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.
In 2012 we introduced a new global brand promise, which is summarized by the phrase “Go Further.” Put simply, Go Further represents our culture and what makes Ford different from any other automaker. It promises that we are always going to go further to deliver a strong business that builds great products for a better world. While Go Further is used for marketing and advertising, 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.
These communication efforts – coupled with delivering products of world-class quality, with world-class fuel economy, technology and other features – are paying off. From 2011 to 2012, we saw increases in favorable opinion and purchase consideration for our brands in Argentina, Brazil, India, Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the U.S. and the U.K. Some of these increases were quite large. For example, from 2011 to 2012 purchase consideration for Ford vehicles increased by 7 percentage points in Saudi Arabia, 6 percentage points in Thailand, 5 percentage points in India and 4 percentage points in Brazil.
We track consumers’ familiarity with, opinion and consideration of, and shopping and purchase intentions in regard to 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 is now a mainstream communication channel. Companies such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Zynga and others are publicly traded, and companies, media and individuals are using these platforms at an unprecedented rate. Facebook alone, for example, has more than 1 billion active users.
We are using social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, YouTube and others to connect with customers and get the word out earlier than ever about our new products. Ford was the first automaker to reveal vehicles via social media and social gaming. In 2010, for example, instead of revealing the new Ford Explorer at an auto show or using another traditional marketing approach, we introduced the vehicle first to our fans on Facebook. In 2012, we launched the all-new Ford Escape through Escape Routes, a campaign that combined social media and a primetime television reality show. Beyond these large campaigns, our efforts with groups of influencers have expanded as well. In January 2012 we invited 150 bloggers from 16 countries to Detroit for the North American International Auto Show for the revealing 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. The volume of requests we have handled through our @FordService Twitter account has more than tripled in three years, and our customer satisfaction rates for communications through this platform are 92 percent or higher. Twitter also remains the best resource for real-time assessment of what people are saying about us and provides us with a valuable platform for listening.
On our Ford websites, we are making it easier for visitors 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.
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 in February 2011. 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 them with others directly through their social networks.
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” and “Drive 4 UR Community” campaigns. Through these programs, participants test-drive a new Ford vehicle and help raise money for their local high school or local nonprofit. 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 school and nonprofit activities. These programs have been successful at both raising money for local organizations and raising consideration of Ford products. The programs have raised more $10 million for schools and nonprofits and have enabled more than 495,800 participants to test-drive Ford products; approximately 69 percent of these drivers did not own a Ford product at the time of the test-drive. Feedback from participants shows that both purchase consideration and favorable opinion of the Ford brand improved after participating in the program.
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.