Ford's Drive One campaign moving full speed ahead

After spending a few days with Ford's main-marketing-man Jim Farley and his team, we can truly say that the excitement surrounding the company's new Drive One marketing strategy is palpable. They believe that the story they have to tell is rather compelling; the real struggle will be convincing car-buyers that their vehicles are every bit as good as their competition from Japan -- as recent studies indicate. To show people what's going on behind the scenes, Farley and his posse brought Ford's best and brightest engineers with them to Las Vegas to introduce their dealer-base to the new campaign. They let us tag along so we could see what all the fuss is about, and the dealers we spoke to seemed pretty pumped about Drive One and felt that Farley's new team at Ford was finally listening to them and doing something with their input. Keep reading to find out what else we heard in Sin City.

Efforts are already underway at Ford to spread the word that it offers high quality cars and trucks. One way they are doing this is by handing the keys to consumers who drive the competition's cars and then allowing them to pass the vehicle on to a friend. We got the chance to speak to some of the people who drove the vehicles and each one of them said the experience moved them to consider a Ford for their next vehicle. Amy Hardigree, one of the "Town to Town -- Friend to Friend" participants, told us, "I was so impressed by the design and technology, I realized what I was missing in my Volkswagen Beetle, and it was great that I was able to then share the experience with my friend." After speaking with her, we think that she wasn't being paid... she really seemed to like the car. That's the rub, though. She says she never would have considered Ford before. She literally had to be given the car free for a week to get her to drive it. At the end, though, she says she was sad to see it go.

Ford also wants viral marketing to play a role in its new marketing campaign. With 750,000 employees and retirees, Ford is hoping that word-of-mouth advertising will get people talking about its improved products. Expect to see a huge push from Ford in the coming months urging you to test-drive one of its vehicles. It plans on launching the Friend to Friend experiments in a few more cities, including import-rich west coast cities like L.A. and Phoenix. Farley's stated goal is to get "one human being talking to another human being about Ford."

To that end, the new Drive One campaign is focused on four categories: quality, green, safe and smart. Each topic is broken down on Ford's website here. Farley points out that there have been six different marketing strategies in the last six years at Ford, and he says that the success of Drive One will be apparent in five years, not in five weeks. Ford's employees have bought into the new scheme, as have the dealers. Most important will be whether or not consumers buy it.

Our travel and lodging for this media event was provided by the manufacturer.

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