With Fusion Campaign, Ford Targets 'Upper Funnel' Car Buyers

$60M to $80M Ad Blitz Aimed at Consumers Not Yet Ready to Buy New Vehicle

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Ford Motor Co.'s campaign for its redone 2010 Ford Fusion new hybrid model is aimed at people who aren't in the market to buy a car -- at least not today.

Ford's new campaign for its 2010 Fusion carries the theme 'We speak car.'
Ford's new campaign for its 2010 Fusion carries the theme 'We speak car.'
While General Motors Corp. and Chrysler are struggling to secure more federal loans and are trying to unload inventory immediately, Ford isn't taking federal funding and is taking a longer view. Its new trio of 30-second spots, from WPP's JWT Team Detroit, breaks tomorrow on Fox's "American Idol" and is aimed at what the industry calls the "upper funnel," or potential buyers down the road. The ads carry the theme "We speak car."

Boosting awareness
The goal right now is to familiarize Americans with Fusion. Ford's Matt Van Dyke, director-marketing communications, said 40% of Americans are still unaware of the brand, even though the midsize sedan has been on the market since 2005. He said Ford dealers are "as good or better" at closing Fusion sales once customers are ready to buy. But the automaker isn't as adept at getting customers into the buying frame of mind, which is why the new estimated $60 million to $80-million advertising blitz is aimed at that so-called upper funnel.

Chantel Leonard, group marketing manager for Ford's small- and medium-size cars globally, said Fusion has done rather well in awareness, considering midsize-car leaders Toyota Camry and Honda Accord have been on the market for several decades.

The midsize-car segment is the industry's second-largest by annual sales volume, she said. "With the Fusion ad campaign, our goal is to get the facts out to challenge consumers' perceptions and shake up beliefs about what the best choice is among midsize sedans," Ms. Leonard said.

The ads address midsize-car buyers' rational reasons to buy -- fuel economy, price and value -- along with the emotional reasons, such as the car's styling and how it's fun to drive, she said. The base price of the new model is $19,995, or $250 more than the outgoing model.

Touting fuel efficiency
The arrival of the first Fusion Hybrid gives Ford something to crow about in the ads, which tout that the car gets 41 miles to the gallon in city driving and 700 miles altogether on one tank of gas.

Doug Scott, senior VP of consultant GfK Automotive, said Ford has spent some $350 million advertising Fusion since its appearance in 2005. But sales of the car have been flat for several quarters, excluding last year's disastrous fourth quarter for the entire industry.

Still, Mr. Scott credits Ford with keeping the pressure on: "More power to Ford if they can do equity building." He said advertisers "absolutely can't pull back with a core model," even in an economic slump.

The Fusion didn't do too badly even in a rocky 2008. Ford sold 147,569 Fusions last year, or 1,983 fewer than in 2007, according to Automotive News. In the first nine months of 2008, Ford sold 117,545 Fusions vs. 112,519 in the same period the year before, according to Automotive News figures. But Ford sold only 30,034 Fusions in the final period of '08 vs. 37,033 in the same quarter the year before.

The nation's best-selling midsize car, Toyota's Camry, tallied sales of 435,617 units last year, according to Automotive News. But even the perennial segment winner saw its sales drop from 473,108 units sold in 2007.

Ford also has managed to increase U.S. retail market share (excluding sales to car-rental companies and other fleet buyers) of its Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands for four consecutive months through January 2009 -- the first time since 1995 that the automaker has posted four straight monthly jumps in retail share.

Mr. Van Dyke said Ford has already been spending about 20% of its ad budget on digital, and the automaker's Fusion launch will take its regional dealer ad groups into that spending arena for digital. The online push includes a Nascar-tied promotion dubbed "We race. You win."

Through the promotion, visitors to weraceyouwin.com can enter to win a VIP trip to Ford Championship Weekend in Miami in November and a 2010 Fusion. The promotion, by WPP's Wunderman and PCG Campbell, runs through Nov. 15. During the first two weeks of the promotion, more than 100,000 people registered on the site; 54% want more information about the 2010 Fusion, and another 16% want information about the new hybrid version. Ford is promoting the sweepstakes on Twitter and Facebook.

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