Ford's User-involved Focus Effort Is Clever And Unique
Upon seeing a press notice touting user-shot footage included in a new Ford Focus ST campaign, I was all ready to get my pants up in a gander (is that a workable idiom for frustration? It is now.). I started raging, for the 3,462,225,374th time, about the insanity of a company loosing its death grip on the branding/marketing reins by giving needy consumers some say in the matter. I began sketching out my 370th letting-Joe-Consumer-have-a-hand-in-your-marketing-is-stupid-because-Joe-Consumer-is-stupid-and-does-stupid-things-like-fix-the-toilet-with-a-blowtorch-and-polish-his-toenails-with-Wite-Out screed.
Unfortunately for fans of misdirected Internet rage, I couldn't muster up the energy. Because Ford has done something clever and unique with the user-involved Focus campaign: It has given Joe Consumer and Jill Brand-Advocate a small degree of control, rather than all of it. In essence, Ford has handed over the keys to the brand -- but smartly insisted on having them back by 8 p.m., so that the sitter can tidy up the mess before mom and dad get home.
The video in question features a pair of Ford Focuses (Foci?) whipping through Key West on a closed course, lined on both sides by local folks armed with lo-fi cameras. The clip is culled from their footage, which gives it the U-R-there immediacy that marketers crave more than retweets and candy corn combined. What we see, at least in theory, is what the people on the street saw: A cool-looking blur of a car going all vroom-vroom and whatnot.
Note how I didn't mention anything about the Focus ST's curves, mileage, storage capacity, glove-box finish or in-dash bluetoothy GPS computer doohickey. Thanks to the use of spectator-filmed footage and its lack of professional sheen, we don't get any of that -- which, I assume, was exactly Ford's intention.
The Focus is already indelibly branded as a supremely practical automobile. What the next iteration of its branding had to do was add some sex appeal, to make it look like an acceptable backup venue for a make-out session. The campaign accomplishes that, and then some. It's only a matter of time before somebody describes it in the YouTube comments section as "hoTTT!"
If there's a drawback, it's that the Focus video includes far too many shots of the unofficially deputized camerapeople. Really, now: Among the images that too frequently find their way into marketing campaigns and everything else put to film nowadays, shots of random peons capturing the action on their phones rank as the most aimless. Without the people-holding-phone shots, would we somehow mistake the shaky phone-cam footage for something slick and manufactured? Are the phone-person shots going to vest the final product with some small degree of aspirational authenticity, like "wow, it could've been me shooting McCartney from the 73rd row on the floor, rather than basking in the one-off performance of 'For No One'"? Of course not.
Despite that small complaint, there's no reason to belabor my point: the Focus ST campaign connects on a level that few automaker efforts have in recent years. Here's hoping the company gives whoever came up with the involve-consumers-but-not-too-deeply approach a well-deserved raise.