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2012 Ford Focus: Test Drive One, Share Via Facebook?

2012 Ford Focus

2012 Ford Focus

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As marketing promotional events go, a ride and drive isn’t that unique. It is, however, one of the most expensive ways to get a new product noticed.

Ford thinks it has a better idea in its multi-city “Start More Than a Car. Get More Than a Test Drive” event to capture the attention of younger buyers for the all-new 2012 Ford Focus, available in sedan and five-door hatchback models and, in late 2011, the 2012 Focus Electric.

Why all the hoopla? Eleven years after its 2000 debut, the 2012 Ford Focus is completely redesigned. It’s going after the younger buyers looking at competitive small cars like the Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3, Chevrolet Cruze, and Honda Fit, among others. Getting noticed means planting butts in seats and having drivers experience what the new product has to offer. Online info is one thing. Word of mouth is another.

Automotive News sketched out the details of the Ford program late last week. Briefly, Ford will launch a 22-city nationwide tour later this month using test cars outfitted with “lipstick” cameras near the rearview mirror and a laser on the bottom of the car on a course designed like a video game. As the driver passes over bull's-eye targets strategically located throughout the course, if the car passes dead-on the center of the target, the driver will be rewarded with the sound of a guitar or a cheering crowd through the car’s speakers. If not – in other words, they fail to hit the mark or are way off center--the sound will be a groan or a sigh.

There’s more to it than just sounds of success or failure, however. A few days after the test drive is over, the participants will be emailed a copy of their every facial expression during their trip around the course. Remember the “lipstick” camera? Right, it will capture the entire episode. Focus test-drive participants will be able to share their Ford Focus exploits with friends and others using social media – Facebook, Twitter, and so on.

As Automotive News reports, a pilot test of the program in the Detroit area involved several hundred people, and 86 percent of them subsequently posted and shared their personal video on social media. The outreach was about 18 views, on average, per individual video.

Engaging participants in activities that they find fun and challenging always makes better sense and carries a longer lasting impression than simply going through a boring road course. Personalization and targeting activities toward specific audiences is a smart move – no matter what the product.

Ford isn’t saying what the other cities and specific venues are just yet, but the event begins in Chicago August 22. Following Chicago, it’s on to 21 more cities through the end of December.

Venues will include big-box stores, corporate facilities, and college campuses.

By the time Christmas is over, the Dearborn, Michigan, automaker is looking to net 100,000 test drives in the 2012 Ford Focus, at least half of them coming out of this ride-and-drive event.

[Automotive News(sub. required)]

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