How do you build a luxury brand? Put your best customer in charge.
The industrial-chic Milk Studios in Los Angeles was abuzz last November as Lincoln SUVs graced the studio’s entrance and elegantly suited executives greeted guests. Inside, the studio was transformed by soft lights, low music and uniformed waiters passing perfect bites. Guests chatted quietly before a curtained wall retracted, revealing the brand new Lincoln Aviator. Soon, Joy Falotico stepped into place in front of the Aviator to share the story behind Lincoln’s newest offering.
There is hardly a more perfect pairing: Joy, the new president and chief marketing officer of Lincoln. And the most innovative Lincoln ever. But here’s what’s so perfect: if you were to describe the ideal luxury SUV customer, you’d describe Joy: accomplished, successful, discerning. And for this introduction she was dressed perfectly in a blue velvet blazer that conveyed the idea of Aviator’s elegant, intuitive easiness.
Joy doesn’t just look the part. She is the part.
Guiding Lincoln in the Way She Guides Her Life
Think about it: when you start to plan your new kitchen you go to the expert who lives that life: Joanna Gaines, Gordon Ramsay, Padma Lakshmi. You don’t want to be advised on Viking Stoves by someone who cooks on a Kenmore, right?
We want to be advised by the innovators and trend-setters who are setting new standards for how our world looks and feels. Joy’s career journey has not just prepared her for her role as one of the very few women to ever lead an automaker at the highest level, it’s also prepared her to create a complete an intuitive luxury experience for Lincoln’s customers.
After all, you want to buy a luxury car from someone who really knows what a luxury car should do for you, right?
Not just the suede details and an engine that soars when you tap the accelerator. But the perfect place to put your handbag, an ownership promise that values your time as much as you do, that secures coveted reservations at top restaurants, hotels and spas. That scoots you through TSA checkpoints at the airport so you never have to stand in line. (YES, Clear membership is a perk of Lincoln ownership!)
Building a Career at Ford, and Then Lincoln
Joy joined Ford after attending Truman University in Missouri and graduate school at De Paul in Chicago, where she studied business and finance. “I had two offers, one with GE and one with Ford, and while the GE job was at a higher level, the people at Ford spoke to me, I connected with them. I kept looking for reason why, then I looked at Fortune 500 and Ford was #3. GE was #5 so that was it, I picked Ford.”
From there, Joy worked her way up in finance, starting on the front lines talking to customers. She worked in risk management, moving her family to Chicago, Detroit, Denver, and Europe. She was named chief operating officer of Ford Credit which included managing operations in China. She also spent time as Ford Credit’s vice president of marketing where she learned from one of the masters of the marketing business, Jim Farley, who served as Ford’s marketing chief and now leads new business and strategy.
Listening to Customers Resulted in “Quiet Flight” the New Lincoln DNA
All of which helped Joy prepare her for her role with Lincoln. Knowing what the customer wants, what the customer’s challenges are and how to design the ownership experience so that it truly fits the customer’s life. This is what a luxury brand must accomplish. In finance, “I had a front row seat to where [Lincoln is] going,” Joy told us, and she had the opportunity to help guide the company’s new direction.
“When we created Lincoln Auto Financial Services, we separated from Ford Credit,” Joy said. After interfacing with customers for so long she started meeting with dealers and “got to know where the brand was going and the new DNA of “Quiet Flight,” which is how she describes Lincoln: “Quiet” meaning reserved and elegant, and “Flight” meaning the thrill of soaring.
Bold, Elegant, Comprehensive: Designing the SUV You Want
Understanding how Lincoln dealers interact with customers also helped to guide Joy through Lincoln’s product development – a new part of the business for her. “This was probably the biggest learning curve for me, but I had a good foundation to build from there,” she said.
It all came together with the customer clearly in focus. “We see the Aviator customer as younger, more millennial, families. It will appeal to men as well as women,” Joy told us. Knowing the customer and pairing that insight with design inspired by how we live leads to innovation. “We are the first manufacturer to put a place for a handbag in the Navigator; this comes with human-centered design. How do we make it more effortless?”
And effortless might describe so many features and attributes the new Aviator, which rolls out into dealerships later this year. With seating for seven passengers and features like notification chimes recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and a phone app that works as a key fob so you can completely operate your car with a smart phone, the Aviator promises an elevated experience.
Building a Career in Automotive and Finance, and Being Among the Few Women
It has been the nature of the automotive industry that there were few women, and Joy’s experience was no different. “There were more women in administrative roles, a few more women in customer service, Joy said, but “probably 70% were male,” she said of her coworkers and leaders at Ford Credit.
Still, “I’ve had a lot of really great bosses, I learned so much from each, and even those who weren’t my best bosses I learned what I didn’t want to be,” she said, valuing what an important lesson this was, too.
Inspiring Her Kids and Finding Balance in Family Life
Joy lives her life like so many of us do: Balancing work and family, business and life, constantly re-ordering priorities as they shift in focus. At the core of that balance is life with her husband and two teenage daughters.
Her husband is a manager at a dealership for a competing brand, though he used to work at Ford so he understands the demands of her job and helps to create balance in their lives. For Joy, family time is all about family. “Weekends are all about them, and we sit down together for dinner several times a week,” she said. Time with her husband is time away from work; “we do not talk shop.”
But where her work does come home with her is in how her career influences her daughters. “I’ve always worked and that’s all my daughters know, so they don’t complain,” Joy said. And now, in her new role with Lincoln, her daughters are starting to see what she does in more literal terms.
“When I was in finance my job was more abstract; in the Lincoln marketing role” they can see what I do and have a better understanding of it. “I ask [my daughter’s] opinion and she tells me what she thinks. I like to hear her input,” Joy said. “Now my daughter is interested in marketing because she sees what it’s all about.”
And, she, like us, get to see Joy’s efforts and leadership come full circle as the Aviator makes its way to dealerships and driveways. In Lincoln’s new era of luxury we also see ourselves: the accomplished, discerning customer, with expectations of a luxury brand and delight when it surpasses what we expect. All because the right stewards are in place ensuring the brand’s future. That’s what happens when your best customer is in charge.