Pooja Ahuja Nagpal
Aug 27, 2012

"One of our least expensive campaigns but one of the most rewarding”: Anurag Mehrotra, Ford

The VP – marketing at Ford India talks about a social media initiative based on the philosophy of ‘Real people, real experiences’

Ford India flagged off the ‘One Tank. 1500Kms. One Classic Story’ campaign on 10 August with 11 individuals who were given a Ford Classic Titanium series car each. The participants, from different walks of life, then embarked on a road trip to realise their passions.

A cinematographer to capture and narrate the participant’s Classic story accompanied each participant. The campaign culminated on 22 August, post which the videos will now be shared across various social media platforms. The cinematographer voted for the most engaging and popular story will win a cash prize.

Anurag Mehrotra with the participants at the flag off 
We caught up with Anurag Mehrotra, vice president - marketing, Ford India, to find out more about this latest initiative and understand Ford’s social media strategy.
For the rebranding of Ford Fiesta to Ford Classic, why did the company opt for social media marketing instead of a TVC?
It goes back to our philosophy of using real people and real experiences. This is the grammar used by Ford Motors. The number of reality shows is unbelievable (high). Seventy five per cent of people believe what they read on social media sites, as compared to 50 per cent of the people who believe advertisements on TV. As a medium, it is a far more powerful for any marketer versus the traditional mediums that exist.
For our automobile industry, word of mouth tends to be the single largest source of information for the purchase decision. You are more likely to believe what your friend or neighbour will tell you about a product than what I, as a manufacturer with the best commercial and print ad, may say. Therefore our grammar over the last year and half has been real life real experiences which means we will give our products to real people, we will let them experience the product and let them share in their own words what their experiences of our product. You will find ‘Real people, real experiences’ across all our product lines.
Who is your target audience for the car?
The consumer is someone in the age group of 30 to 35 years, predominantly male, married, and has a kid. He is very self-driven, one of the most important differentiating factors about this individual versus a Figo or Fiesta consumer. The Classic customer is a self-driven individual and he genuinely believes in achieving his aspirations but will do it on his own terms. The second unique thing about this customer is that he is a high value seeker. In our showrooms when we interact with people across different product lines, we find that the consumer of Classic will ask you the most questions. He wants to be convinced of the practicality of this vehicle and the style, but at the same time, he is seeking substance in the car.
Ford has already done something similar last year with the Fiesta experience. What did you learn from that, what improvisations did you make?
It was a very different campaign. Two things always become the starting point for any campaign - one is the consumer and the second is the product truth. For Classic, the product truth is the fuel economy. In the case of Fiesta, it is the technology inside the car. We identified four people who fit the profile of our prospect consumer. They were given a Ford Fiesta each and they got to drive it from Delhi to Diu. Because the route goes through different landscapes and road conditions, it gave them a chance to experience not just the features but more importantly the drive and handling of the car. The premise is to use real people, stick to the consumer insight; and the third is to establish the product truth.
Could you elaborate on the ‘One tank. 1500 kms. One classic story’ campaign.
What ‘One tank full’ essentially does is provide a platform for 11 real people, who have passions in life, are self-driven, and are not the flamboyant kind; they are more value seekers in life. The vehicle becomes an instrument or an enabler of the passion to be realised. What we do is we give everyone the product, which is Ford Classic Titanium with one tank full of fuel. In one tank full of the vehicle, they get a chance to realise their passions - for instance a photographer who had a great passion to shoot the Wagah border during the 15 August ceremony.
The way we bring the stories of these individuals to life is by pairing each of them with a videographer. We went to different institutes where they nominated their best students and we got them paired up with these participants. They have travelled with these participants in their journey, and captured it through pictures, videos and so on.
The second phase will commence from 30 August, during which the videos will be shared on the social media sites and people will get a chance to understand that realising your passions is not an expensive proposition. That is really what ‘One tank’ is all about.
People can vote for the most compelling story that they believe in and then the winner, i.e. the videographer who has shot the video, gets a prize. In the middle of September, we will wrap up the voting process and then announce the winner.
What results do you expect from this campaign? How many people did you engage with?
We have hard metrics on which we evaluate our campaigns and this campaign too is being evaluated. If we feel that this campaign works, then there could be a ‘season two’. Right now, we are looking at measuring it on reach. Secondly, on the social media platforms, on the video views that we are able to generate. Thirdly, on how many people are really talking about our campaign.
How did you promote the initiative? Which were the agencies that you worked with?
All our agencies which work on Ford are co-located (sit in one office) and that set up is called Global team Ford. JWT, Mindshare and Wunderman all sit there and the core idea emanates from the brand manager and the global team Ford. The social media idea was fructified with Wat Consult - a social media agency in Mumbai. We partnered with them and started fleshing out the entire campaign. We started the recruitment process with a dual approach whereby we advertised about this campaign on Facebook without revealing the name of the vehicle, as it had not yet been launched. We started getting entries from there, which we shortlisted. In addition to this, we reached out to people who we believed had a certain passion in certain areas, for example, Raghu Dixit and Vinod Chandra - people whom we know through our previous work. So some came through crowdsourcing on Facebook and some by a select(ed) model. Then we brought them in, had discussions and workshops and went the whole nine yards.
What/how has the response been so far? How many people did you engage through this initiative?
We are delighted with the response. In less than two weeks, we have close to 50,000 people who are actually talking about ‘One tank full’. We use various social media monitoring tools, including Buddy Media, and that gives us the ability to measure. The beauty of the campaign is that it is not a sell, which is a mistake most marketers make. Every channel is not meant to sell your product. Our going-in premise with our social media strategy is very clear - we want to engage with our community members. We are not here to sell our cars; for that, we have dealerships and a different set of marketing campaigns in play. If you can engage people, believe me, half your battles are won.
A lot of car manufacturers are going the ‘journey’ route – Nano has done it, as well as Skoda Yeti. How can a car brand like Ford derive value and RoI from this kind of campaign, when it may not be something very new for the consumer?
Our take is very simple on this. If you read the Vedas, they will tell you that there are only seven kinds of stories that can be told. How you tell the story and what is the story becomes a differentiating factor. For us, it is extremely important that it has to be about individuals. The product tends to be incidental, what differentiates our campaign from the rest of the pack is that for us essentially the people are the centre of the world and their stories are the key. For us social media is fantastic channel to engage with our community and not about selling cars.
According to NM Incite Social Brand equity Ranking Q1 2012 – a survey by Nielsen, Ford India was the second most popular Indian brand. However, in the following quarter, it slipped to the 10th position. Is this campaign a way of counter-acting that?
We feel good about our social presence but we do not celebrate nor mourn if the ranking changes. What matters most is the strategy, which is to focus on engaging with communities. Is it working? Does it find resonance with community members? Ranking may go up and down - who knows next quarter where it will be. The fact is that you have to stay honest and true to your strategy of sharply focused on engaging your community. That is what we get kicks out of and not our rankings.
What is the ad budget allocated for this campaign?
It has been one of the least expensive campaigns but one of the most rewarding. The beauty of our grammar is that we do not have to spend zillions on our brand ambassadors. For us, our brand ambassadors are our consumers and prospects and they are our heroes.
Campaign India