Recently my friend Gunther Sonnenfeld linked a story about Ford using Ryan Seacrest to launch the Fusion with a Social Campaign. We got into whether this will help sell cars dragging in @Ford and Scott Monty.
Instead of dissecting the tweets because I was a cynic and they felt the impact will be outsized, I did some basic research. Ford has an eroding cash flow position. Their stock is down 50% from it's peak of $18 last year. The current Fusion is on pace to sell 225,000 units this year. This is their big family car and they need to grow the sales. Not sure their target number.
Scott was the brains behind the Fiesta Movement. This effort helped sell 30,000 cars ($390 million) which was highly praised and impressive. But now the Fiesta is failing.
@Ford told me they have 70 Facebook Pages. I checked it out. The top 2 are for Ford and Mustang:
They have a Fusion Page:
But they have only 500+ actions per day. I estimate Ford needs to reach millions and millions in the US each week. But Scott and Gunther feel reaching 10,000 engaged fans is better than reaching tens of millions that only half pay attention.
But here is the catch. Cars have to sell themselves. Forget any spokesperson, TV ad, Radio spot, or Facebook page. The minute that car hits the street it is a rolling advertisement. You see it cruising and you see who is driving it. One of my favorite car commercials is the Kia Soul Hamsters. This car is aimed at the 18-25 year old market. But in person the car is pretty dorky vs what I see in the commercial. And in Albany NY I never see anyone under 50 driving it. So my view is kind of ugly car for old people. Won't buy.
When we do buy a car we have issues like price, what kind of financing is available, the local dealer ads and incentives. When we see them in person we decide immediately if we want one. And we ask people we see driving them in person (not via Social) if they like the car. I assume the Fiesta owners are not a glowing army for Ford now days. Or also possible the new Focus or competition has eaten into the sales?
So can 10,000 engaged fans for Ford propel the Fusion to sell more than 225,000 units? Maybe. But I am not very optimistic. There is a lot of competition in that car segment. And Ryan Seacrest isn't going to sway anyone in my opinion. Now I will state since Ford is going to spend big on this launch I fully agree with their campaign as part of an integrated marketing plan.
I will end by highly recommending you listen to the last Mitch Joel - Joseph Jaffe podcast on Facebook. They have some very good takes on Social for Brands and why we really don't engage or care about them. I will revisit this launch when the data comes in. But it is safe to say if the car isn't attractive when seen on the road, or the right price point, neither social nor paid media is going to fix this. The car must sell itself.
Also if Auto Advertising is of interest Chris Baccus has a great one it is linked to your left!
Author's note: We love Ford. And we want them bountiful success. This post is more a discussion on Auto Advertising and Social Media vs any car or company viewpoints.