Key Takeaway: As many brand managers attempt to enter into the social networking space, the one focus tends to be on creating a viral effect.
Many managers believe a catchy video, jingle, or game will lead to both millions of hits and millions of dollars. This sounds like a great idea, but figuring out how to create this viral response has not been easy to crack.
Ford did something novel in its social media strategy for the Fiesta …let the consumer create this content.
Consumers who already had an online following were selected to test the Fiesta, complete different tasks, and create content describing their journey.
By going straight to the source that has the core competency of creating buzz, Ford was able to create a largely successful campaign.
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Excerpted from Harvard Business Review via Brandweek, “How Ford Got Social Marketing Right” by Grant McCracken, January 8, 2010
Ford gave 100 consumers a car for six months and asked them to complete a different mission every month. And away they went. At the direction of Ford and their own imagination, “agents” used their Fiestas to deliver Meals On Wheels. They used them to take Harry And David treats to the National Guard. They went looking for adventure, some to wrestle alligators, others actually to elope. All of these stories were then lovingly documented on YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter.
The campaign was an important moment for Ford. It wanted in to the small car market, and it hadn’t sold a subcompact car in the United States since it discontinued the Aspire in 1997.
And it was an important moment for marketing. The Fiesta Movement promised to be the most visible, formative social media experiment for the automotive world. Get this right and Detroit marketing would never be the same.
Bud (Caddell) said,
The idea was: let’s go find twenty-something YouTube storytellers who’ve learned how to earn a fan community of their own. [People] who can craft a true narrative inside video, and let’s go talk to them. And let’s put them inside situations that they don’t get to normally experience/document. Let’s add value back to their life. They’re always looking, they’re always hungry, they’re always looking for more content to create. I think this gets things exactly right. Undercurrent grasped the underlying motive (and the real economy) at work in the digital space. People are not just telling stories for the sake of telling stories, though certainly, these stories have their own rewards. They were making narratives that would create economic value.
Undercurrent was reaching out to consumers not just to pitch them, but to ask them to help pitch the product. And the pitch was not merely a matter of “buzz.” Undercurrent wanted consumers to help charge the Fiesta with glamor, excitement, and oddity — to complete the “meaning manufacture” normally conducted only by the agency.
This would be the usual “viral marketing” if all the consumer was called upon to do was to talk up Fiesta. But Undercurrent was proposing a richer bargain, enabling and incenting “agents” to create content for their own sakes, to feed their own networks, to build their own profiles…and in the process to contribute to the project of augmenting Fiesta’s brand.
The effects of the campaign were sensational. Fiesta got 6.5 million YouTube views and 50,000 requests for information about the car—virtually none from people who already had a Ford in the garage. Ford sold 10,000 units in the first six days of sales. The results came at a relatively small cost. The Fiesta Movement is reputed to have cost a small fraction of the typical national TV campaign.
Edit by JMZ
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