Mustang's Community Customizer goes for the Gamer approach

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Digitally configuring the car of your dreams has become a standard feature on automobile websites, but Wunderman/Team Detroit and Firstborn decided to give online auto customization an added boost on the new Mustang website, which brings friends into the mix. The site's recently launched "Community Customizer" features a multi-user platform that allows visitors to hook up with their buddies and tag team on a car design in real time. Users can also watch others come up with separate designs.

"When Ford told us that they wanted to concentrate on customization for the 2010 Mustang, we knew we had to do something that would resonate with its legion of fans," says Wunderman/Team Detroit creative director Suzanne Driscoll. "So our original goals were to not only showcase the seemingly endless ways to make this car your own, but do it in a way that felt uniquely Mustang. Hence, the community side of the Customizer and the overall game-like feel."

After initial brainstorms with Firstborn, who teamed with Wunderman from the start of the project, none of the ideas "were going to get a Mustang fan excited for more than three minutes," recalls Driscoll. "So that's when we focused back in on the people who love this car. Mustang has always been about community. That's why there are so many clubs and online forums dedicated to it. So it only made sense that we'd give them a chance to customize one together."

As the car's fans have their community, so too do gamers—anyone who's watched the sun come up while playing Gears or Halo on Xbox Live can attest to that. And it's that observation that proved useful on this particular project. "People don't spend three hours with websites, but they do spend three hours—and a lot more—playing video games," says Firstborn executive director Dan LaCivita. "We looked at the things that make gaming this obsessive time consumer. Looking at the Mustang audience, we realized they were fanatics about their cars, so we wanted to create a platform that allowed for as much engagement as possible."

So far, the fans are biting. After the site launched earlier this month, Driscoll says that within a week there were 18,000 custom cars in the online gallery and more than 30 forums posting pics of the customized vehicles—without a dime spent in media. Looking forward, "we just want to listen to what all these people are saying and make this more robust by adding in more aftermarket accessories," says Driscoll.
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