Ford Motor Company earlier today unveiled the 2013 Fusion model, which will go on sale this fall behind a big integrated push from the brand and spokesperson Ryan Seacrest. It's an important product launch for the Dearborn, Mich.-based automotive firm, and Ford marketing chief Jim Farley said digital will be at the center of the campaign.
"This will be our most progressive spend in terms of a major launch, in terms of digital," he said.
To Farley's point, Ford's been busy this year prepping the car launch with a online-only campaign dubbed "Random Acts of Fusion." Adweek spoke to the marketing vet about Fusion marketing and, more specifically, how voice-activated apps systems like Ford's Sync fit into car marketing these days.
Adweek: What's the strategy for selling the Fusion?
Jim Farley: For the last eight or nine months, we've been heavily investing in the demand-generation for the vehicle. We came up with Random Acts of Fusion, and we are a good way into the promotional program with Ryan Seacrest and a few other talented people. They are promoting the vehicle for us from broadcast media to their own Facebook pages and everything in between. Using heavy digital and social in a prelaunch is new to the category. The reason it hadn't been done in the past is because you had a high-volume model in place like the old Fusion. You want to protect [the old model's] attractiveness by not talking about the new one. But with digital, we can make the message specific to the people who are interested in the new one. The people interested in the old one won't see the message because we are not on TV.
What kind of response are you seeing?
We have 11 million digital engagements for the Random Acts of Fusion. That just gives you the idea of the scale we were hoping to get. We were really hoping to benchmark the gaming industry in concerns to doing prelaunch successfully.
That's interesting. What do you mean by benchmarking the gaming industry?
They do a great job of creating awareness before the game comes out. They've really perfected this skill. And it is a skill that's very different. The content you produce, the timing, how big you scale—it's very different. We benchmarked several of the latest of introductions of games and turned to marketing partners to help us understand how the process worked....We ran Random Acts of Fusion paid ads on a lot of digital sites—from search sites to social sites like Facebook—to build interest and awareness around what we were doing with Ryan [Seacrest].
Of course, your competitor General Motors stopped buying Facebook ads earlier this year. It sounds like you have a different take on the idea.
We have found a successful formula working with Facebook where we have paid [ads] and content created just for the social space that's shareable and interesting.
How often do you communicate with your social media team such as [Ford director] Scott Monty?
The thing I've learned with this type of advertising is that unlike upfront TV buys and that type of thing where everything goes in the agency side and then comes in back at us...the digital side is very intimate. And as a leader for my function, I have to be extremely close to people like Scott who are doing so much in our digital space. We don't have big meetings every morning. It's not like that. But we are very agile.
When it comes to in-car apps like Pandora, how influential are they to selling cars these days?
Our data shows that many people buy a Ford because of the Sync system. I've never seen a $300 option have that kind of influence on a car brand before. More than half the people [have recently] told us that Sync was the reason they bought a Ford....It's pretty important, but it can never be bigger than the basic DNA of the car.