Building Customer Awareness
One important goal of our marketing and communications activities is to increase consumers’ knowledge of our products and our corporate performance. We are particularly focused on improving consumers’ awareness of the Company’s excellent quality, safety, environmental and social performance. We use a wide range of communication methods to share information about Ford with potential customers and to get feedback from drivers. This Sustainability Report is one key element of that strategy. We also engage in two-way communications with consumers and other stakeholders through a variety of stakeholder engagement forums.
These communication efforts – coupled with delivering products with world-class quality, fuel economy, technology and other features – are paying off. We saw increases in favorable opinion and purchase consideration for our products across the U.S., Canada, India and Thailand.
We track consumers’ familiarity with, opinion and consideration of, and shopping and purchase intentions for our vehicles as part of our brand value and awareness tracking. Tracking these elements helps us to understand how consumers view our vehicles and where we need to focus our product development and communications efforts to improve consumers’ perceptions of and interest in our vehicles.
Social media channels, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs, are increasing in importance and influence, especially with the so-called “millennial generation,” i.e., those born from the late 1970s through the late 1990s. With smartphone and tablet use growing – one recent statistic cites iPhones being created at a faster rate than babies being born – the mobile element of social media will continue to drive the adoption and widespread use of social media.
We are using social media in innovative ways to connect with customers and get the word out earlier than ever about our new products. With the Fiesta Movement in 2009, for example, we put the new Ford Fiesta in the hands of 100 consumers and let them drive it and talk about it via social media channels for six months. In 2010, we were the first automaker to skip the auto show and go straight to our fans, revealing the all-new Ford Explorer on Facebook. Also in 2010, Focus Rally: America showcased the all-new Ford Focus in an online interactive reality show. In 2011, we introduced Doug, the wisecracking orange puppet, in a web video series. Doug also had his own Twitter account and Facebook page where he interacted with fans and drove purchase consideration among a nontraditional set of consumers. This year with Escape Routes, we’re taking it to the next level as we make the ultimate interactive reality show bigger, better and more exciting, with an integration of original programming on NBC on Saturday nights for six weeks.
Beyond these large campaigns, our efforts with groups of influencers have expanded as well. In June 2011, we invited 100 digital influencers from technology, environmental and lifestyle blogs and shows to join us in Dearborn for a two-day “TED-style” conference called Forward with Ford. At this conference, credible third-party experts and Ford subject-matter experts shared views on issues that are affecting everyone globally. It was a major success, with thousands of pieces of content being produced and Ford being credited as a thought leader for attempting such an event.
We followed up on this in January 2012 by inviting 150 bloggers from 16 countries to Detroit for the North American International Auto Show for the reveal of the 2013 Ford Fusion, Fusion Hybrid and C-MAX Energi. The bloggers treated the event like traditional journalists, holding scrums with our executive team and producing enough content to dominate with a 40 percent share of voice at the entire show.
We continue to actively use Twitter to engage with consumers on all matters, including customer service. We answer questions, provide information and give customers help when needed. Twitter remains the best resource for real-time assessment of what people are saying about us and provides us with a valuable platform for listening.
And, we are making it easier for visitors to our Ford websites to find third-party content about Ford online, particularly with the ever-evolving “Ford Social” site. We hope that integrating third-party information into our sites will provide a valuable service to consumers and will show our confidence in the vehicles we’re producing. We were recognized in 2011 for our use of social media to communicate sustainability, ranking third in the SMI-Wizness Social Media Sustainability Index. This ranking highlighted our “Ford Social” site, sustainability reporting website and use of Twitter.
Through these and other innovative communication methods, we are seeking to stimulate user discussions about our products. Opportunities for discussions and information monitoring on the Internet are countless. So, in addition to the institutionalized efforts of our Communications and Marketing divisions, we are empowering some of our employees to communicate about Ford on the web by making our “digital participation guidelines” more widely available and giving employees the information they need to communicate successfully in these arenas. We think that allowing employees to have open and real communications within their digital communities sends a clear message that Ford is committed to forging relationships online and being accessible to its audiences. For more on the guidelines, see the Governance section.
Other Nontraditional Marketing
We use a range of other nontraditional marketing and communications efforts to increase awareness of our products and engage consumers and stakeholders. Through our Drive One campaign in North America, for example, we offer opportunities for people to experience our vehicles firsthand. The goal of Drive One is to encourage people who might not otherwise be considering a Ford product to see for themselves what we offer. Drive One is based on our belief that, when people drive our vehicles, they will have more positive opinions of our products and will be more likely to buy them. The campaign highlights Ford’s four key brand pillars: safety, quality, green technologies and smart technologies.
Based on the Drive One approach, we hosted our first-ever “global test-drive” event to launch the all-new Focus. For this event, we chose 50 consumers from around the world and flew them to Spain for a two-day driving experience in Focus prototypes, even before the car was in dealerships. We chose the test drivers through our Focus Facebook page. We also asked them to record their experiences and their views and share with others directly through their social networks.
In a similar vein, we hosted a Built Ford Tough Roundup to launch the 2011 F-150. This test-drive campaign gave thousands of potential customers the opportunity to test drive the new Ford F-150 months before it arrived in dealer showrooms. The program allowed people to see how the truck compares to competitor vehicles in an acceleration drive, and to test how the new EcoBoost® engine performed when towing a trailer.
We’re taking another step forward in 2012 by introducing a new global brand promise, which is summarized by the phrase “Go Further.” Go Further, put simply, represents our culture and what makes Ford different from any other automaker. It promises that we are always going to go further to deliver Great Products, a Strong Business and a Better World for each other and for our customers. While Go Further will be used for marketing and advertising beginning in 2012, it is much more than a tagline. It’s about how Ford employees deliver ingenious products, make them available to everyone and believe in serving each other, our customers and our communities. Our ONE Ford plan is not changing. Go Further is the spirit we put into delivering that plan every day.
We believe that supporting causes that are important to our customers is a key way to show our commitment to social responsibility and strengthen our community ties. We emphasize this approach through the “Drive One 4 UR School” campaign. Through this program, participants test-drive a Ford Explorer, Focus or Fiesta or other new Ford vehicle and help raise money for their local high school. For each test-drive that occurs during the single-day events, Ford donates $20 (up to a total of $6,000 per event) to fund sporting and other activities at the designated school. Since the program’s inception in 2007, and as of February 2012, more than 2,800 of these events have taken place across the country, raising more than $10 million to support high schools nationwide through Drive One 4 UR School and its program extensions. These events have enabled more than 495,800 participants to test-drive Ford products and have proven especially beneficial in getting non-Ford owners into Ford vehicles, as approximately 69 percent of participants did not currently own a Ford product. Feedback from participants shows that both purchase consideration and favorable opinion of the Ford brand improved after individuals had a chance to get behind the wheel and experience the Ford vehicle lineup firsthand.
We are also working to improve the effectiveness of our auto show presence around the world. Approximately 24 million people attend auto shows in the U.S. alone, so these are important opportunities to engage and share information with potential customers. At all of the major auto shows, we now use a wide range of interactive exhibits that help us better engage visitors and provide the kind of hands-on experiences that keep people at our exhibits longer and influence customer decision making. In fact, our exhibits are now the most interactive of any automaker. At the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, for example, we had 22 interactive exhibits, including slot car racing, live games and shows, vehicle simulators, and electric vehicle rides on an elevated track. The exhibits revolve around our core brand attributes of fuel economy, quality, safety and smart technologies. For example, the displays included a hands-on experience with the Fusion Hybrid’s SmartGauge™ with EcoGuide technology, as well as interactive touch tables illustrating the environmental benefits of both soy-based seat cushions and EcoBoost engines.
Finally, we use traditional advertising to inform consumers about our products and our corporate performance. We use three primary advertising strategies: corporate-level communications about Ford Motor Company, advertising about our brands and specific products, and dealer-level product advertising. The goal of these advertising strategies is to sell vehicles. But just as important, we are aiming to increase general awareness about the excellence of our products and our corporate performance among people who are not yet in the market for a vehicle. To develop new products, we respond to market demands through our market research and product development efforts. Through our advertising, we hope to increase interest in and preference for our vehicles and our Company based on the excellence of our products and the positive actions of the Company.
As part of our ONE Ford transformation, we are working to improve the effectiveness of our advertising communications by involving dealers more closely in the development of our advertising strategies. Dealers communicate with our customers every day, and they have special knowledge about consumers’ needs and wants. We included our dealers from the start in our Drive One campaign. In fact, prior to developing Drive One, we sought input from our entire Ford dealer body, and that feedback informed the campaign’s development. Together we arrived at a campaign that works at the corporate, brand, product and dealer levels.