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Ford: Drive One

Break the Cycle of Apathy
Ford Division had its national dealer meeting in Las Vegas during the week of April 7 with more than 3,000 dealers in attendance. The Bellagio Hotel was over-flowing with Ford logos, banners and geegaws. At the same time, Ford was selling dealers on its new advertising campaign “Ford: Drive One”. With “Drive One” as its platform, Ford is trying to create a 750,000-strong army of advocates to get consumers to reconsider its vehicles. Ford wants to break the “Cycle of Apathy” that appears to surround consideration of their products.
Ford figures if it can jazz up employees, retirees, dealers and dealership employees that word about Ford’s quality gains and new products will spread virally through the North American auto market.. This is in addition to Ford’s huge customer base and number of Ford enthusiasts that can be brought into the campaign, person-to-person outreach is the backbone of Ford’s multimillion-dollar “Drive One” campaign, which started this month. As Jim Farley, Ford’s Group Vice President of Marketing and Communications said, “There are thousands of enthusiasts with Ford Oval tattoos. I can count those with Toyota tattoos on one hand.” The key is to get them working together to stimulate consideration for the Ford brand.
Ford started in early April briefing employees and retirees on the plan. Last week, Ford told its dealers about the new campaign in sessions in Las Vegas.
Unlike the “Bold Moves” campaign in 2006, Ford promises that Drive One will be around for years. Time will tell how long Ford management continues the Drive One message. Too often, when new management gets in place, the first thing to change is the advertising theme. (After all, what was the first thing Jim Farley did? Change the ad themes).
Dealers Involved in Developing Drive One Strategy and Implementation
Ford included members of their dealer council in the development of the new Drive One strategy. During many meetings in Dearborn in January and numerous conference calls and countless emails, the strategy evolved that results in Drive One. On a broader base, Ford surveyed more than 700 dealers as it developed the campaign. When including regional and local advertising by dealers, Ford says it annually spends $1.5 billion on advertising in the United States including Tier 1 through Tier 3 advertising. In the case of Drive One, Ford says they have buy in from not only Tier 2 advertisers (regional), but also Tier 3 (individual dealers).
The biggest difference at this dealer meeting is that Ford executives really listened to what dealers had to say, said Jeff Robberson of Robberson Ford-Lincoln-Mercury in Bend, Ore.
Engineers at the Dealer Show
For the first time ever at a dealer show, Ford brought in more than 60 company engineers to share specifics of the automaker’s technological and product accomplishments with the people who are trying to sell vehicles. Many of the engineers had never met a dealer before in their career. This is typical of the isolation product engineers often operate in at a major auto company in the USA. (Asian and European manufacturers are much more likely to be giving their engineers hands-on, face-to-face experience with dealers and consumers).
Farley gave the example of an engineer demonstrating Ford’s soybean-based seat foam that provides about 5% of the oil content in the seat foams in several Ford vehicles today. She got more than 100 requests for samples from dealers. Many of the dealers are in farming communities but never knew that Ford was using material grown by their prospective customers. Now that they know, the dealers can market that connection more directly to local consumers.
Employees… and Face-to-Face, Town-to-Town
Ford employees are appearing in advertisements and Internet videos. The campaign is focused on telling people about Ford’s accomplishments in four areas: QGSS – Quality, Green, Safe and Smart.
While the employees will be touting QGSS, Ford is also using a spinoff of its 2007 research based ad theme where a Ford vehicle is put in the hands of a person for a week who presently drives a competitor and reacts to the Ford. In the Drive One scenario, Ford gives a Ford vehicle to a person driving a competitive product for a week. At the end of the week, the initial driver passes the vehicle to a friend so they can experience it as well. During the hand-off, Ford captures the transaction on video and uses it in their ads. Initially, Southern California and Atlanta are the areas used for the trials. Additional cities will be added as time goes on and even some individual dealers are thinking about doing this on their own.
Ford’s Press Release on Drive One is found below the fold:

• • • • •

DEARBORN, Mich., April 10, 2008 – Four hundred-plus employees, thousands of hours of blood, sweat and tears as well as dealer insights are fueling Ford’s quest to win customers on the strength of its vehicle quality, fuel economy, safety advances and smart technology.
“The best part of Ford’s story is unfolding in the studios, labs, factories and dealerships, and we’re opening the door a bit, so people can see inside,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s group vice president of Marketing and Communications. “Customers are smart. When they meet our team and see what they’re working on, people will finally understand where the excellence in our products is coming from. That’s what this campaign is all about.”
This week alone, Ford hopes to reach 70 million Americans with the best thinking and hard work of engineers, scientists, designers and technical experts and dealers throughout the country, who have been working together since November to start telling Ford’s story.
Their collective effort is called “Drive one,” which chronicles in digital, TV and print media how Ford employees have closed the gap with Asian competitors on quality, advanced vehicle safety, made vehicles more fuel efficient and led the industry in developing in-car connectivity. It also invites people to drive a Ford and see for themselves how the company’s vehicles stack up versus the competition.
“The four areas – quality, green, safe, smart – match customer concerns 100 percent,” said Victor Benitez, vice president and general manager of Gus Machado Ford in Hialeah, Fla. He helped develop “Drive one” with Ford employees, other dealers and Ford’s agencies – JWT Team Detroit and Wunderman Team Detroit, both part of the WPP Group.
The super group test drove 60 different themes and taglines, sometimes in unusually hands-on ways. For instance, Ford’s Marketing Dealer Advisory Board participated in a consumer-style focus group, complete with professional facilitators and one-way mirrors.
This week, Ford brought experts and hands-on technology demonstrations on quality, fuel economy, safety and smart technology to share with more than 3,000 dealers gathered for a product introduction event in Las Vegas.
“I’ve never seen this level of partnership between any automaker and the people who spend the most time every day face-to-face with customers,” said Charlie Gilchrist, owner of Southwest Ford in Weatherford, Texas and chairman of the national Ford Dealer Council. “The collaboration is great, but the end result is even better: ‘Drive one’ is a confident statement – and an invitation to help customers experience the product strengths that really matter to people.”
Finding the Story
“Drive one” is being introduced just as Ford’s rollout of new products is accelerating: 70 percent of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury products will be new or significantly freshened by the end of the year, and the company’s quality is at record levels.
This week, Ford released findings from the RDA Group research that shows Ford is second to none in vehicle quality in the U.S. Ford has now matched Toyota and Honda in initial quality. This news follows a strong showing in 2007, when Ford earned more J.D. Power Initial Quality awards than any other company.
To help tell the quality story, camera crews and agency reporters interviewed 115 designers, engineers and technical experts and visited facilities that most people inside the company will never see.
This includes a room called the “Bat Cave,” where Ford employees conduct virtual reality quality experiments, as well as the VIRTTEX lab. It features a full-motion driving simulator where Ford studies driver drowsiness, distraction and tries finding new ways to boost safety.
“What we found was inspiring,” said John Felice, Ford Division general marketing manager. “As strong as the technology is, what’s even more impressive is how proud people are of their work – and how much they want to help the company succeed.”
Count Product Design Engineer Jason Johnson among them. He works on SYNC, a Ford-exclusive technology that allows users to control Bluetooth-equipped cell phones hands-free, using voice commands.
“One of my favorite things to do is talk about the work I do,” said Johnson, who will be featured in Ford commercials and webisodes. “But going through this process, I was surprised to learn we’re using recycled and organic material in our seats, and I didn’t realize all the work we’re doing on safety and hybrids. Now I have more to talk about with my friends and neighbors.”
Employees including Elizabeth Baron, a virtual reality and advanced visualization technical expert, believes Ford might have a better idea in its new communications plan.
“There is a lot of good work going on at Ford, and I’m actually seeing results from the great products we’re putting on the road today,” she said. “My 16-year-old daughter’s friend wants to get a Focus because of SYNC, and her parents approve because of the safety ratings. The family is not loyal to purchasing Ford products, so I count this as a win. With ‘Drive one,’ now we have even more ways to win people over.”
Ford will continue to update with new webisodes, with as many as 30 planned to launch over the spring and summer. Televised 30- and 60-second spots will air throughout the summer as well.
Regional Advertising to Focus on Vehicles, Consumers
drive smartConcurrent with the national launch of “Drive one,” Ford dealers around the country will begin airing a complementary series of Drive One television, print and digital ads built around the theme, “Town to Town – Friend to Friend.”
To film these experiences, Ford approached competitive vehicle owners in two towns – Marietta, Ga. and Windsor, Calif. – and asked them to drive a Ford for a week and then share it with a friend.
Ford crews filmed 180 test drives, creating more than 20 unscripted, 30-second commercials covering nearly the entire Ford product range. Although the vehicles varied, the results were the same: people were pleasantly surprised by Ford products.
“To be honest, I was skeptical of Ford vehicles. But after spending nearly a week in a Ford Escape, my perceptions completely changed about the Ford brand,” said Amy Hardigree, who appears in one of Ford’s “Town to Town – Friend to Friend” advertisements. “I was so impressed by the design and technology, I realized what I was missing in my Volkswagen Beetle, and it was great that I was able to then share the experience with my friend.”

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