Ford tackles product introduction with social media channels leading the way

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When I read the email, I decided I couldn’t pass up the invite from Karen Untereker of 360 Digital Olgivy to attend the Social Media Day at the Chicago Auto Show. I talked Doug Tangwall of End Result Marketing and Madison Business Womens Expo producer, Marian Walluks of MCW Productions, into making the trip with me. Front and center was the special social media announcement from Ford Motor Company and the opportunity to meet Scott Monty and other key marketing people at Ford.

Several other auto companies had some type of social media activity: Hyundai had a social media scavenger hunt; Toyota was having a vote for the pluralized form of Prius; Audi had a special lunch for FaceBook fans that helped bring the new Audi TT RS to the U.S. It was not the same experience as at the Ford booth.

A road trip adventure

Jim Farley, Group Vice President, Global Sales Marketing and Service, Ford Motor Company gave the keynote address at the Midwest Automotive Media Association /Chicago Auto Show Breakfast , and covered all the key areas across the organization and for different products including the Focus, Fiesta and the Explorer. With the 2011 Ford Explorer being named the North American Truck of the Year, he highlighted the company’s marketing approach that keeps the consumers voice from social media in the forefront.

“First, we start early and we’re flexible in the direction the campaign can take. Then, we engage in a conversation with consumers and influencers – get the buzz building, and use that buzz to determine the direction we take next. We allow the customer to influence everything. But we need to be relevant and authentic. In short, we have to give our brand to others. Give your brand to others. That’s not easy for a 107-year old Fortune 10 company to do. Today, though, it’s a vitally important thing to do.” James Farley, Ford

Ford makes social media history

Amy Marentic speaks At Chicago Auto Show on Ford Explorer Social Media Campaign

Amy Marentic, Ford speaking at social media day at Chicago Auto Show 2011

At the Ford Display on the main floor, Amy Marentic, Marketing Manager for the SUV and Cross over vehicles at Ford Motor Company, gave an impressive presentation on the actual marketing effort highlighting the social media channels and strategy. Ford skipped the traditional press media day to make their announcement for the marketing and social media campaign for the Ford Explorer at the social media day event on the Ford show display floor.

As Jim Farley stated in his Keynote address, Ford started early and was flexible. They spent time listening and talking to their customers in preparation. Marentic said that key to the planning was the overall marketing pillars that are the drivers to Ford’s efforts. Quality, Green, Safety and Smart. Marentic was emphatic that Ford Explorer is doing marketing differently then they have in the past and certainly different than their competitors.

The social media campaign

According to Marentic, the Explorer required a reinvention of a marketing campaign and that’s where social media played a leading role. Although an all access tour across America and a national advertising campaign are not new tactics, how Ford went about integrating social media into the concepts was news.

Part 1 – Amy Marentic | Ford Motor Company | Social Media Day Chicago Auto Show

First and foremost, Ford revealed the new Ford Explorer on FaceBook in July 2010. Then, on July 26th, they took it across the country to 9 cities. The statistics were impressive, on Facebook the reveal had 75,000 fans logged, 50,000 likes and was #1 Twitter trends and #2 Google Trends (second to Lindsay Lohan per Marentic) at the time. If that weren’t enough Ford.com had the second busiest traffic day since they started tracking on the site.

Part 2 – Amy Marentic | Ford Motor Company | Social Media Day Chicago Auto Show

Engage in conversation

To engage in conversation, Explorer live was introduced on Facebook and the Ford team including, marketing managers, engineers, and a designated answer man responded to questions posted by fans. Eric Peterson, Scott Monty, Amy Marentic and the Public Affairs team took turns answering questions live. Ford took the engagement a step further by creating funny videos Anwsers Man to answer the questions and posting them on Youtube.

They have over 60 videos posted on Youtube and over 1M views. The video views continue to grow and new videos are inspired by customers. The videos are now also on the Ford.com website along with a Google type search that makes it easier to find all types of information on the main site. Amy indicated that the search was new on the Ford site, and somehow I was surprised that they haven’t integrated a search function like this sooner, considering how large a Fortune 10 car company site might be.

Allow the customer to influence everything

The questions posted on Explores Facebook became the backbone of the national advertising campaign. All the print ads are questions that were asked on Facebook. While special dealer nights and auto shows are part of the traditional and expected marketing efforts, the GO. DO. ADVENTURE engagement campaign is expected to be the extension of all efforts. For the national TV and print advertising, fans asked that Ford not do a traditional commercial but instead really show how the customers are using their Explorer in their free time with their family.

Go. Do. Adventure

The highlight of the social media press conference was when Amy announced the GO .DO. ADVENTURE contest where they will be accepting 250 word stories from fans about what they would do with one week, $1000, and a Ford Explorer. They will be picking 10 people and will deliver the 1 week adventure and film them. The final will be a one hour special about each of the adventures.

Wendy Soucie submits her response to Fords Go Do Adventure

Wendy Soucie submits her response to Fords Go Do Adventure

At the Chicago Auto Show, we were able to sign up on the spot and of the people signing up during the special social media day, they would be selecting 3 people in addition to the other 10 that signed up on line or on Facebook. I did wait inline to get my submission entered. After talking to my fellow Madison groupies, Doug Tangwall and Marian Walluks – they had some good stories that would get my vote.

Be relevant and authentic

In summary, Ford does sound like they are doing things differently. They are evolving their campaign as they move forward. That can’t be easy with such a large company so they clearly are structuring their teams differently as well.

Key to this effort is that they don’t just have a social media team. They have social media integrated across departments and spidered into every effort. Scott Monty himself, said his role is to ensure the company business goals and strategy are filtered through everything they do. Mostly due to what the customers and social media friends who become advocates and evangelists have offered back in comments and conversation, Ford is moving into a deeper engagement phase with the GO. DO. ADVENTURE.

So what happens now?

I left the auto show feeling much different about Ford than when I went in. I certainly got to meet and talk with Scott Monty and that made me feel more connected to Ford than before I walked in the door.

Ford has engagement and it feels different. In full disclosure, my family owns two Prii (that’s what I picked for plural), a Toyota Tacoma truck, a 1985 Saab, and a 2008 Subaru Impreza. I used to drive a Ford Taurus for a company car, and up until a year ago, my husband lovingly worked on this 1950 Ford Truck called Lightening.

The way Ford spoke to the media (the event was just for us), what they showed me (how they actually listened), the ride I had in the new Explorer (I smelled the leather seats and went over the tilting teeter toter), all left me with a very tactile response. I drove home thinking that instead of trying to drive a Prius in the recent Wisconsin Snowpocalypse, I should have a Smart Drive Ford Explorer.

Have you watched any of the new Ford commercials or checked out their FaceBook page?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Wendy Soucie
Wendy Soucie provides clients a unique perspective on social business strategy across an organization. Wendy applies and follows specific social media strategy and methodologies for assessments, network growth, contribution, participation and execution. She is a certified social media strategist, Social Media Academy (Palo Alto, CA). She is an accomplished trainer and keynote personality speaker.

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