How Ford Thanks Its Fans, And Makes New Ones

Unless you are one of those old, stodgy types that get their first look at a new car at a local car show, then you'd know that the entire process of debuting and promoting a new car has changed in the age of social media. Yeah, I know I sound like a broken record or a tired trope from a marketer, but less than a decade ago, it was novel to release specs on a new car to the web, before anywhere else. The automakers, and the fat, old, Frank Bacon types that covered the auto industry were the old sad sacks that controlled the message when a new car was making the rounds. (Just to clarify, Frank Bacon is not a real person. He is a fictional character that auto writers created to refer to the fat old, auto writer who has been at the same post for 30 years, and travels from car unveiling to car unveiling to drink as much free Moet and eat as much free shrimp cocktail, while occasionally testing a new car. We are not all like that, although I do like shrimp.) Just think, not five years ago, we were using Facebook solely to check out pictures of that cute girl who was a friend of a friend you met at that party last weekend. Flash forward to summer of 2010, and Ford used Facebook to unveil the 2011 Explorer. It was a bold maneuver, and just one of the many clever plays made by the social media wing of Ford's advertising division. Scott Monty is the Global Digital and Multimedia Communications Manager for Ford Motor Company, and though the title can be a mouthful, the mission statement is simple: get Ford's message out by any (social media) means possible. "We don't do it just because it's 'cool'," explains Monty, in a phone interview, "It is ultimately meant to support our marketing and business goals." Monty and his department has proven that they 'get it' and have found very unique ways to utilize Facebook and Twitter, as well as other social media platforms without it feeling forced. "We try and identify what the sweet spot is for a target demographic that corresponds to a vehicle in our lineup." says Monty, "a Focus customer spends their time on the web differently than an F-150 customer." And for a particular breed of Focus customer, Ford did something very special. "With the new Focus ST, we brought two cars to Key West, closed off streets, and had a bunch of fans line the course," but it was not your typical vehicle promotion, "we wanted the fans to be the camera people, so we had them film the race with all their cell phones, took all of that content, and edited it from all the fan film." And the results of that iniative? Check it out below... And its not just one-off events like that. Ford also provides a unique experience for the die-hard enthusiast to feed their passion. "The Octane Academy started about a year ago," explained Monty, "It's basically a boot camp, where fans attend and get to meet their heros of motorsport." Celebrity drivers include Vaughn Gittin Jr., Tanner Foust and Ken Block. When asked about what inspires the social media initiatives for entheusiasts, Monty shared some insights, "In some ways, its much easier because there is so much emotion. Even though the numbers are smaller, we find that there are a lot of people still interested because its aspirational." Monty makes a good point. As a blogger/auto-journalist, do I have the scratch for a new Mustang, let alone a GT500? Hell no. Will I watch well-produced videos of the GT500 tearing ass all over a track? For days- and I'm not the only one. "It's like putting a drop of blood in the water and letting the sharks some," described Monty of the entheusiast experience, "what we have to do is focus on the enthusiasts' desires and deliver those fans an exclusive experience." So what's next for Monty and his team? "Over the next two to twelve weeks, it's going to be a big focus on Fusion," while I wondered if that was a pun or not, he continued, "we have a couple of big media spikes planned, and this car really has all of our attention."! When asked what drives a social media initiative for a new car (especially the performance vehicles we care about here), Monty summed it up best, "We're our own biggest competitor...we're trying to imrpove on what we did last year, and most importantly, do right by our fans." Amen, brother.