Ford Fusion Ads Break, Focusing on Fuel EconomyBy Michelle Krebs March 3, 2009
By Michelle Krebs
DEARBORN -- Think Ford and most consumers don't think cars first. Or fuel economy.
Ford marketing executives hope to reverse both notions with its massive ad campaign for the 2010 Ford Fusion and the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid that kicks off this week. Quite simply, Ford bills the Fusion in all of its forms -- from the four-cylinder to the V6 to the hybrid -- as the most fuel-efficient midsize sedan in America.
In a campaign that's as large as that for the Ford F-150 pickup, Ford focuses mostly on fuel economy as well as technology, including Ford Sync, in its print ads, that began running in newspapers this weeks, and on television commercials, the first of which air Tuesday evening on American Idol.
Think Cars First
Think Ford and a consumer thinks of trucks. "Ford is known as a truck and Mustang company," said Matt VanDyke, Ford's U.S. marketing director at an unveiling of the Ford Fusion's "We Speak Car" ad campaign Monday. "We've got to convince the public that Ford's got a full car portfolio."
Reversing the notion that Ford primarily makes trucks is particularly important now. In 2008, for the first time in seven years, cars outsold trucks in the U.S. -- 51 percent for cars, 49 percent for trucks, said Ford's top sales analyst.
Ford is improving its market share in most car segments, particularly with Focus in small cars, Fusion in midsize and the new Lincolns in the luxury segment, but still is underperforming in the car market in total, Pipas added.
"In 2001, trucks outsold cars for the first time in history, and many of us thought light trucks would never look back," recalled Pipas. But, he acknowledged the pendulum has swung back and Ford sees the shift between cars and trucks accelerating in the years ahead.
Pipas cites a number of reasons for the resurgence of car popularity:
- aging baby boomers, who will continue to have a powerful influence on the vehicle market, are entering the empty nest phase of their lives and trading their SUVs for cars;
- millennials the other giant demographic, are just entering the job market and buying their first vehicles, which likely are cars;
- gas prices, despite their recent respite, likely will rise and consumers know it;
- social factors including the urbanization of America and a spreading "take only what you need" philosophy.
In the next 18 to 24 months, Ford replaces its entire car line beginning with the Fusion pacing the pack, said Chantel Lenard, Ford group marketing manager for Global Small and Medium Cars. "The Fusion aggressively positions Ford to take back its share of the midsize car segment and sets the tone for the upcoming Taurus and Fiesta," she said.
And there's much work to be done on the Fusion. The nameplate has been around only four years; its competitors, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord have been around for roughly three decades. During those four years, Ford has built enough name recognition so that 60 percent of consumers know Fusion. Conversely, however, that means 40 percent are clueless about what a Fusion is when Accord and Camry are ubiquitous.
Ford hopes to improve name recognition and what Fusion stands for by advertising the Fusion and Fusion Hybrid very heavily during the next four-month launch phase. And it will use as its kickoff Fox Network's hugely popular American Idol program.
Ford has been a major sponsor of American Idol and its only automotive sponsor. For the Fusion, Ford adds a twist to that sponsorship with the "Fusion Music Video Challenge," which directs customers to its Web site to answer trivia about the latest Ford Music Video. Visitors then are entered into a chance to see the American Idol 2010 Fusion video made and experience other American Idol-related events.
Ford also intends to make extensive use of online marketing for the Fusion and Fusion Hybrid, which will roll out in early April.
Think Fuel Economy, Too
The No. 1 reason car shoppers don't buy a Ford is fuel economy -- they think Ford makes only gas-guzzlers, said Ford's VanDyke. However, Ford claims fuel-economy leadership in a number of segments, including now the midsize car market.
Most of the first 30-second TV spots for the Ford Fusion and Ford Fusion Hybrid will focus mainly on fuel economy. The Ford Fusion Hybrid ads emphasize the car's EPA rating of 41 miles per gallon in the city, its better fuel economy than the Toyota Camry Hybrid and its range of 700 miles on a single tank of gas.
VanDyke said consumer research showed that "a 4" (as in 41 mpg) instead of "a 3" (as in 30 something) at the beginning of a mileage rating resonates loudly with car shoppers. What also struck a chord in surveys was that the Fusion Hybrid achieves fuel economy that's eight miles per gallon more than a Toyota Camry Hybrid. "Anything above five miles per gallon better" was the charm, VanDyke said.