The days of brands detailing the specs and features of their products is over. And I am a big believer in the use of storytelling, in creative ways, to contextualise how products fit into our lives. It is through storytelling that brands can show how they facilitate us being able to live our lives and do the things that we do. It is about showing how they fit into our lives as opposed to telling us what the thing can do. When it comes to cars, all cars can comfortably get you from point A to point B. While there are those who will buy a car because of its specs, a lot of us connect with its values, its positioning and how it makes us feel, which is why I find Ford’s latest campaign engaging and interesting.

Working with neuroscientists and designers, Ford undertook a study to determine the impact driving a sports car has on our sense of wellbeing and emotional fulfilment. They created a “Ford Performance Buzz Car: a customised Ford Focus RS incorporating wearable and artificial intelligence technology to animate the driver’s emotions in real time across the car’s exterior.” The Buzz Car, a collaboration with DesignWorks, featured a high-performance Zotac VR GO gaming PC, 110 x 500-lumen daylight-bright light strips and 82 display panels with 188,416 individually addressable LEDs.

The Buzz Car took 1,400 man-hours to create from concept and the buzz moments were “analysed using a real-time ‘emotional AI’ system developed by leading technology firm Sensum.”

To determine how people reacted in relation to driving the Buzz Car, volunteers were also measured watching their favourite football team, watching Game of Thrones, kissing passionately, taking a salsa dance class or going on a roller-coaster ride. They state that “only the occasional highs of riding a roller coaster ranked higher than the daily buzz of a commute in a sports car.”

The Discipline Leader in Physiology, Dr Harry Witchel, is quoted as saying “A roller coaster may be good for a quick thrill, but it’s not great for getting you to work every day. This study shows how driving a performance car does much more than get you from A to B – it could be a valuable part of your daily wellbeing routine.”

I know how driving a performance car makes me feel. When I had the Ford Focus RS to test drive, I found myself taking the long route home but also getting very frustrated in Joburg traffic because I couldn’t put my foot down, but I would have to commute regularly in one ::hint hint:: to determine its impact on my wellbeing.

Ford produced a video detailing the research and the reactions that is kind of dope. It gives you real sense of the ‘emotional AI’ system.

Activity Buzz Moments *
Roller Coaster 3
Driving 2.1
Shopping 1.7
Game of Thrones 1.5
Football Game 1.5
Kissing 0
Salsa Dancing 0
Dining 0

* Average number of high-intensity buzz moments per participant


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