Ford Banks On Consumer Input With Fiesta Effort
It is also a savvy move by the cash-strapped automaker because it is relatively inexpensive and hits squarely at the Millennial target buyer who spends a lot of time on social media sites. The company says Millennials will make up some 70 million new drivers by next year, or 28% of the driving population. And these younger buyers are also less likely than older consumers to have acquired strong feelings of loyalty for an auto brand.
Marketing Daily talked to Sam De La Garza ("SDLG"), Ford's small car marketing manager, and Scott Monty ("SM"), manager of digital and multimedia communications.
Q: When does this program start?
SM: The application process ends on March 13, and that's when we will be able to make a decision about who the actual 100 "agents" are. We will probably have that ready by April 12, around the time of the N.Y. auto show.
Q: Is the major purpose here product/focus-group type feedback to Ford engineers and designers, or viral marketing for the car?
SDLG: The overall purpose is to get feedback on the car, and secondary is to get the entire messaging out to social networks. Of course, there is a major balance here because we know we need to generate a lot of excitement on the one hand, but I'll tell you the opportunity to gain feedback on this car is a heavy priority.
Q: How do you decide on who these 100 "agents" are who get the Fiesta for six months?
SM: Part of it is their demonstrated enthusiasm for and interest in the program, to see if they are into the whole thing. Second is demonstrating that they have an online audience they can share it with. They may be regular folks who have blogs, would-be journalists or part-time auto bloggers.
SDLG: I think as we see the caliber of people [applying], we have changed our ideas a bit on the fly. Our original thoughts were around trying to use filters and criteria like: "Do you have over 500 friends on Facebook?," "Do you have over 1,000 followers on Twitter or 250,000 subscribers on YouTube?" But these are basic thresholds; the next step is seeing what type of "pull" they get from their application videos on YouTube, which shows they can be a valuable agent for us.
One of the fascinating things I've learned is that while we sat in a conference room war-gaming this out, we focused on individuals, but we are also getting families and couples submitting YouTube videos, which is really exciting because now we can hit two networks all at once. It's fascinating to see how flexible we have to be with this new approach.
Q: How will Ford manage the program and topics?
SM: We are going to do it twofold. We will let them document whatever they want as they normally would, because they are already influencers. They will either have blogs or be adept with video, so they are natural storytellers--the usual suspects with social media. Then we will give them an assignment each month--a mission per month where we ask them each to do something--say, a scavenger hunt, something related to charity, or some adventure. And they will talk about it. They pretty much do everything, and we are going to aggregate it and disseminate it, either through our "Fiesta Movement" site or our Facebook site.
Q: Will the video content they create become part of Ford's TV creative for Fiesta?
SM: We haven't decided yet. The launch is late spring 2010, so we may be in a position to use their content for future marketing content.
Q: Are you trying to make sure the Fiesta "agents" who get the vehicles are geographically diverse?
SDLG: We do realize that we need to grab all the major markets out there, so we want overall geographic distribution. And [sub-compact] cars play well in the "smile" States (the Northwest, Southwest, Southeast and Northeast).
SM: We want to try to hit the top 20 markets, ideally.
Q: There's some risk involved with this program, right? I'm thinking of GM's adventure doing a consumer-content program for the Chevy Tahoe, which ended up generating negative ads for the SUV.
SM: We are pretty confident in the car. It's already a huge hit in Europe--our first car from a truly global platform--and people in the States are looking for smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles.
Q: But do you have any control over their input?
SM: Well, they can say whatever they want--but, for example, if they have specific mechanical problems, we will ask to hear from them directly first, but ultimately this entire experience is through their eyes. That's what we want--to get it out there: "Why not try it yourself."