New Mercury Strategy Targets 'Nuevo Latino'

Carmaker Uses Film, Fashion Events to Make Brand 'Cooler'

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DETROIT ( -- In a bid to get closer to the Hispanic market that generally prefers foreign rather than domestic cars, Ford Motor Co.'s Mercury this year is shifting from heavy traditional media usage to new marketing techniques embracing film and fashion.
Fashion and film are the primary 'passion points' for the brand campaigns.
Fashion and film are the primary 'passion points' for the brand campaigns.

The automaker is focusing on the "Nuevo Latino"-customers who are 18 to 49, individualistic and upwardly mobile, who "embrace their Hispanic heritage and traditions, but their contemporary attitudes are much more bicultural," said Dave Rodriguez, multicultural-marketing manager for Mercury.

Fashion and film are the primary "passion points" for the brand, he said, and "are central to the notion of where the brand is going -- we're making it cooler." The two core models for the new strategy are the Milan, a sedan that arrived last fall, and the Mariner sport utility. "We've gotten much more aggressive with experiential and promotional marketing."

Milan is Mercury's top-selling model to Hispanics, accounting for roughly 6% of all sales, said Mr. Rodriguez. And the Mariner has been gaining sales momentum among Hispanics, he said.

Ford reported selling 11,187 Milans in the first four months of 2006. Mercury's total sales through April were off by 5.6% to 68,014 units compared to the same period a year ago, Ford said.

'Much to discover'
In mid-June, Mercury will reach out to aspiring Hispanic filmmakers as the exclusive sponsor of the first AOL Latino Short Film Festival, Festival Cine Corto. The Mariner SUV is the featured model. Entrants will create short films, and well-known director Robert Rodriguez and other judges will decide which ones to post online, where consumers can vote for their favorites.

The films must use Mercury's theme "Much to Discover" ("Mucho por Descobrir"), said Paula Soares, senior account executive on Mercury at Zubi Advertising, Miami. The effort, part of Mercury's AOL buy, will run through the end of the year and include banners on the Latino home page.

Mercury also teamed with the film director for the "Solamente Salma" exhibition of Mr. Rodriguez's paintings along with those of muralist George Yepes at San Antonio's Blue Star Contemporary Art Center. That display continues through June 18.

Miami Fashion Week
On the fashion side, Mercury will start a 10-day online auction June 13 on eBay for the so-called 2006 Milan Voga. It was customized by Camilo Pardo, chief designer of Ford Motor's Living Legends Studio. Actress Roselyn Sanchez of CBS's "Without a Trace" unveiled the car at a kickoff event in May for Miami Fashion Week, where Mercury was the official auto sponsor. Fashions and furniture designed by Mr. Pardo were also shown.

Auction proceeds will go to MANA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing Latina women.

Mercury will promote the auction at mall tours this month, where shoppers will be greeted on red carpets at mall entrances by fake paparazzi. They can also get fashion makeovers and retrieve their photos online.
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