Ford has held itself to a frenetic vehicle-launch schedule over the past year-and-a-half. Part of the rollout schedule involves filling a large void in the Dearborn, Mich. automaker's portfolio: hybrid and hybrid plug-in vehicles.
In addition to rolling out the redesigned Fusion and Fusion hybrids last year, the company also introduced a new hybrid nameplate, C-MAX. The campaign, which launched last fall, used the "La Linea" hand-drawn line character from the ’70's and ’80's.
The Blue Oval is doing more hand drawings for chapter two of the C-MAX campaign, this time to promote the plug-in hybrid version of the car, called C-MAX Energi. The new variant is one of five vehicles -- including Focus Electric, Fusion Hybrid, and the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid -- that will have launched by the end of spring this year. The vehicles will be on showroom floors at about 900 EV Certified dealers, about one-third of the U.S. total.
The new campaign includes a pair of new TV spots, print ads, billboards, new digital elements, gas station pump media buys, in-cinema ads, social and direct mail components, and product integration on the new ABC reality cooking show “The Taste,” and on "American Idol" -- of which Ford has been a long-time category-exclusive sponsor. The car will appear in the March 8 episode of the culinary show, with the top dog in the kitchen getting a C-MAX Hybrid.
C.J. O'Donnell, marketing and strategy manager for Ford's lineup of electrified vehicles, tells Marketing Daily that about 54% of C-MAX buyers are new to Ford. A third of them, he notes, are from the usually hybrid-resistant Midwest.
"C-MAX customers are a bit older and better educated. They are more affluent, and tend to be typically near-luxury or luxury customers," he says. "Beyond that, they are tech-savvy people driven by both social and economic concerns." Ford, meanwhile, says its share of the hybrid market grew about nine percentage points last year, with Toyota Prius and Honda CR-V the top competitive trade-ins.
A major challenge for C-MAX -- and, really for any new nameplate -- is getting people to know it exists. "We are really, in many ways, trying to push higher-level awareness for C-MAX," says O'Donnell, who adds that among Ford's alternative powertrain vehicles, the Fusion Hybrid is best known. "C-MAX is rapidly gaining, but it's not where we want to be, so we are extending presence with media spend far deeper into this year than we typically would for a launch."
He says that both TV and grassroots and experiential programs like the "Power of Choice," and "Go Further Tour" events, and "Green Festivals" relationship have done the most to drive awareness -- the latter because it allows direct validation of C-MAX versus the competitive set. The automaker says some 16,000 people have visited those programs since their inception.