Today Ford was named Brand of the Year by the Society for New Communications Research for “its innovative use of social media to improve the way the company communicates with its stakeholders”. Noteworthy has been the company’s pioneering Fiesta Movement campaign.
I first came across the US Ford Fiesta Movement through Twitter. One of the people I followed when I began tweeting, was in the process of applying to be a Fiesta Agent and got very excited when she was one of the chosen 100. As a Brit, with memories of the old Ford Fiesta as a rather tired model, mainly favoured for supermarket and school runs by the unyummier brand of mummy, I was amazed that someone like her (20 something and very cool) would be so pumped up over being picked to test drive one.
So what is the Fiesta Movement? Ford has been testing the power of social media to “pre-launch” Fiesta in the USA. They’re targeting the car to under 30s, so the logic of exploiting the power of social media is clear. Ford held a beauty parade to find 100 high profile, 20 something, bloggers – over 4000 applied. Each of the 100 chosen bloggers received a car, imported from Europe and modified for the US, all taxed and insured and petrol and parking fees paid for, to use for 6 months, in exchange for undertaking six monthly “missions” in the car and blogging about these.
The “Agents” have posted photos to Flickr, tweeted their opinions on the car on Twitter, commented on Facebook, uploaded videos to Youtube, shared views on the Fiesta Movement home page – and of course regularly write about their experiences in their own blogs. The bloggers have had a free rein to write and film what they wanted – and they certainly seem to have taken advantage of that! Not all the feedback has been positive – although the vast bulk of it has.
And the results? At the beginning of this month (almost the end of the 6 month run) Ford released these figures:
- 4.3 million YouTube views so far
- 500,000+ Flickr views
- 3 million+ Twitter impressions
- 50,000 interested potential customers, 97% of whom don’t own a Ford of any type currently.
These social media stats are not earth-shattering in comparison with the gazillions of viral hits achieved overnight by the Susan Boyle debut or the millons of views for Jill and Kevin’s wedding entrance, but for a consumer brand they are pretty impressive. What’s more important though, is the number of registered potential customers and the fact that most of these are new to Ford.
The style-leading bloggers have given the Fiesta brand an injection of street cred that moves it far away from the old fashioned image the brand used to have. Having a blogger write about the fuel consumption he’s getting or show the storage capacity with photos of the boot (sorry trunk!) loaded up with gear for a camping weekend, is worth more than any number of glossy brochures or any amount of sale room patter to the target group.
Here’s a quote from one of the agents, Maria D:
“this has got to be one of the most brilliant campaigns ever. It fully engages us as ambassadors without us being hardcore sales people. We are not required to yap about the Fiesta constantly and we can pretty much say whatever we want. The only thing we’re not allowed to do in our videos is shoot something stupid — ie, driving without a seat belt, that sort of thing. Ford took a great risk in putting these cars in our hands.”
They did indeed take a risk. Not least by undertaking all this activity so far in advance of the car’s actual US launch date next year.
Ford appear to take social media seriously. This arm of their marketing effort is headed up by Scott Monty, who came to Ford from Crayon (tagline “Join the conversation”) and is regarded as a leading social marketing expert. (Although as a discipline so much in its infancy, experts don’t exactly have a lengthy track record). Scott has a Twitter following of over 31,000 and persuaded Ford CEO to venture onto Twitter to engage with Ford’s customers. To quote Monty:
“Ford is not interested in advertising on social networks. We’re interested in getting in there and interacting with people.”
Key to the campaign’s success – although recognising the jury is out until the car actually goes on sale – has been Ford’s understanding of the context of social media and ability to create interest in a sympathetic non-salesy manner that becomes part of the conversation rather than interrupting it. I’ll be watching those sales figures.