Ford Hauls Out F-150 Fuel Economy Message
A new campaign for the 2011 F-150 is focused on that task. The TV, Internet and print push spotlights the truck's new series of EcoBoost 6-cylinder engines with the idea, in so many words, that you can save gas and haul ass.
The efforts also feature the voice of the frenetic comedian Denis Leary, whose voice has, for two years, been central to Ford's TV ads for the F-150. In addition to touting truck capability, the ads also spend a considerable amount of time discussing fuel economy, which is fairly atypical for the segment. In one, Leary says: "Hey, here's a little good news. If you want decent mileage in a pickup, you don't have to order your engine off the kiddie menu anymore."
The campaign also has an online video series that shows guys taking one of the new engines off the assembly line at Ford's Cleveland Engine Plant, getting overheated, frozen, and variously tortured and abused before being thrown into a truck that drives across the Rockies to the Pacific Northwest. There, the truck hauls felled trees. Then it tows an 11,000-pound trailer at top speed at the Homestead-Miami Speedway and competes against the competition, towing 9,000 pounds at Davis Dam, Nev.
Doug Scott, Ford Truck group marketing manager, says two spots are airing now -- one with a "choke hold" theme about fuel efficiency of Ford EcoBoost engines used in the truck with a wrestler wrapped up in a gas-pump hose, and in January another spot will launch on EcoBoost. He says fuel economy moved way up the list of qualities that matter to potential truck buyers in 2008 and 2009 when gasoline prices were way up.
"When we were launching the current F150 in the third and fourth quarter of '08 and the second quarter last year, big fuel prices spiked over $4 a gallon in a short period of time. It was after that when fuel took on more importance and entered the Top 10 purchase reasons for choosing a given model of full-sized pickup. Traditionally, it hadn't even been in the Top 10."
Scott says research shows that fuel economy is the biggest unmet need in pickups. He says customers have said if there is a manufacturer who can deliver significant improvement in fuel economy -- 20% or greater improvement -- then they will consider switching brands. "The good news for Ford is, the owners of GM and Toyota trucks are more fuel conscious, so our opportunity to conquest is enhanced."
Scott tells Marketing Daily that the automaker has to convince consumers that the V6 has bona fides. "In the full-sized pickup business, it's been an axiom for a long time that that 'there is no replacement for displacement.' It was the whole essence of truck as tool, for towing a payload in years past. We knew that as we were developing the lineup, there was certain segment of the market that would have strong feelings in that regard.
"The beauty of the approach we are taking is that I don't need to convert everybody. In my new four-engine lineup I have the traditional V8. And it also has improved fuel economy. So I have that answer for that person. But for the people who are more open-minded, the V6 has 20% better fuel economy than what's available today. So I have a really flexible lineup; I can address buyer needs now, plus I am also in position for when fuel prices go up, which is my plan and forecast."
Ford is in a good position because it is the only automaker coming out with a major change for the 2011 model year. "We introduced the 2009 model year F-150 and Dodge brought in the new Ram. So two years later we are changing over the entire powertrain lineup, meaning GM has the oldest product in light duty and there is no action from Ram on their product," says Scott, adding that F-150 is up 3.5 points in segment share on a year-over-year. He says 2.5 to 3 points of that is at the expense of Dodge.