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Ford pumps up Aussie connection

Shifting gear: Ford Australia will highlight local development work in future marketing campaigns.

Everest to benefit from marketing campaign highlighting Aussie development

Ford logo3 Aug 2015

By TIM NICHOLSON in THAILAND

FORD will leverage the Australian development of the Everest SUV in its marketing campaign as the car-maker tries to reconnect with traditional customers still smarting over the decision to shut down its Australian manufacturing operations.

The Geelong and Broadmeadows plants will close in October next year, bringing to an end 90 years of local manufacturing and killing off the Falcon large car, Falcon ute and the related Territory SUV.

However, Ford Australia will maintain a strong local engineering and design operation that will continue to work on global models, including next-generation versions of the Ranger and Everest.

Ford Australia communications and public affairs director Wes Sherwood told GoAuto that the Blue Oval will highlight local innovation and expertise when it begins marketing the Everest.

“Frankly it’s something we haven’t played up enough in general until now,” he said at the Everest first drive in Chiang Rai, Thailand, last week. “Obviously we had a lot going on with Falcon and Territory but that was a natural story.

“But now we are going to talk about Australians that do great things and innovate for other Australians. We think it is a core advantage. We know from research that consumers respond to it.” Mr Sherwood admitted there was still some resentment towards the company over its decision to end local manufacturing, but said the marketing campaign will seek to reinforce to consumers that Ford’s future is still in Australia, albeit with the focus shifting from producing cars to developing them.

“The people most impacted by the manufacturing story and the Falcon story, the people with the most emotional connection with us, who when we announced that (the closure) just said ‘that was a pretty crappy thing to do’, they are kind of frustrated with the brand,” he said.

“So that story in particular with that group is especially important because we have got to reconnect with them and say, ‘Hey we understand this is an emotional period, but understand that we are still Australia’s home team. Nobody else can fully develop a vehicle here.’” Mr Sherwood said focusing on the company’s future ties in with recent political discussion around the country’s future, and he highlighted the example of Geelong-based carbon-fibre and advanced materials producer Carbon Revolution.

“It points to what a lot of politicians are saying – what is the future of Australia post-manufacturing, and we really think it is around innovation,” he said.

“There are a lot of examples, Carbon Revolution. They are supplying wheels for the (Mustang) Shelby – which is not sold here – but they are innovating.

“They won’t even let us into the plant because they are so protective of that patented process, but that is the innovation that we think is going to be a growing factor for Australia going forward and we are right in that discussion – so you will hear lots more about that.”

The pre-launch ‘Guess Who?’ marketing campaign that Ford launched last year included a picture of three unidentified models – the Everest, Mondeo and Mustang – that buyers may not traditionally associate with the brand.

Mr Sherwood explained that the campaign was a success, but added that it had surprising results.

“It was pretty eye-opening when we did the Guess Who campaign with no badging. Mustang was in there and we thought Mustang was going to steal the show and Everest popped. Dealers started getting calls. Dealer interest in this vehicle is (high) … they are very excited about this.

“We are going to wait and see, but we are cautiously optimistic that we’ve got a good equation. Ultimately you want to be in a position where you have more demand than you’re supplying.”

While Mr Sherwood was unable to reveal much about Ford’s future marketing campaigns, he said there will be a noticeable shift in the coming months, and that more will be revealed soon.

“Our advertising is going to become more concentrated and more purposeful around connecting in a consistent way … to each of the individual products but really having a singular voice.

“Can’t get into all the details yet because we want to have the marketing team tell you about it but part of it is emphasising more Australian-ness.”

Ford Australia announced in April that its long-serving general manager of marketing David Katic would leave the company to pursue other interests, just a month after president and CEO Bob Graziano retired and was replaced by former vice-president of marketing, sales and service Graeme Whickman.

A replacement for Mr Katic is yet to be confirmed.

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