For the past 10 years, American car companies have been the poster children for boring, run-of-the-mill marketing. Most car advertising looks and sounds exactly the same – shimmering visuals of shiny cars, swaying along a roadway through mountains and forests. Close-ups and slow pans of the vehicle itself, with the price highlighted below.
One of the biggest downfalls of the American auto industry in recent years is that American car brands stopped holding any meaning for most people – Ford became indistinguishable from Chevy/Chrysler/GMC/Pontiac/Buick, etc. (Don’t become indistinguishable with your competition) It was all just a mishmash of tired logos and uninspired designs. As a result, the “Big Three” were gradually losing market share to Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, and other international automakers.
Ford Successfully Communicates The Fiesta’s Competitive Advantages
For fans of American automobiles, it was a happy day when Ford was named 2010 Marketer of the Year by AdAge. Ford was particularly praised for its innovative marketing campaign for the Ford Fiesta, a fuel efficient five-seater vehicle with a sharp new design. To introduce the new Ford Fiesta, Ford loaned free cars to 100 social media-savvy people across the country, and let their new “test drivers” share their opinions and discoveries online.
In addition to the successful attention-getting marketing campaign, the Fiesta Movement is smart marketing because it focuses on the car’s competitive advantages. No more of just “amazing head room” or “great navigation system” since a lot of car manufacturers are making those features standard. The Ford Fiesta takes it a step further and really highlights what makes the car different and better than the competition (they even go as far as comparing it to a Lamborghini).
They have a Ford Fiesta Channel on YouTube, with entertaining videos that communicates the car’s competitive advantages in an entertaining way – “Powershift Shift 6-speed automatic provides torque for the wheels 100% of the time”. They also highlight product features that create more value for the car – heated leather-trim seats, “Easy Fuel” capless fuel filler, excellent fuel efficiency, 12 V powerpoints where you can plug in a 42-inch TV and Nintendo Wii – the list goes on.
An important fact to note is that these videos are not just done to get attention or try to be funny (which they pulled off successfully); these are engaging, entertaining, credible videos that also hammer home the key selling points of the car (bravo Ford!).
Even the head of Marketing at Ford, Jim Farley, seemed to hint in his interview with AdAge that Ford struggled to decide on the right marketing strategy. Jim Farley said: “Some people here thought we should talk about technology or history — ‘We need to talk about Henry Ford!’ — instead of telling the consumer how good the product is.”
Ford is doing a better job of “telling the consumer how good the product is.” With the Ford Fiesta, they’ve created a promising, stylish new product, they’ve identified several key competitive advantages, and they’re implementing the message via powerful (and cost-effective) new marketing channels such as online videos, and social media.
All Success – and No Bail Out Money
Ford has engineered a remarkable turnaround in the past two years. The company lost $14.6 billion in 2008. Less than two years later, during the first six months of 2010, Ford made a profit of $4.7 billion. This is a remarkable turnaround – and Ford did it without having to resort to a bailout of federal tax dollars like G.M. and Chrysler. (This might be another competitive advantage for Ford – an Oct. 1 survey from Rasmussen Reports found that 55% of survey respondents are more likely to buy a Ford because the company did not take bailout money.)
Ford’s savvy marketing and renewed focus on competitive advantages is a good sign for this iconic American brand. America can still design, manufacture and market great cars and world-class products – sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing how to tell consumers what you have to offer.