The Ford Motor Company has chosen the Ford Explorer Facebook page to give the public a first glimpse of the totally redesigned 2011 model. This breaks from the usual debut of a new model, which traditionally is made at large auto shows, and shows the auto company’s commitment to its social media marketing efforts. There is no set date for a full unveil, but teaser photos are already up on the site, as well as video of a cloaked 2011 Explorer in action.
Ford launched a dedicated Explorer fan page in mid March, at the time focused on the 2010 model. The page’s focus quickly shifted and became a source of info on the 2011 model, which has received a complete redesign, and appears to be evolving with its target market.
The Explorer became the must-have vehicle for the original soccer moms of the early 90s, but has fallen behind as other crossover vehicles have moved in to provide the space and ride height that moms loved about the Explorer without the low gas mileage and rough ride of a 4×4 truck. The 2011 model will be the first Explorer built on a car frame, giving it better fuel economy, and will feature improved safety features and incorporate touches that are more in line with the way consumers are actually using the vehicles. A video posted to the Explorer fan page shows a veiled vehicle being put through tests for the new traction system, and it’s evident that the Explorer will be much less of a truck and more of a van/crossover.
The director of Ford’s US Marketing Communication said in a recent USA Today article that we won’t be seeing images of the new Explorer parked on a cliff, yet the few teaser photos that were released today on the Facebook page give us glimpses of the 2011 Explorer dashing through forests, snowy lanes and a rocky road. Nothing too extreme, but this could be a little off-target based on the information given in the article.
While some say that revealing the new Explorer on Facebook rather than at an auto show is risky, Ford has had a lot of success with its social media endeavors in the past. The launch of the new Ford Fiesta has received a lot of buzz, with much of the online chatter generated by the Fiesta Movement, which Ford launched last year almost exclusively through a number of social networks. Ford also used Facebook and other networks to generate interest in their Fusion Hybrid with last year’s Fusion 41 challenge, and benefited from leaked information about the 2011 Mustang late last year. However, at just over 3,000 fans, the Explorer Facebook page is lagging behind many of Ford’s other model-specific pages.
The company could also be going after a chunk of the market currently held by competitors that were not previously in the same class as the Explorer, but now share similar features. Toyota’s Sienna wagon will now be more of a competitor to the new Explorer, and is an excellent example of how social network marketing is successfully reaching target demographics. The Sienna’s Facebook page enjoys a loyal and vocal following, and Toyota has scored big with the Sienna Family campaign and the recent Swagger Wagon YouTube video that has been viewed more than 3 million times since its release last month.