Throughout these tough economic times, automakers have looked all over for new marketing ideas to get their products noticed. Ford is no stranger to experiments in marketing, and its chief marketing man, Jim Farley, confirms that the video game industry, of all places, is one place where he looks for innovation.
In particular, AdAge reports that Ford embraced the type of prelaunch marketing that video game publishers have been using to great effect, including "inviting journalists into the fold and creating demand for a product that didn't exist yet." Indeed, one need only look at the Fiesta Movement, Ford's pre-market launch of the Fiesta three years ago, that saw Ford give away Fiestas to 100 social media ninjas to build big buzz ahead of the car's on-sale date. Likewise, the 2011 Ford Explorer was mercilessly teased on Facebook well ahead of its unveiling, which also occurred on the world's biggest social network.
Farley also cited an experiment in pre-launch marketing that didn't work so well. In the case of the redesigned 2012 Ford Escape, the automaker sponsored a prime-time reality show called Escape Routes that only achieved its goal of raising awareness at the expense of the older model, which ultimately required incentives to combat slow sales resulting from anticipation for the new model.
It seems the connection to the video game industry lies in what Farley calls a "slow-burn approach," which occurs well ahead of a vehicle's on-sale date. In fact, Farley notes that 20 percent of Ford's marketing budget is spent on pre-launch projects.
As we cover racing games (see our review of the Forza Horizon) as well as cars, we can confirm the video game industry uses the slow-burn approach to great effect, strategically releasing teaser videos and screen shots in the months and even years ahead of a big game's release. This strategy, however, can also backfire if the product you're pitching doesn't live up to the hype that's been building over time.