Ford does not want to stick to the tried and tested approach to car launches and plans to put social media at the heart of all marketing for its upcoming vehicles worldwide.
The car maker is feeling the pressure in an industry where many brands are jockeying for domination of the social media arena. To pull away from the crowd, it is changing the way it builds excitement for its new cars.
Mark Truby, vice president of European communications at Ford, told The Drum the social media first strategy isemblematic of its shift from a model “primarily of media relations” to one “primarily of storytelling”.
He means that whereas coverage in car magazines and on TV shows would have traditionally secured the bulk of the media spend, now Ford believes social media can sustain that excitement over a longer period of time among a bigger pool of fans. Word of mouth is Ford’s focus and so influencers rather than paid media or ads are how it wants to get cut through - a reflection of PR’s impact on the wider marketing for its latest cars.
“If we’ve got a cool piece of content then we’ll invest modestly behind it to get it going but for us it’s about that earned media when trying to create that ongoing buzz,” said Truby. “More of our content has to go straight to the end user. We want to make our car launches events that people are going to talk about.
It is easier said than done. After all, there have been lots of cars unveiled on stages though it’s harder to find a reveal that has disrupted the status quo. Ford tried to do just that when it introduced the Focus RS with a film (see above) of the car racing and drifting around one of its factories. Popular stunt driver Ken Block was behind the wheel, demonstrating the car’s handling alongside its gadgets.
The video, which segued into a press conference, trended number one on Twitter and has more than 1.7 million views of the highlights film. Four digital influencers created their own videos, amassing 166,000 views between them. It trounced Ferrari, claimed Ford, with almost three times as many social media conversations as the Italian car marque got for the launch of its 488 GTB
“We wanted to get over 2 million views for that video,” revealed Truby. “But a little of that is putting your finger in the air and trying to figure out which way the wind’s blowing. It’s not always about how many orders we generate for car. In this case we’re pretty far out from the actual car being in dealerships until next year. This is more about generating early interest. We want people to think Ford is a car for somebody like them. That’s the challenge.”
A six-part documentary series, exploring how the Focus RS came together will roll out later in the year. Moving forward, Ford is working on developing its cars around specific social networks, complete with their own content calendars.
Truby said the idea is to come up with more visually arresting content that does not take a long time to digest. "People love to see our products," he added and ‘that’s why it’s not easy” because so many brands are trying to do the same thing.
The social media push is part of Ford’s decision to shift more budget into digital channels.