The unique – albeit unconventional – idea is to catch the attention of a very specific group of consumers who have preconceived, and often mistaken, notions about Ford and let the fuel economy, technology, quality and design of the company’s new vehicles speak for themselves, according to Jim Farley, group vice president, Marketing, Sales & Service.
“We’re aiming these ads directly at the skeptics on the coasts,” said Farley, referring to the 70 percent of retail customers who live in the smile states that stretch along the U.S. coastline from New England down through the Southern border of the country and up the shoreline to the Pacific Northwest.
“These consumers have blinders up when they see a Ford logo so we have to do something that’s disruptive and unexpected from a car company if we expect to get noticed by them,” said Farley. “If they’re going to trade in their Honda or Toyota – which they love – we’ve got to shake it up just right, show them the real facts and then constantly reinforce that Ford is a different company than what they think.”
The unbranded 30- and 60-second ads will run for seven days beginning tonight during popular television programs such as House, Dancing with the Stars, 2 Broke Girls, Smash and Jimmy Kimmel Live. The spots begin with vehicles in shadows. Someone slowly pulls the cover off of one of them as soft, compelling music plays in the background. After the vehicle is finally revealed – about 15 seconds – the narrator says:
“So let’s say you want to change the way people think about cars. What would you have to do? You would have to go further with plug-ins that are projected to take you over 100 mpge, with gas vehicles equipped with EcoBoost engines combining power and efficiency and with advanced technology that not only hears your voice but that opens doors for you and practically parks itself. If you wanted to truly redefine what a car can be, you would have to go further than anyone thought you could go.”
At the end of the ads, consumers will be directed to a dedicated website that explains what it means to Go Further. The site then sends them to the Ford Social site where they are invited join the advocate program, stay up to date on Ford’s progress, and help tell the Ford story.
Farley says that while it may be considered more efficient by some to point people to the company’s shopping site at ford.com, that’s not the initial intent of the ads.
“The message is that we go further with our products and technology so that our employees, our dealers and ultimately our customers can go further,” he explained. “We have so many fans now who really love our brand and who are talking about Ford and we think it’s more effective for them to tell others about us.”
Vehicles featured in the ad campaign are the Ford Fiesta, Focus ST, 2013 Escape and the all-new 2013 Fusion Energi. According to Farley, two thirds of Americans shopping for a new car today look at vehicles from one of three segments represented by those vehicles.
“These are the vehicles we believe are the most surprising to people,” said Farley. “Everyone knows what a Mustang is and how fantastic that is and everyone knows what an F-Series truck is and how amazing that is. But what people don’t know is that we make phenomenal small cars and small SUVs.”
After one week, Ford-branded spots with a similar look, tone and feel to the first set of ads will air in a big media push for an additional six weeks.
“If people haven’t discovered who we are online after the first week, we’ll come back in the following weeks and answer that question for them,” said Farley. “We want them to say, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t have thought of Ford,’ or ‘I didn’t think Fords looked like that.’”
At the end of the day, Farley is hoping that all of the intrigue set in motion by the unbranded ads will lead to an open, spirited discussion of Ford in the online environment.
“I would like to see a nationwide almost ‘Obama election-like’ conversation online about what people think about Ford and what the reality of our products is today,” he said. “I’m okay if some people don’t like the brand or if they don’t like this vehicle or that vehicle but at least they’re engaged. If you can engage people, your brand is going somewhere.”
Farley says employees can support the primary brand campaign by encouraging friends and family to join the discussion.
“Probably the most impactful thing employees can do is ask people to go to social.ford.com and share their story because the coolest thing that can happen in this day and age is literally to talk to each other about the brand,” he said. “That’s when we’re going to go further, especially if employees have friends and family on the coasts. Those are the people we really need to get talking about us.”
The Importance of Coastal Customers
Consumers who live in the Eastern, Southern and Western coasts of the U.S. represent a whopping 70 percent of retail customers. The remaining 30 percent of the car-buying public resides in the Midwest and Central portions of the U.S. where Ford maintains a strong presence in the automotive market.
For example, in the Great Lakes region of the U.S. – which includes Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, St. Paul and Detroit – internal Ford data shows that Toyota’s share of the industry is roughly 11 percent compared to Ford’s 15 percent. But on the East Coast – places like Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC – Toyota’s share is 17 percent compared to Ford’s 9 percent.
“When you get to 15 or 20 percent share, it’s very hard to grow beyond that. There are just too many good products and companies and you have to start discounting heavily to maintain that kind of high,” explained Farley. “So when we talk about profitable growth for all in the U.S. that means the easiest place to grow is in those regions of the country where we have the 9 percent share. That’s where Ford’s future is.”
Farley says Ford’s new products were designed to go after those important coastal customers.
“These are customers who live in big metropolitan markets. They’re busy. They spend a lot of time in their car. They drive twice as much as people who live in the Midwest because real estate prices are so high that they have to commute a long way,” he explained. “So all the things that we offer in our vehicles like fuel economy, quality, technology in the car means a lot more to them because they’re living in their cars.”
Going Further Across the Globe
In January, Ford introduced employees to a new global brand promise, which was designed to give a voice to the One Ford plan. The new U.S. primary brand advertising campaign takes Go Further to the next level by communicating it for the first time to customers and highlighting the special attributes that distinguish the Ford brand from its competitors.
“At Ford, we go further because we serve each other – and that’s service to the local community, our dealers, ourselves as employees and our customers,” said Farley. “We are also committed to innovation and making our customers’ lives better in surprising ways. But we want to go further than just innovate. We want to make that innovation available to everyone, not just a few people.”
All Ford regions throughout the world have introduced the brand promise to employees. Ford of Europe was the first region to share the message with external customers. Farley says that’s because Europe is the furthest down the road in terms of launching global DNA products.
“Europe has launched the Fiesta and the Focus. They’ve also launched the C-MAX and are about to launch the B-MAX,” he said.
In addition to traditional advertising, Ford of Europe has been using social media to communicate the Go Further messaging. Check out the entertaining way they illustrate Ford’s active park assist at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAM_HLj1QOo
Farley says the time is right for Ford North America to begin communicating the brand promise to consumers.
“We are at the tipping point in the U.S. where we have enough global DNA product evidence that says we are truly different,” said Farley. “We are at this magical time where we have finished Focus, we’ve started the pre-launch campaign for Escape and we’re getting ready to start the Fusion.”
Ford’s Asia-Pacific and South America regions will introduce the Go Further message to external customers later this year following the launch of the EcoSport in the third quarter in Brazil and all of the other volume products coming with EcoSport in Asia.