If you think sales in Europe are going to take the EcoBoost out of Ford’s overall momentum you haven’t seen Ford’s fourth-quarter profit results. Ford surpassed analysts' estimates significantly, announcing they had earned $0.39/share on revenue of $32.40 billion. An approximate 10% beat on earnings and a 2.5% beat on revenue.
While you might have missed, or not cared about, the quarterly numbers, if you own a television set you probably haven’t missed Ford’s “Go Further” campaign. Though it might have been free of Ford’s signature blue oval, it still rose to the top of Ad Age’s Viral Video chart with almost three million views in a week.
Ford plans to spend roughly $30 million to $50 million to support “Go Further” —its global branding platform. Jim Farley, Ford’s global CMO, is aiming this campaign to move their two signature products this year, the 2013 Fusion and the 2013 Escape. Not an easy task for the Fusion as it fights in one of the most competitive automobile markets there is, the mid-size sedan market, competing among the likes of the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Chevy Malibu, Nissan Altima and Hyundai Sonata, just to name a few.
Ford has developed several aggressive and innovative marketing programs for this year’s Fusion and Escape including a branded entertainment web series, “Escape My Life,” and a primetime reality show, “Escape Routes.” Using real people and actual Ford employees for this campaign is clearly working here; the number of non-Ford owners who are jumping ship to be part of the EcoBoost engine family would make any automotive brand envious—and why not jump to the blue side? Who doesn’t want the power of a 6-cylinder with the gas mileage of a four?
As Scott Kelly, Ford’s communication manager said, “It’s about being as authentic as possible.” That theme continues throughout Ford’s innovative process and hasn’t stopped with their successful Active Park Assist Technology commercials either. These ads have paved the way for their more recent technology blitz, the Foot-activated Liftgate, prominently featured on the Emmy Award winning show “The Amazing Race” —a Ford sponsored reality show where many of their other passenger car and truck models have also been featured.
Accelerating the pace of innovation in marketing and innovation in automotive technology doesn’t always grow fruitfully at the same pace. Technology can build you, but it can also break you, especially in the automotive industry where reliability needs to be high and frustration needs to be low. Case in point, Ford’s SYNC® infotainment system is still not without its headaches and user frustrations, and everyone knows it, including Ford. BMW was slow to learn what the customer will tolerate when they first developed the much criticized iDrive back in 2001. Ford can’t afford the same mistake.
Alex Leopold is Interbrand's Brand Presentation Manager.