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Ford Motor Company

The choice of the media through which to communicate to the target market can determine the success of a product launch. On the other hand, the characteristics and the nature of the prospective customers influence the decision on the media to use. Ford Motor Company’s choice of Fiesta Movement on social media was a risky venture to launch the Fiesta in the United States. No other company had attempted to launch a product through the social media exclusively. As such, the outcome was impossible to predict. This essay will summarize the article on the Fiesta Launch, the pros and cons of the social media strategy, the risks and the suitability of the Fiesta Movement for the 2013 IMC.

The article starts with the information on how the recent recession affected the automobile industry negatively. Ford was not among the companies bailed out by the government because it had superior strategies that kept it afloat during the economic meltdown. One of the strategies which Ford focused on was smaller, fuel-efficient, greener global cars. The cars could be sold on the global market because they were created on a single platform with minor modification for each market. The single platform enabled production cost reduction and fuelled Fiesta’s growth. Ford introduced the Fiesta in the United States market in 2010 but had come across challenges marketing it. The problem arose because unlike other countries in Europe, Americans do not like small cars. Additionally, Ford had not sold such cars in America. As such, even those who purchased small cars did not consider Ford Fiesta, because the company had not operated in the small cars’ segment for more than thirty years.

Another challenge for Ford in marketing the Fiesta was that its target customers were aged between 21 and 34 years old and did not drive as much as the previous generation. Consequently, the corporation had to work hard to convince them to purchase the Fiesta. The Ford Corporation chose a 100 people for the Fiesta Movement based on their friends and followers on social media, entrepreneurial spirit, creative vision and social vibrancy. The first chapter of the movement aimed to create awareness about the Fiesta to the American customers. Ford gave the agents freedom to choose activities they would carry out while driving the Fiesta. After carrying out the activities, the agents uploaded their videos on social media such as YouTube to share with friends.  The first campaign was successful because it generated 6.2 million views on YouTube, 4 million Twitter impressions and 750, 000 Flickr views by the end of 2009.

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The second chapter of the Fiesta Movement started in 2010 where 40 agents were chosen and put into 20 groups. The groups were then given missions to complete challenges in local communities and upload videos of their activities at Fiesta Movement website. Followers could comment on the videos and keep track of their favorite agents. The two campaigns achieved commendable results for the Fiesta. About 6000 customers had made reservations for the cars before they were available in dealer showrooms. Additionally, another 100, 000 potential customers were requesting for additional information to assist them in purchase decision-making. The product awareness had reached 60% before Ford considered advertising through the traditional media.

The Fiesta Movement’s performance was exceptional because it reduced the cost of marketing considerably. The marketing campaign through the traditional media could have cost about $ 60 million while the movement used less than $ 10 million. The Fiesta Movement increased the sales up to 23, 000 cars within the first half of the year. The sales had reached 70, 000 cars by 2011, a number that surpassed that of competitors such as Nissan and Honda. Eventually, Fiesta became the most popular sub-compact car in America. The sales declined in 2012 because of the 3 year design cycle and the gravitation of small car buyers towards other Ford models.  The Fiesta was upgraded in 2013 and the company used social media to communicate the added features. The new campaign involved agents on monthly missions that incorporated popular TV shows such as the American Idol. Additionally, the company utilized the user-generated content from the campaigns for digital, print and TV adverts.

Although the Fiesta Movement campaign on social media achieved its objectives, it had both advantages and disadvantages. The first merit of the campaign is that the agents gave it more credibility than the company would in a regular advert. A company may exaggerate the performance and the features of a product to generate sales during marketing. When the messages in the marketing campaign are distorted from the reality of the product, buyers are likely to be disappointed once they purchase the good. Consequently, the customers need a credible source of information that can assist them in reducing the risk of purchasing products that do not meet their needs. Since the agents are not employees of the company, they are likely to provide a truthful account of their experience with the vehicle, thus the increased credibility of the campaign.

The second advantage is that the social media campaign reduced the cost of advertisement considerably. Apart from the daily spending of the agents and the maintenance of their cars, the company avoided other costs such as payments for advert exposure through the traditional media. Consequently, instead of using $ 60 million, the campaign used less than $ 10 million. The amount of money saved through the social media campaign increased the profitability of the company. The money could be used to sponsor other social media campaigns since they have proven effective in attracting customers and generating sales.

The third merit is that the campaign was unique because it involved real life activities with ordinary people. The agents interacted with local people as they performed their mission. The interactions with potential customers during the missions made it easy for prospective clients to connect with the company and its products.  The normal adverts are mostly computer-generated and may seem to lose touch with reality. The agents could demonstrate the benefits of the cars to those with whom they interacted. Consequently, they would create a formidable followership on the social media that could comment and attest to the performance of the Fiesta.

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Ford took tremendous risk by allowing the agents to use the social media to communicate their experience with Fiesta car. The risk resulted from the demerits of the movement. The first disadvantage of the strategy was that no other organization had used the social media exclusively to launch a new product without the support of other media.  There was increased probability of negative comments that would destroy the positive publicity created by the Fiesta Movement.  Eventually, the launch would be a failure, which could make it impossible for Ford to enter the small cars’ segment in North America. The success of the Fiesta in America is one of the reasons the company emerged out of the recession strong compared to other competitors. The failure to venture into the small sub-compact market segment would probably have spelt doom for the company, which would have necessitated government assistance.

Secondly, the activities of the agents while touring the country driving the Fiesta were uncontrolled. The agents had no moral obligation to behave in a certain way because they were not Ford’s employees. Since they were young and adventurous, there was a chance that they could engage in activities that would taint the reputation of the company. Additionally, Ford did not control the content being uploaded online. The damage caused by any inappropriate behavior by the agents and subsequent social media content could be irreparable.  The focus on social media as a major means of marketing committed the company to constant interactions with the social media users. Social media requires unwavering commitment to responding to customers’ comments, questions and inquiries. This exercise is tedious and time-consuming. The risk is magnified when Ford cannot commit personnel to deal with issues arising from online social interactions constantly.  Customers may interpret the lack of response as a care-free attitude by the company and may spread negative sentiments to others.

Ford’s use of the Fiesta Movement in 2013 as part of its integrated marketing communications (IMC) was a good strategy for a number of reasons. First, it is essential to acknowledge that the use of IMC is to present a unified brand to the customers irrespective of the media used (Hooley, Saunders & Piercy, 2014). Consistency is critical in the IMC and improves the consumers’ confidence in a brand. The use of the Fiesta Movement in 2013 would show consistency with the prior social media campaign. The 2013 communication’s objective was to inform the clients of the improved Fiesta. It aimed at highlighting the features that were new to the customers. Using the Fiesta Movement could be eventful because it targeted the same audience as the original campaign.

Secondly, the young people who were the potential customers constantly communicated their ideas and feelings through the social media. They enjoyed being part of the company from which they purchased products. As such, it was paramount for the company to use a media that would accommodate the customers’ need for participation. Only the social media could allow the customers to be part of the marketing campaign. The social media was a critical element of the IMC because it could guide the corporation on how to craft the message. Since it was successful in capturing the market needs in the original communication, it needed to be the platform upon which all the correspondence with the customers was created. The first campaign identified the need for customers to interact with the corporation. As such, all the other media such as direct marketing, sales promotions and direct selling should have had aspects that allowed the consumer to interact with Ford. The image that the customers knew of the sub-compact was a creation of social media. They had conformed to sharing experience, which was vital to their satisfaction with the Fiesta. As such, its absence from the IMC would have alienated the customers from the company. Ford would then lose market share as the customers seek an alternative company that would satisfy their needs.

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The use of the Fiesta Movement in the IMC reduced the cost of marketing because some of the content generated through the social media was transferred to other media. The time required to develop content for adverts was minimal because it was already there. All that was required was modification to the content to fit the unique nature of each media. The 2013 strategy modified the first campaign significantly. For instance, it involved celebrities by preserving a small number of vehicles for them. The inclusion of the celebrities legitimized the strategy further because it had the potential to generate additional reaction online. The youthful customers identified with celebrities and could be persuaded easily to purchase a product that their favorite celebrity used. As such, the decision to incorporate the Fiesta Movement into its IMC was right and strategic for the company’s continued positive performance. Additionally, current customers and past agents were given a chance to participate in the 2013 plan. The inclusion of such vital people consolidated the company’s loyalty and projected an image of a corporation that cares for its publics.  The testimonies that the current customers would provide through the campaign would appear authentic to skeptics, which would broaden the opportunities to attract new clients. Other potential customers who may not have considered Ford Fiesta were likely to be attracted by the corporate responsibility portrayed by the image.

In conclusion, the advantages of the Fiesta Movement included increased credibility, reduced cost of advertisement and uniqueness of the campaign. The demerits included the untested nature of social media to launch products, uncontrolled agents and uploaded content, negative comments and the time needed to respond online. The risks included ruined reputation, loss of market share and lack of product acceptance in the market.