Monday, April 13, 2009

The Ford Fiesta Campaign – As Exciting as a Colonoscopy pt. 1 of 3

I recently happened upon Ford's new social media marketing campaign that surrounds the re-launch of their Fiesta car. After looking into the campaign at length, I've decided I want to do a three part series on it (or four, if I feel so inclined), analyzing it in detail. Why? Because I think the campaign sucks - a lot. However, I think that there is a lot that can be learned from taking a closer look at Ford's mistake.

If you need filling in, Ford recently selected 100 "Agents," as they've dubbed them, to test out the 2010 Ford Fiesta for the next 6 months. These Agents are all Millennials, and social influencers. Ford selected these Agents by their geographical dispersion and their affinity towards social media; aka the more digital friends they had, the more likely they were to get a car. According to Ford: "[The] 100 agents are spending six months behind the wheel of their own Fiesta, sharing their experiences, and completing monthly missions to show you what experiencing the Ford Fiesta is all about, way in advance of the U.S. launch in 2010."

This sounds about as exciting as a colonoscopy.

I don't care what car you drive, a morning commute is a morning commute; it sucks, it's boring, and nobody talks about it in a positive manner. I've yet to hear someone tell me "wow, my experience driving to work this morning was exceptional, and it's all because of the new car I bought!" All you hear about is how much traffic sucked that morning, where the accidents were, how long you waited at the staggered onramp light. So please tell me Ford, why would I ever care about someone's daily "experience" driving your car? If the Agents are not writing about how much their commute sucked, they're probably not being honest.

I could understand it if it was something like a Land Rover, and they were writing about all of the cool off roading they did, or a Wrangler and how they made it up to the mountain to board despite the crazy snowfall that kept everyone else at home. But let's be honest about it, it's a hatchback – it's not much of a game changer.

This leads me to wonder if Ford knows how Word of Mouth Marketing (Viral marketing to the cool kids) actually works. While I don't have any qualms with them basically purchasing Fiesta fanboys (and girls), I actually think that was a strategic move, the topic isn't something that's actually going to provoke more consumers to pass along their message. Consumers are going to pass along a link/brand/commercial/video whatever, if it is something that they like and find valuable or entertaining. It doesn't matter how much you pay your Agents to pass along your campaign, if the campaign isn't interesting, then the consumers that the Agents share your message with will not continue to pass it along via Word of Mouth. If they really wanted to reach Gen Y, as they stated, they should have had a campaign that appealed to Gen Y's interests and not just their communication channels.

What Ford did well:

  • Identified the "influencers" of social media
  • Beautifully designed website
  • Careful launch along with New York International Auto Show

What Ford did wrong:

  • Unexciting campaign
  • Nothing (good) that will drive consumer Word of Mouth

-- Now Let Me Clear My Throat --

Josh Groth


Jenna said...

I dunno. If I got a free car I would be pretty excited. And so would my friends. However, how many Gen Y kiddies would pick a Ford Fiesta for their first "real" car purchase. Let's be honest - that is the issue...

Josh Groth said...

Jenna, I agree with you that getting a free car would be exciting. But how many of your friends would want to read your daily tweets about your experience driving it everyday...for 6 months. And how many of your friends would tell their friends about your daily tweets on what driving to work was like...Moreover, would those daily tweets drive your friends to a purchase decision?

And you're right, the car does not fit the demographic.

Barb said...

Great post, Josh. Seriously, what is the demographic for this car? I'm 45 and I don't know anybody who is interested, no matter what the age group. Maybe parents are buying these for their new teen drivers, but in my neighborhood the kids are getting VW Beetles and Mini Coopers.

New Googler said...


The Fiesta borrows from the European's styling. It's actually cool, fuel efficient and could be a domestic's answer to the VWs (a little passe now, no?) and Minis.

The campaign seems like an interesting "risk". At least Ford is trying something. None of the other American auto makers are doing anything of interest, and they all seem to miss the 16 - 30 year old demographic.

I think the Fiesta could actually be a success. The VW Beetles were hot ten years ago... not as much now. The Coopers remain hot, but the Scions are more economical and seem to be selling much better these days. The Fiesta could find its place this next year. Not unlike the Escort in the 1980s.

Scott Monty said...


Thanks for the post (and the follow-up, on which I'll also chime in on ). As far as your criticism, I think you're off-base because you clearly don't understand some key elements of the program and how it works.

1) The agents aren't going to be documenting their morning commutes. We're giving them specific "missions" each month that will take them to exciting places. In addition, many of them have already come up with their own ideas for activities they'd like to do with the cars. And please give us some credit - we selected agents that know how to engage with their communities.

2) A key part of the program is the feedback and input we're receiving from the agents along the way. We'll be integrating that into the final production of the vehicle when Job #1 finally hits next spring (that is, when the production begins on the first North American version of the Fiesta). This is more than just buzz generation.

@barb: You may not know anyone who's interested in it because the car isn't here yet. Let me give you two examples of 40-something Fiesta agents who *are* interested, and interesting:
Kelly O. and Eric.

Scott Monty
Global Digital Communications
Ford Motor Company@ScottMonty

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