While Ford defines "targeted" approaches as direct mail, video on demand, mobile-phone ads, sponsorships, CRM and Internet marketing, it is the digital element that will benefit most. The brand will spend 15% of the budget there, according to Martin Collins, general marketing manager. "Our media spending in digital will go up because it creates more business for FordVehicles.com," the marketer's Web site, he said.
The online component is crucial, since some Ford dealers close one out of five deals begun via online contracts. Still, about 40% of all the industry's Internet leads don't get a response within 24 hours, Mr. Collins said, the equivalent of not being waited on in a department store that can result in lost business. To fix that, Ford is using a proprietary tool called Lead Response Time that monitors how long it takes Ford dealers to respond to an online lead from its site. "Leads acted on more quickly close at a rate four times higher" than slower responses, he said.
Between February and mid-June, more than 115,000 consumers who visited FordVehicles.com picked options and priced the all-new Fusion sedan, arriving this fall. Ford used that data to fine-tune the build mix for the car at launch.
The marketer turned to the Web for car's pre-launch, tied to the title sponsorship of Fusion Flash Concerts. Consumers must register at FusionFlashConcerts.com or text "Go" to 35274 on their mobile phones to learn details about concerts in 10 cities. The Web site includes a tour blog, streaming video, music downloads and a promotion to win the 2006 Fusion, Sony electronics and VIP concert access. Cingular Wireless is a partner; its subscribers get extra perks such as premier viewing at the venues. Sony worked with Ford's agency, WPP Group's JWT Detroit, to create viral marketing that includes word of mouth. Ads themed "Break Free" are in Manhattan phone booths, subways and alternative newspapers.
Ford's moves come as the carmaker's North American operations are trying to bounce back from a second-quarter loss of nearly $1 billion. A reorganization of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury's U.S. marketing and sales organization takes effect Sept. 1. The change eliminates one marketing layer. Separate teams by brand have been consolidated into one for incentives, special events and auto shows. A unit dubbed "brand strategy and operations" for the three brands will be headed by Murat Yalman, formerly a global marketing manager.