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Ford to build on successful advertising campaign

Fast money: Ford invited customers to test-drive its vehicles with a cash incentive of $200 if they bought a rival brand, but only a tiny proportion ended up taking the money.

Two major ad campaigns steer customers back to Ford with more on the way

Ford logo20 Oct 2014

FORD says its recent high-profile advertising campaign has been one of the most successful in the Blue Oval's Australian history, encouraging customers to reconsider the brand and its evolving range of vehicles.

Two major campaigns spearheaded the drive to increase recognition of the brand with an anonymous television and social media advertisement accompanied by the hashtag #guesswho, asking viewers to guess the brand, while the second campaign involved a cash incentive for customers who test-drove a Ford but bought a competitor's product.

Despite the better-than-expected response, Ford says the strong campaign was not about generating instant sales, but was designed to re-educate consumers who may mistakenly perceive the brand as “large cars and V8s”.

Over the coming months Ford will roll out three all-new models with the long-awaited Mondeo mid-sized sedan, Everest large SUV and iconic Mustang muscle car joining the ranks.

The successful campaign aimed to highlight the Blue Oval's offerings in segments that consumers may not traditionally associate with the brand, to secure a new generation of buyers after the death of Falcon in 2016.

Speaking at the filming of the next promotional film, Ford marketing manager David Katic told GoAuto the initial campaign “exceeded all of our wildest expectations” but the recent advertising push was just the start of a strong media presence and more specific promotion would follow.

“The Guess Who campaign is all about showing Australia three awesome all-new products that we're bringing to the marketplace and to show how we are going to grow in this market,” he said.

“That campaign is the launch of those new products and then we'll come out of Guess Who and we'll go into the individual pre-launch campaigns of each of those products so it's really kick-starting our pre-launch efforts and it's gone really really well and we're excited.

“The feedback has been incredible – 100,000 entries, 1.6 million Twitter questions, Facebook out of control and multiple millions of people have seen the campaign. We are having to reinforce our website so we can handle the traffic”.

Mr Katic went on to say the $200 Test Drive Challenge, which offered customers $200 if they test drove a Ford but bought a rival brand, had been equally successful with about 0.001 per cent of participants taking the money.

“It's gone fantastically and really really well. What's interesting is our redemption rate is less than 100 of all of the thousands and thousands of test-drives we've done,” he said.

“As a marketer it was the perfect response. People sometimes aren't aware how good our products are and that's exactly why we did the campaign”.

Mr Katic said that since the introduction of the offer, several dealers had reported instances of customers deliberately booking test drives with the intent of buying another brand and taking the cash.

“They were very honest with the dealer they said 'look I'm just here to get my $200 so I'm just going to test drive a Ranger and then go'. The dealer took the customer on a test-drive... and they signed up and bought a Ranger,” said Mr Katic.

“There are multiple stories like that. The whole campaign is about getting people to reappraise our brand because people think our brand is large cars and V8s, but the reality is One Ford is bringing an incredible product line-up to us.

Ford's One Ford mission statement aims to operate the company as a globally unified organisation, and has resulted in the Mustang being produced in right-hand drive for the first time, for example.

“One of my jobs as a marketing manager is to make sure Australia understands we sell a full range of products and we are so confident about them we are willing to put our money where our mouth is,” said Mr Katic.

“Come in and test drive our cars, if you don't like it I'll give you $200 if you buy another one [brand]. I'm not sure if I can do anything more confident than that.

“That's essentially how it has been received – a really positive response and dealers tell multiple stories about seeing customers they don't normally see.

People think if we are making this confident statement there must be something here”.

Such was the success of the challenge, Mr Katic said Ford is likely to run an identical offer again.

“If we do it again there's nothing we would change really. We track all of our television commercials and how they perform for memorability, branding, appeal, communication, likability and that's one of the best ads we've done.

“It's not necessarily about selling cars today, it's about making a confident statement to Australia about our products and it has longer term appeal than just the two months we are running the program”.

Data released by Roy Morgan Research this week revealed consumer trust in the brand was slipping with a 21 per cent drop over the previous year's survey, and Ford will be looking to repair some of the damage caused by the announcement to cease local production in 2016.

Ford wound-up the Guess Who campaign on the October 13 with the reveal of a Ford or Mustang badge on each of the previously unbranded vehicles, and shoppers wanting $200 out of the company have until October 31 to book a test-drive.

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