Innovative use of Web, social media creates desire for 2010 Mustang

By Published on .

Highly engaging, personal interactions between company and consumer don’t come naturally to the Internet, an inherently one-to-many medium. But Ford Motor Co., working with New York-based design and technology studio Firstborn and agency Team Detroit, may be poised to change that perception with a digital marketing campaign promoting the automaker’s 2010 Mustang.

The newest version of this legendary muscle car has been hailed as one of the most customizable vehicles in the world. In fact, the 2010 model features 9,224 possible accessorizing combinations, according to Ford. With its launch marketing, Ford sought to highlight this unprecedented customizability while making an emotional connection with consumers.

“This is about creating buzz and … a desire for the new car because of what you can do to make it your own,” said Scott Kelly, digital marketing manager for Ford/Lincoln Mercury.

To accomplish this, Ford eschewed television ad buys in favor of digital and emerging media, such as mobile channels and interactive television. It also introduced a new Mustang microsite, ( that included 360-degree car views, compelling videos featuring owners and enthusiasts and—the pièce de résistance—an online tool called the Mustang Customizer.

The Customizer was based on the “price and build” tools seen on most car manufacturers’ Web sites. But the outcome was anything but typical.

Using the tool, users can create their own version of the 2010 Mustang by experimenting with an array of options and after-market enhancements. The Customizer delivers realistic, highly detailed renderings of vehicles created by users, which then can be saved and shared with others.

According to Kelly, the social and community aspects of the Customizer helped endear it to the target audience.

“We know … that people like to debate cars a lot,” he said. “So we enabled people to come into that community environment … to chat—to talk smack in some cases—and to work together with their friends on what their custom Mustang should look like.”

Ford also allowed users to sign and save their builds and post them to a gallery where others could view and rate the designs.

In addition to entertaining users, the gallery has provided Ford with invaluable product insights.

“We’re looking at … what people are doing on their Mustangs,” said Kelly. “Obviously that’s something we can feed back into our product process and make sure that we’re developing cars that people want.”

Response to the 2010 Mustang marketing—and, in particular, to the Mustang Customizer—has been tremendous. One week after the Customizer’s introduction, almost 52,000 Mustangs were “built” and more than 16,000 saved to the site gallery.

Within days of being unveiled, the microsite and Customizer were also featured in some 30 online forums and blogs—including several dedicated to competitors’ vehicles—where writers and commenters shared their custom Mustangs and initiated discussion about the 2010 model.

Following this initial wave of success, Ford revved up its Mustang marketing with paid online ads, including a Yahoo home page takeover that Kelly called “one of the best home page ads we’ve ever run.” More than 300,000 consumers built Mustangs using the Mustang Customizer on the day the ad appeared.

In addition, Ford has promoted the Mustang microsite via corporate tweets and created a Share feature within the Customizer that allows users to distribute images or links to their cars via Facebook and Twitter.

Traffic to the Mustang microsite has been impressive, with more than 1 million page views generated. But the campaign’s success has been measured by engagement metrics as well.

The average time spent using the Mustang Customizer is more than three minutes per consumer. This type of “sticky experience” encourages a strong bond between Ford and consumer, according to Stuart O’Neil, group digital creative director at Team Detroit.

“The more time you spend customizing a vehicle, the closer you’re getting to the product and to the brand. That creates desire—especially with such a wonderfully emotive vehicle as Mustang,” he said.

And though direct response wasn’t the primary goal, the campaign has been good for generating sales leads, too.

“We’ve seen an increase in actual price quote requests sent to our dealers, and the good will factor has been amazing,” Kelly said. “When you read blog comments like ‘This makes me want a Mustang’ or, from a Camaro forum, saying ‘That’s hot’ and ‘I’d drive it,’ I think we’ve done our jobs.”

Most Popular
In this article: