Remember a year or two ago when Ford came out with the 'Bold Moves' tagline? Remember how they were widely mocked for not really making any bold moves? It's ironic because the struggling carmaker has finally come up with an initiative that matches its now retired tagline.
For the next 6 months, 100 hand-picked 20-30 year olds across the United States will be driving a new Ford Fiesta for free. The move is designed to build awareness for the re-launched Fiesta, which will debut in U.S. early next year. The 100 winners were picked based on certain factors, especially their level of activity on social sites and with social media. In fact, I first found out about this idea because of reading Ms Single Mama's tweets about being selected to receive one of the vehicles. The group's proficiency in creating social content is no doubt a big reason for their selection.
Ford's Scott Monty goes into more detail about the strategy for picking the 100 winners here:
"We not only used characteristics of online social vibrancy to select our agents, but we also looked at geographical dispersion. If you go to http://www.fiestamovement.com, you can browse through the agents based on their proximity to you.
In addition, we’ll be taking 40 Fiestas around the country between now and the end of the year, hitting 100 cities and attempting to get 100,000 people in the vehicle for test drives/rides. Not to mention that the agents will be taking their vehicles out in public locations and sharing the experience offline."
Now for the big question; Will this work?
One thing that seems certain is that the Fiesta Movement will raise awareness of the Fiesta in advance of its U.S. debut next year. And given that the 100 'agents' selected are apparently all active in social media, that should create a good deal of buzz online for the Fiesta. At least at first.
But can that buzz be built as the 6-month campaign unfolds, and leveraged into something larger and as a more meaningful way for Ford to connect with their potential (and later current) customers? So many 'social media campaigns' are designed to build awareness and excitement, but never follow through on the increased interest that's generated. Does Ford have a plan in place to capitalize on the awareness that it hopes to create for the 2010 Fiesta over the next few months?
That remains to be seen, and could ultimately decide the end effectiveness of this initiative.
UPDATE: Thanks to everyone for the great comments. Also, Ford's Scott Monty also goes into greater detail into this campaign and what went into the strategy behind it.
Here's the thing about the campaign, I'm not sure if it's to raise awareness of Ford or to sell cars. If their intention is to sell cars, then they have a lot more work to do besides giving 100 cars to people in the social media echoplex.
Perhaps they plan on using the footage and media that's created in advertising campaigns and giving away 100 cars for six months was cheaper than hiring a film crew?
I have a feeling that Ford was convinced by another company to give this a shot to try and create both word of mouth marketing, garner good will inside the community and digital content they can use as they please.
disclosure: I wasn't picked to win a car.
My question is, will the feedback look and feel contrived given the catalyst for it? One could argue that the feedback is purchased - even though there is full disclosure up front. Awareness - yes. Authentic awareness - no (at least in opinion).
The unadulterated feedback is much more full of impact to me.
Thanks for a great post.
Guys I don't disagree with you. Alone, I doubt this will be enough to noticeably move the needle for the Fiesta.
My main question is, is there a 'next step' coming that builds off this? Is this REALLY the start of a movement, or is it going to be a campaign that does nothing to leverage the attention created? Look at what Skittles just did, they got everyone talking and twittering about them, and now it looks like they had no plan in place to leverage that buzz into something meaningful.
I think people are getting tired of companies that are too damned lazy to actually put some thought and planning into using social media. I am NOT saying that Ford has no plan in place, in fact I really hope they do.
But if they don't, this 'campaign' could easily do more long-term harm, than good.
I think this will go a long way in building up the little social capital that Ford has at the moment. Of the Big Three, Ford is far and away doing the most. I think that by continuing to innovate, try new things and be humble will go a long way towards repairing their image in the eyes of many Americans. I think this is a great start.
One of the things that worked very well in this social influence marketing action is for sure the transparency that Ford chose to have: everything from early recruiting to final selection has been completely clear. This helps a lot while trying to create brand ambassadors or just leveraging on potential influential consumers.
Great initiative: relevant, helpful and interesting. The bloggers' work will generate value for their audience and not only for Ford, allowing people to better know the new Fiesta.
A lot of times companies neglect how to tie their social media efforts, like this fiesta piece, into the bigger picture. Ford, especially, forgets to tie all the pieces together - look at their YouTube accounts, hard to tell if its really them (at this point in time) or not.
What will be telling over the next 6 months is if they can work this piece in with their other marketing efforts. It certainly can have an effect on their demographic that they are targeting. Just look at what Scion did a little while ago w/ their social and WOM efforts, and how it affected the demographic who they aimed it towards.
I say, if it's wisely integrated, they can have some real success, but I'm not holding my breath. Ford can't even tie their Bullit Ford Mustang video cohesively together with their brand on YouTube.
disclosure: I was told old to be picked for the fiesta free car deal :( LOL
Ford is putting a good foot forward - getting extra buzz and trying. Will it sell more cars - part of selling cars is to be pat of the consideration process - my lease is up next year and I have added the Fiesta to one of the cars I will test drive - will I buy not sure will see how it stacks up. If Ford also backed up the car with quality and fun and great gas mileage then who knows they may have won me over.
The game is to be in it - this puts Ford in the game.
"Will it work?"
Well that depends on what the objective is.
I suspect this is the first part of a multi-stage campaign. If I had designed the effort I would use the 100 "seeded" consumers both for their social media coverage, which is already happening, and as a resource for target group testimonials.
They can also be Fiesta's local market shock troops, Obama did and is doing this well, for the local test drive element of the campaign described by @ScottMonte.
I don't know if it will work or not but lets give Ford credit for trying something out of the traditional automotive marketing box.
I really like this. I'm fascinated by the folks they selected and have already "met" some new people through the site. The groundswell is already working as I just heard about it, will tell my followers about it.....and on it goes.
An effective marketing strategy does not rely on one medium to get the message out. This is a cute little car and this effort will start to give it personality.
It's definitely a smart brand platform to build from. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks so much for covering this, Mack. Let me see if I can answer some questions by first making some clarifications to the program:
We're asking for 100% honest feedback - we specifically counseled the Fiesta Agents that we don't want glowing reviews unless they really feel that way. Their communities/audiences will see through something that's fake.
Because these are test vehicles and production is not yet in place (the plant is still under construction), we have the ability to change aspects of the vehicle. Nothing as drastic as the drive train or engine size, but things like ergonomics, dashboard layout, and other usability issues can be addressed and changed if necessary.
So, over time, we'll be building relationships with the agents, getting their input, and creating a stronger bond between them & Ford. We're not expecting to completely cut off communication with them at the end of the program.
Now, to address some specific concerns from some commenters:
@Rob Blatt: it's to raise awareness and get feedback before production begins. And yes, we're looking at the possibility of using the newly created content down the road. And no, we weren't influenced by another company. My role as head of social media is to oversee the strategy at the company.
@Mike Brewer: I'm not sure how "unadulterated" feedback would be collected, since this car won't be available in the U.S. for another year.
@Mack: Stay tuned. :)
@Li: We haven't fully rolled out the program yet, as it doesn't officially start until April 21. At that point, you'll not only be able to follow along on the Fiesta Movement page, but you'll also be able to see the content coming in on:
We're also working on an aggregator on The Ford Story where many of our social media initiatives will be grouped together.
As to the Bullitt edition of the Mustang, I'm not sure what you're talking about, Li. There are three different Bullitt-related videos on one of our YouTube channels.
Global Digital Communications
Ford Motor Company
@ScottMonty on Twitter
What I wanted to know is if you are going to let people know that basically half of Fords car Lineup is no longer built in the United States? This along with the majority of your Lincoln and Mercury are now being built in Mexico or in Canada. As for the cars made in Mexico how many of those parts are actually built by suppliers here in the US? I want Ford to do better as an American car company but this nonsense of you building half your fleet outside of the US is kind of sad.
@SteveDM: I appreciate your patriotism and desire to see Ford succeed. In my short time at Ford, I've come to understand that the automotive industry is much more complex than many make it out to be. I constantly see request to make our products entirely in the U.S., which is a little parochial at this point in the development of the world's economy.
The reality is that Ford is a global company. We have distribution channels to think about that are outside of the U.S., which means we need to make hard business decisions about where our assembly plants are located. In the case of the Fiesta, it will be built in Mexico, as it serves as a central location with respect to our North, Central and South American markets that will receive that car.
However, that's not to say that there won't be a significant U.S. influence on these (and other) vehicles. While the assembly takes place elsewhere in North America, you can be sure that we're making the vast majority of our purchases of parts in the U.S. The supplier base is an extremely important part of the automobile manufacturing process.
I suggest you read the excerpt from the plan we presented to Congress (which we've had in place for 2 years, btw). It includes mention of 10 assembly plants and 26 powertrain, stamping and components plants in the U.S., as well as 80% of our parts purchases coming from our U.S. supply base.
In this global economy, if we're to compete, it means becoming leaner and more aggressive, and as we move toward more global platforms (like the Fiesta), it means sourcing our supplies from fewer vendors, thus lowering our costs.
I'm sure no red-blooded American can argue with the notion of aggressive competition. If we continue to succeed, it will allow us to thrive, grow, and potentially create more U.S. jobs - which seems to be what you (and many others) would like.
Thanks for pushing us to be better. We're getting there, thanks to the great leadership of Alan Mulally and others, and as you can see, we're listening.
Disclosure - I was chosen to be a Fiesta Agent.
I'm pretty sure this campaign is going to prove to be a great initiative for Ford. They've chosen the agents wisely from what I've seen in their bios and what I know of my fellow agents from around the web. If Ford backs up this program with some traditional ad and PR support, it's a compelling piece of marketing that's going to get people talking.
I chose to participate in it not because I'm going to be a brand shill for Ford, but because I really believe in exploring new ways of telling a brand's story. While certainly some agents will be 'rah-rah I love my Fiesta', I'm sure there will be a few detractors. We all have our own credibility on the line and with such a public-facing project as this, we're not likely to 'sell out' our hard-earned reputations for a non-paying short-term marketing gig.
The stroke of genius with the Fiesta Movement is that it is unleashing the real-time creative energies of 100 smart, capable, web connected and trend-setting people all at the same time. Unexpected innovations and insights are likely. We'll be able to add our own input and shape this program with our own imaginations. We've already got fresh ideas for collaboration brewing in the back channels and most of us haven't even met yet.
I'm looking forward to seeing people's thoughts on the program as we go. Certainly it'll be interesting.
I think this is a move in the right direction. The challenge is that I owned several Fords throughout the late 80s and early 90s. I never had a Ford whose plastic interior parts didn't spontaneously fall apart, and I never had a Ford whose cooling system, transmission, or engine didn't repeatedly fail.
I don't have anything inherently against Ford. I want the company to succeed - they are one of our oldest national companies - but asking me to risk spending $20-30,000 for a new Ford when they've let me down so many times in the past is a major leap. They say their quality is great, but there's no way to be sure without spending the money. So my choice - I can buy a Ford and hope things have improved, or I can buy a Toyota, which has been turning out quality cars that don't break down or fall apart for as long as I can remember.
Whether it chooses to acknowledge the issue or not, Ford is in the same position now that Hyundai was in after its disastrous entry onto the U.S. market with that dreadful first 'round of low-quality cars. Hyundai has worked very hard for many years to address its reputation issues, and has finally largely dug itself out of that low-quality reputation hole, thanks to better engineering and attention to quality, and smart and generous warranties to help customers feel more comfortable about buying a Hyundai. Ford may or may not have addressed the quality issues that plagued it for the 15 years I owned the silly things, but it certainly hasn't offered the public mea culpa that would indicate to me that it at least knows what the problem was - and it hasn't offered the sorts of warranties that Hyundai provided to give us an excuse to make that leap.
Let's see how Ford deals with a situation where one of their cars gets impounded and the driver doesn't have the financial means to bail himself out.
Or when one of the drivers is the cause of a major accident and the injured parties sues Ford.
Or if someone gets a ticket and for some reason the car gets towed and plaed in police custody. What then.
Wonders if background checks included driving record warrant checks.
This is an interesting campaign and I believe the sphere of influence might get reached if the people who were picked were really fans of Ford. For instance, I would never be a good pick for this project because even though I get to drive a free car, I am too much of an import fan to even be remotely happy in promoting this. I sure hope they selected true Ford Enthusiasts and not just users who are good in social media.
@ACTORDAVIDTRAN: David, thank you for pointing out the potential pitfalls. It's hard to tell online, but I hope you're not wishing this on us, as a disgruntled applicant who we didn't select as an agent (full disclosure).
We have anticipated every possibility - and that includes having the appropriate insurance coverage, and having performed extensive background checks.
We're hoping we don't run into any of those issues, but we're certainly prepared for it.
@JustinSMV: We selected people who were enthusiastic about the program, showed their ability to entertain, and who have influence in their own areas. We did not determine whether they were fans of Ford or not - indeed, we've found that people who get in our cars who haven't considered Fords are the most surprised at what they see and experience. That's the notion of our nearly year-long marketing campaign where we invite people to Drive One.
One example of how this is playing out is that 55% of buyers of the new Ford Flex have never owned Fords before.
I remember getting all riled up over the Bold Moves (lack of) experiment. It will be interesting to see how this actually plays out.
I particularly like the fact that Ford will be taking feedback from the drivers and (perhaps) tweaking some aspects of the new car.
I think for this to transform from a campaign into a movement, it will need to be owned by the people who use the car. Obviously this starts with the ambassadors ... but there is still a long way to run.
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