DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Connie Fontaine, 45, was challenged by her boss, Group VP Jim Farley, to devise a plan to build buzz and awareness six months ahead of the U.S. re-entry of the Ford Fiesta small car. The manager of brand content and alliances answered the challenge with Ford Motor Co.'s broad-reaching social media blitz for the car that started in May.
The Illinois native's plan sounded simple: Give the car, already a hit in Europe, to 100 influential online "agents," let them pick a different "mission" every month, tweet and blog about it, and create an online video monthly.
"We decided we wanted to put as many customers behind the wheel as possible but we knew that there would still be logistical limitations that would dictate how many people could actually drive the vehicles," she said. "That is when we decided that to maximize the exposure ... we needed to "virtually" put intenders behind the wheel. In talking about how we'd leverage word-of-mouth, social media became the obvious solution -- consumers telling other consumers about this great product."
"We knew we had to be brave" for this program, "taking the good with the bad" online, said Ford's Matt Van Dyke, director-marketing communications. "Connie led the way," he said. "She and her team have a great track record."
The push is setting the bar for social-media marketing, much the way the BMW Film Series did for online short films in 2001.
The blitz includes a driving game on social-gaming site OMGPOP that generated nearly 50,000 impressions for the car in its first week and a half. So far Fiesta agents have created double the number of videos Ford expected, tallying 3.5 million views on YouTube and more than 2.7 million Twitter impressions -- boosting awareness of the car to 38% among 16-to 24-year-olds, a demo too young to remember a nameplate that left the U.S. market back in 1980.
In addition, Ford is getting free publicity from unusual places -- news outlets covering social media and online activities -- and is thus reaching new prospects.
Ms. Fontaine, who started at Ford in 1985, manages the marketer's sponsorship of "American Idol," and has overseen development and execution of the award-winning Warriors in Pink breast-cancer awareness campaign.