Ford Turns to Consumer-Created Online Video to Create Fiesta Buzz

Detroit’s Big Three have been on the uphill side of the learning curve for months. The mantra in the auto industry has become “adapt or die”. GM is now offering a 60-day money-back guarantee on its entire line of new vehicles. Toyota has turned the clock back to the Age of Aquarius to promote the 2010 Prius. Automakers, as a whole, are looking for innovative and affordable ways to promote their brands, and the emphasis is on affordable.

Million dollar Super Bowl ads may be a thing of the past. Automakers are, for the most part, operating in the red. Consumers have become hyper-sensitive to even the appearance of extravagance and waste by the auto industry. Besides, the marketing landscape has fundamentally changed in the last couple of years. Audiences have become more fragmented and traditional media has lost its dominance.

To meet the challenges, Ford Motor Company has created an “experimental marketing department”. For the last six months Ford has been leveraging the power of social media including Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube to promote its revamped Fiesta.

The YouTube initiative has been hugely successful. This past spring, Ford presented 100 YouTube luminaries with a European-spec Fiesta, a prepaid gas card and pre-paid insurance. In return, the widely followed YouTube celebs were asked to create and post online videos featuring the Fiesta.

The campaign, which was dubbed “Fiesta Movement”, was a huge success. Participants exceeded the number of videos Ford had anticipated by double. Viewership reached 3.5 million and awareness climbed to 38% among the 16- to 24-year-old demographic. Interestingly, viewers in that age demographic are too young to remember the original Fiesta which spent four years (1975-1980) on the roads of America before being discontinued as a U.S. offering.

According to CNW Research, the 38% awareness number is comparable to that of the Ford Edge and Flex which are already available in the U.S. market. Fiesta Brand Manager Sam De La Garza says, “It’s huge in terms of where we are in our launch cycle without doing any large media buys.”

The redesigned Fiesta will not be in domestic dealer showrooms until the third quarter of next year. The dilemma for Ford is how to keep the buzz alive in the interim. Ford is required by law to return the Euro-engineered Fiestas to their country of origin within a year in order to comply with federally mandated emissions standards.

De La Garza and his team in the experimental marketing department are hard at work developing “Fiesta Movement 2.0”. Although the details have yet to be ironed out, De La Garza knows one thing for certain; the advertising spend will be 80% to 90% lower than a traditional media campaign.

De La Garza says, “The traditional ways of going to market, the national spends with print and magazines and TV are definitely in the plan, but the percentages will change as we dial up the experiential and social-media front.”

Ford will no doubt roll out a traditional media campaign when the Fiesta launches in 2010. The alternative would be to cede the traditional media audience to the competition. That’s not a gamble Ford is will to take, especially since the Kia Soul and Nissan Cube will be debuting in the U.S. at about the same time. However, Ford’s experience with Fiesta Movement has made it a believer in the power of social media and, in particular, online, consumer-created video. New media will undoubtedly be a major component in the marketing mix surrounding the launch of the Fiesta.

Posted in In the News

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