like, if we say

Kyle Mountsier: 8:53

what's so valuable? Yeah, that experience that I had crave a meta can only do it.

Jennifer Kolstad: 8:58

It starts with human to human connection.

Kyle Mountsier: 9:01

Absolutely.Right. Now you're speaking our language. Yeah.

Jennifer Kolstad: 9:04

Nothing relationships. That online.Right Memory Mate, like all of those things, those tangible things that stimulate our brains in a very specific way. That's that is our responsibility.

Paul Daly: 9:16

So Ford recently opened, what is it called the Experience Center?

Jennifer Kolstad: 9:20

Oh, yeah, we did that.

Paul Daly: 9:21

Yes. I know. Have you been there? I haven't been I would love to come. Okay. Well,let's do a hit up.

Jennifer Kolstad: 9:27

We just went to American Institute of Architects awards

Paul Daly: 9:30

that No, I saw stuff about it. Tell me about tell us all about what is the Experience Center and what's the intention behind it?

Jennifer Kolstad: 9:37

Okay, so we opened that let's see January of last year. We kind of snuck it through during COVID. We built this pilot, we call it the pilot because we were able to test a lot of this thinking has been like show forward what we meant with this incredibly human centric methodology, and a new I mean, if you go there, you will visibly see a new book. And you'll go I can't believe this is Ford more important. Feel it,you'll go Alright, we're coming.This feels like Ford and that's the human side love

Kyle Mountsier: 10:09

that it's like there's a feeling that comes out of experience. So

Paul Daly: 10:12

explain it explain the experience. Yeah, like walk us through

Kyle Mountsier: 10:15

just a little bit so for example

Jennifer Kolstad: 10:17

it so this is a renovated building yeah it was and it happens to be the shape of an oval. Like of course,naturally Yeah, so we took this I mean really awful building from the beginning always the best light and we reached the best we re skinned it that means like putting new glass on it we took everything off down to the studs, we re skinned it new roof. We tore down the majority of the interior walls. We based it around well principles well philosophy, which is that this building will make you healthier for being in it. It faces that light for right now. I mean, I wouldn't call this the healthiest space. But in the in the in the FFC you will see a green lawn you'll see nature from every place that you're in,in a in a meeting room or a training room, you're gonna see green grass and natural light.And it's a white clean space that lets the breathe like the brand grow and breathe over time. You will not see a Ford sign anywhere. Ironically. Oh,yes. You are meant to feel Ford.That was a big thing to like,No. Where's the fire bed?

Paul Daly: 11:20

That's where everyone asks, Can you make the logo bigger?

Kyle Mountsier: 11:23

Make the logo bigger, please?

Jennifer Kolstad: 11:24

Yeah, righty,can we put one here and here and your brand? Isn't

Kyle Mountsier: 11:27

the logo brand doesn't feel

Paul Daly: 11:28

you're like look at Google Earth. Look at Google Earth. It's the shape of an oval, your head on the roof.You're in it in the logo? What's the function of the space? How are you using it?

Jennifer Kolstad: 11:39

So it's an event conference center, but we designed it for our global dealers so that they could come and and legit feel Ford learn the curriculum be together global, the global dealer roundtable, for example. We designed it for our fleet customers who typically transact where they are. We want to invite them to Dearborn and experience Ford hospitality. And then our employees too. So we've got training and conferencing.But it kind of worked out different because then the board came over and tried it out. And guess who wants to have their board meetings there now? Even though there's not a logo and we're doing the town halls and Jim Farley's you know, press events and event launches. It's all happening there. It's become the heart.

Paul Daly: 12:19

Okay, well, we are definitely going to come and visit we're

Kyle Mountsier: 12:22

coming. We're gonna make cameras and the whole nine yards.

Paul Daly: 12:26

Jennifer, thank you so much. I wish we had more time we'll have to do this again. I'd love to really excited to learn about the future of Ford. Thank you, Anna design. Thanks for being with us. My pleasure.

Unknown: 12:36

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