Ford’s Bold New Marketing Strategy

Times are changing at Ford. The company’s marketing efforts are focusing on appealing to those who hate them the most.

Their latest push to woo the public is decidedly aimed at their detractors:

At first glance, it looks like a fund – raising pitch from an environmental group: “With one of the worst fuel efficiency records of any car company, Ford is trying to `go green,’ ” said the Internet ad, which featured a photo of an oil-well pump. “As another oil crisis looms on the horizon, can they turn talk into action?”
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But when you click it, the Web browser opens a stark Internet site created by Ford Motor Co. itself.

The site goes on to include good and bad news concerning the company, and you have to assume it will have a great deal of things to cover in the bad category. However, the site feels geniune and encourages users to really see the automaker as a company that, though it screws up, is here for the long haul and maybe isn’t so bad after all.

They’re even discussing blogging, which would be fantastic for the carmaker. The entire campaign looks large, with their sponsoring Kelly Clarkson’s upcoming tour (perfect choice for their bread-and-butter), print ads, TV spots and even a reality TV series, possibly focusing on car design and production (very cool).

At least one prominent PR blogger is not impressed:

“Ford doesn’t have a PR problem,” said Seth Godin, author of several books on Internet marketing. “Ford has a `we were dependent on gas guzzling SUVs until people learned the truth’ problem. Ford has a `we don’t reward great designers’ problem. Ford has a dealer problem.”

I can see where Seth is coming from, an image overhaul won’t make their cars more popular, at least if their cars are bad. However, there is always a chance that the entire company can ‘catch’ the feeling and begin to tailor their gas-guzzling cars towards user value/world impact; their HR practices towards employee value…

I guess I’m still naive enough to hope that an auto giant can be real , selling their cars, but not selling their soul. Of course, as I write this it already sounds hokey.

Whether you agree or not, the site has already made me see Ford in a new light, which was what they were hoping to accomplish in the first place. The campaign was created with the help of JWT Co.