Ford ‘Agents’ Hit the Road

Ford is looking to ramp up brand consideration for the upcoming launch of its Fiesta 2011 small car with the second phase of a social media campaign launching this month.
The automaker has sent out 40 “agents”—each in teams of two—to spread the word about the Fiesta in major markets such as Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco and Dallas. Those agents—selected via a nomination process that drew more than 1,000 applicants—are tasked with tweeting and promoting the Fiesta virally via a series of online and local challenges assigned by Ford.
One such challenge, for instance, may involve putting together a map of all the “hot spots” in the agents’ given city, said Connie Fontaine, brand content and alliances manager at Ford. In this example, the goal is to show how Fiesta can be a part of that challenge, i.e., it’s the “enabler” of this journey, she said.
The effort is a continuation of the Ford Fiesta Movement, which launched last summer and had 100 consumers blogging about their experiences when given a new Fiesta, along with free gas and insurance. That stage of the campaign was about “driving awareness of the brand, because it was a new nameplate for us in the United States,” she said. “Our primary objective was to get Fiesta talked about.”
Now, it’s about driving Fiesta’s brand consideration among already primed consumers. “We want people to know Fiesta is coming, what kind of vehicle it is and why we’re bringing it to market,” Fontaine said of the vehicle, which has been called Ford’s first “global car” (it launched it Europe, then Asia and soon the U.S.) and has been backed by a social media push.
Like the campaign’s earlier iteration, phase two is heavily rooted in social media, except that Ford will also supplement its agents’ marketing activities with offline components, including events held in targeted markets and some print and television advertising, the automaker said.
For example, Ford may collect some of the footage from the agents’ hot spots and use it as a print advertisement in a local magazine or publication, the company said.
To help drive the viral buzz, Ford was selective in its choice of agents for this leg of the campaign. Like the first set of Fiesta agents, the 40 consumers participating in this stage of the challenge are also very “social online, but they’re also very [active] offline. They are community entrepreneurs, artists and people we know who can get us connected to [others],” Fontaine said.
The goal is to produce content that shows the Fiesta agents engaging with and introducing the model to their local communities, and to upload it to social networking sites like Twitter and Ford’s microsite for the campaign, Consumers can also comment on the brand ambassadors’ work, and share it with their own online communities, Ford said.
The move is part of marketers’ increasing use of social media to build media buzz and public anticipation in advance of a product or brand’s actual launch. Even troubled auto rival Toyota has successfully leveraged social media to combat public and government scrutiny in the wake of its accelerator pedal and brake recalls.
Ford, in particular, said it has over 100,000 “hand raisers” to date who’ve shown interest in the new car. And its social media investment, thus far, has generated more than 6,000 reservations. “It’s about continuing to drive that level of excitement,” Fontaine said.
Agencies involved in the push include Team Detroit, Undercurrent and the Action Marketing Group in Boulder, Colo., the same partners that helped launch phase one of the Fiesta Movement.