Jim Farley, Ford's Group Vice President, Global Marketing, Sales and Service, gave the keynote speech at the Chicago Auto Show this morning, and the only way it could have been more on-topic is if he had given his speech via Facebook chat.
Before Farley announced the new "What Would You Go Do?" campaign for the 2011 Ford Explorer, he laid out how the Explorer's Facebook launch set a new tone for how Ford has conversations with its customers, and even set a new tone for the company itself. Follow the jump for more and Ford's press release on the Explorer competition.
Photos copyright ©2011 Drew Phillips / AOL
Toward the end of his speech, Farley made the point repeatedly that Ford considers itself in large part a technology company now, not "just a car company." That makes his earlier point about Ford moving into social media to "have a conversation with consumers" much easier to understand.
Now, that's not exactly new: Our electronic wastebins are choking on press releases touting every automaker's desire to "engage" with consumers. Farley's point was that, based on what Ford learned with its Fiesta Experience campaign, the company reworked its entire advertising model for the Explorer to take advantage of social media. It launched the SUV onlne seven months early to start a conversation with consumers and debate about how the vehicle should be promoted. Its page attracted over 140,000 Facebook fans, and Ford used their ideas when crafting the Explorer's more traditional marketing campaign.
According to Farley, people said they didn't want just another set of commercials speaking about features and gas mileage; they wanted Ford to "be unscripted" and "celebrate the love of the road trip." That turned into commercials like this:
Of course, it's not like lifestyle commercials are new - Chevrolet was apparently talking to the same group of people when it came up with its "Runs Deep campaign" (but not the tagline), and luxury brands have been doing this for decades. But how Ford is maintaining and growing these social media initiatives over time to support its traditional marketing campaigns moves is a kind of integration we can't remember seeing from an American car brand. Ever.
The other big point Farley made was Ford being "not just a car company, but in many ways a technology company, to democratize technology." The integration of the Internet's possibilities - real-time information, browsing, search, navigation, continuous and fluid updates - into the driving experience is one of the key battlegrounds for all car makers. Ford sees its experiments and solutions for that issue as going even beyond the car. Farley mentioned a model like an Apple Store's Genius Bar where customers can get answers to issues, or a Best Buy-like Geek Squad that can take those answers on the road, in addition to on- and off-site seminars to teach people everything the company's cars can do.
It's early, yes – marketing won't do it all. Ford's real test will come in these new cars being on the roads for a while. But from here, it looks like the new Ford is still doing its best to be, well, new.
• Ford is amplifying the conversation about the new Ford Explorer by kicking off "Go. Do. Adventures," a program that asks consumers to suggest how they would use an Explorer to create their own unique adventure
• Consumers can submit their ideas in the form of essays, photos and videos through several websites, such as www.ford.com/explorer and Facebook. Ford will select the most unique responses to be brought to life with the all-new Explorer
• The latest chapter in the launch of the reinvented Ford Explorer builds on the success of the vehicle and campaign. Each part of the campaign has integrated online media, ranging from the live Facebook reveal to the ongoing dialogue on Facebook, as well as the resulting traditional print and TV ads
CHICAGO, Feb. 9, 2011 – If you had a Ford Explorer for a week, what would you do and where would you go? This question lays the groundwork for the new "Go. Do. Adventures" program that invites consumers to suggest how they would use an Explorer to create their own unique adventure.
"We want people to get out there and experience their environment with friends and family in a fresh new way, and the new Explorer is the best vehicle to do it in," said Jim Farley, Ford group vice president, Marketing, Sales and Service. "Ford has reinvented the Explorer, and with this new campaign we're inviting consumers to be just as inventive by coming up with their ultimate adventure."
Consumers can submit stories in the form of essays, photos and videos through several websites, such as www.ford.com/explorer and Facebook. The responses will showcase both key product features and unique American locations and attractions. Those people whose ideas are selected will then be able to live out their dream adventure, courtesy of the all-new Explorer. All of the action will be captured and documented through the Explorer Facebook page.
"This provides a platform for a larger audience to experience Explorer. We started the conversation by revealing Explorer on Facebook and are continuing to advance that dialogue online," said Eric Peterson, Explorer communications manager. "We have actively answered our fans' questions, but now we have an opportunity to create advocates and show how Explorer can enable you to do the things you always dreamed of."
Additionally, through collaboration with Outside Media and its network of unique assets and experts, Ford will select the most compelling stories to film, and produce short films to be distributed online and through traditional media. Ultimately, the content will be developed into a one-hour TV special.
For news releases, related materials and high-resolution photos and video, visit www.media.ford.com.
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Building on success
The current marketing campaign for the reinvented 2011 Explorer, Go. Do., is an example of how a consumer-oriented approach can influence advertising creative and generate online discussion. It began with the Ford Explorer Facebook engagement that showed the all-new SUV's live Facebook reveal on July 26.
The Go. Do. campaign continued evolving through Facebook as Ford engaged fans and prospective Explorer customers in one-on-one conversations using texts, videos and images. This led to significant Facebook growth – more than 138,000 fans and growing – and increased anticipation for the new Explorer. Explorer fans also can get real-time answers from Ford experts as well as view video responses from engineers and celebrities such as Bret Michaels and Snoop Dogg.
The unfiltered feedback influenced more traditional aspects of the campaign, including TV and print advertising. The result is an unscripted, organic look at American families and the American road trip, with a mini-documentary feel to TV spots.
To see more of the creative work and how the reinvented Ford Explorer is changing the way consumers think about SUVs, log on to www.ford.com/explorer or www.facebook.com/fordexplorer.