2011 Ford FiestaEnlarge Photo
There's no question that Ford has scored a huge marketing coup with its hip, fully wired Fiesta Movement. The campaign's camera-ready army of influencers tweeted and Facebooked and YouTubed the hot new compact to an astounding 60% brand recognition before it even appeared in showrooms. The Movement is one of the longest and biggest rollouts we've seen for any vehicle in recent memory, and Ford has just announced that it's going to continue the campaign, even after owners leave the lot.
It's all part of the "unpackaging" experience that begins the moment a customer arrives to pick up her Fiesta. Upon entering the showroom, the buyer is encouraged to mosey up to a kiosk and watch a short video about the Fiesta's features. When the car is ready to go, the dealer snaps a photo of the buyer with her new ride and uploads it to the Fiesta Community site.
Before driving off, the owner is also given a USB drive packed with info about the model. Plugged directly into the car, the drive provides a 19-minute audio overview of the Fiesta. Plugged into a home computer (but not, alas, an iPad), owners can download a Fiesta Community app that'll keep them in touch with Ford, their dealer, and their fellow Fiestonians (or whatever we're calling them). There's even a wiki -- regrettably dubbed the "Fiestapedia" -- and a place where buyers can "Photoshop" (their word) the background of the pic that was taken of them with their new Fiesta. No word on whether Ford has reached any sort of agreement with Adobe about that just yet.
The Fiesta's "unpackaging" process isn't entirely new territory. We've seen thoughtful hand-off programs before, but in Ford's defense, those have typically been associated with much higher-end rides, and none have integrated social media so fully. To see such an elaborate, well-conceived, open-ended program for such an inexpensive, mainstream, Car of the People says a lot about the Fiesta itself (or at least its target demographic), about Ford (and its hopes for this little ride), and the future of the auto industry.
Clearly, the "unpackaging" program is a great match for the Fiesta's primary consumer: the tech-savvy, Facebook-friendly, 20/30something. It's also a great move for Ford, which is putting the eco-friendly, fashion-forward, economical Fiesta front and center in its lineup. That will no doubt have an effect -- probably a positive one -- on Ford's ever-brightening brand image.
It's also remarkable that Ford is attempting to build a community around this particular ride. Sure, we see car and truck communities all the time: fan forums, brand-specific rallies, and so on. But those are limited mostly to hardcore enthusiasts, and Ford is clearly trying to grab much more mainstream buyers. That takes some serious guts, considering all that we've heard about Millennials and their general disregard for car culture. Essentially, Ford is trying to turn a product into a lifestyle, much as Apple has done with the iPod and the iPhone -- only Ford has gone a step further and made product-branded social media a part of the mix. Ford's marketing department deserves some very big ups.
We hate to sign off without offering at least a sliver of critique, but to do that, we'd really need to draw comparisons. And although handoff programs aren't new, the scope of this one puts it in a new category.
That said, we'd love to see a mobile app -- something we could carry on our smartphones that would have the same functionality of the Fiesta Community app for laptops. And of course, adding a bona fide owner's manual (a la the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee) would be swell. But then, we suppose Ford has to save something for down the road.