Social media are key to Ford's product push

Automotive News reports on how Ford plans to use social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to promote new models.

Automotive News
4 min read

Jim Farley, Ford Motor's global marketing chief, will dive deeper into social media to promote new products.

Ford will launch three electric vehicles next year. It also will introduce several 2013 models with conventional engines, including a restyled Taurus sedan, redesigned Escape crossover, and redesigned Fusion midsize sedan. And its luxury brand, Lincoln, gets new and redesigned models, too.

Farley, 49, says he's prepared to use digital marketing, and especially social media, to promote these vehicles.

Farley discussed these and other marketing issues with Industry Editor James B. Treece and Staff Reporter Jamie LaReau.

Q: What have you learned about social media, and what's next?
Farley: We have some very interesting launches coming up, like the global Ranger pickup launch. For these vehicles and a few others that I can't talk about, we have learned that starting early using social media is OK. You don't have to start a month before you wholesale a vehicle. You can allocate budget as long as you're smart and you activate the people that are interested in the newest products.

Also, it should be done regionally. A global approach to social media doesn't really have as much traction as those programs like the Fiesta Movement in the United States executed locally.

We are investing more and more of our resources not only in digital, but in social within digital. Now social media and our investments are right up there with search and other digital banner advertising.

Does social media spending match your digital spending?
Farley: No, but depending on the phase of launch and prelaunch, it can.

In addition, we are more and more integrating mobile advertising into this pre-launch period of time, integrating mobile advertising into our print ads and using mobile advertising in point-of-sale. If you come into a Ford dealership and you want to learn about a feature, you click on a tag and it downloads a video online for you to play in the dealership.

We found that marketing on a smartphone is very different than marketing on a computer. A smartphone is a personal device. You have to add value to people's life if you're going to market on there.

A simple digital banner ad is just annoying. People want something that's very practical such as, "I'm in your showroom. I have a smartphone. I don't want to go home and watch a video on how the inflatable seat belt airbag on the Explorer works. I want to find out right now. I have a smart device, so make it easy for me."

Same goes for a print ad. "Hey, I saw the new Focus and active park assist in one of your print ads. Why would you make it so difficult for me to remember the name and wait until I go home tonight to download the video from Ford.com?"

I think mobile and video together is becoming a bigger part of how we bring the product story to life in customers' hands.

The Japanese brand inventory levels are coming back. How does that affect pricing strategy?
Farley: I can't talk about what their strategy is going to be as they reload the shelves, so to speak. It really is up to them in terms of how it affects our pricing. It's a competitive environment.

Our pricing and incentive policies always, to some extent, vary based on our competitors' actions. And we will always keep our customers. If they radically change their pricing policies, we would certainly have to look at our approach to the market.

All manufacturers are very focused on resale value and end-of-life equity and giving customers the ability to have equity in their vehicle when they're done. I would hope that they would act in a way -- which they have in the past -- that builds their brand in resale value.

What is your outlook on residual values?
Farley: We spent a lot of time over the last four years on not only tracking, but more importantly making the right operational changes to improve our resale value. Thankfully I can say we've seen results that have been pretty dramatic. Fusion now has better resale value than Camry, and we're seeing that more and more with our newest vehicles.

The Ford brand has moved the most, out of all mainstream brands in the United States, in resale value. That's very encouraging to us.

If a competitor boosted incentives, might you say, "Maybe leasing would be a better way for us because this is where we're strongest?"

It could be. You know, customers are interesting. Certain segments aren't really oriented toward leasing, like pickup trucks, for example.

Certainly there's a leasing market for pickup trucks, but generally speaking the people who are buying pickup trucks nowadays use them for work. They like to own them and they like to keep them more than just a few years. They don't like having limitations on mileage or damage to the vehicle because they're using it for work.

I wouldn't try to make connections with what will happen in the incentive world and what that might mean for our tactics at Ford.

I'd just say "steady as she goes" at Ford in terms of our approach to resale values and leasing. I don't see any big changes.

What does Lincoln stand for?
Farley: We have marketed Lincoln in recent years around the technology front and around value. What we're really selling is that you don't have to pay the traditional luxury premium to get the luxury features.

As we look toward the future, Lincoln will mean more and more design excellence and exclusivity.

Going forward, as new products that you've heard about and haven't seen come to market, I'm very excited to present maybe new aspects to the Lincoln brand around elegance and design excellence and excitement of driving it. All sorts of new elements to the brand will come to life in new products. That's as much as I'm willing to talk about at this point for Lincoln.

(Source: Automotive News)