Ford gets bold
Ford has invited a film crew into the company and has granted them
access to document the changes going on inside the organization. The
results of their filming are being shown on a new web site called, you
guessed it, Ford Bold Moves.
“It will allow people to see inside a corporate turnaround,” said Martin Collins, executive director of marketing at Ford.
If any company is in need of a shake-up, it's Ford. At home and abroad, the company is struggling to survive and is currently in the midst of a massive turnaround effort to reshape itself to compete in the 21st century. With a goal to return to profitablilty by 2008, it seems that Ford's EVP and auto industry rock star Mark Fields may actually believe that it is time to "change or die."
The site is clean, simple, and straightforward. The execution is very very slick. Behind the lens are the filmmakers’ who made Metallica's award-winning documentary “Some Kind of Monster” and the Sundance series “Iconoclast.” Indie journalist Jonny Leahan is the Managing Editor of FordBoldMoves.com and is giving the site a straight-forward tone and voice:
It’s no secret that Ford is at a crossroads, and the century-old company is facing some of the toughest challenges in its history. Having both participated in and covered the documentary film scene for the past decade, I have heard countless tales of horror from filmmakers who try to follow important stories like these, only to encounter so many roadblocks along the way that the project has to be scrapped. Ford, however, has chosen to pull back the curtain at this critical time, allowing a film crew to capture the behind-the-scenes drama as an iconic American company struggles to right its path.The first episode is called "Change or Die".
Online, most consider GM to be the innovator in the auto space. Among other efforts, GM's FastLane blog is a bonified success, and the Chevy Apprentice site, which let folks remix Tahoe ads was pretty cute and equally as controversial. Despite catching a lot of flack from the ad media and bloggers as well as some subversive results, GM stood behind the Tahoe site. Ford's project, it seems, looks like an even bigger step towards corporate transparancy and consumer involvement.
I am naturally sceptical of these things, but I must admit to being impressed by the tone, look and feel of this campaign. Sure, its slick. It is "produced" and has a soundtrack. (I'm still waiting for Kelly Clarkson to chime in. Uggh.) You're not going to find this made by kids on YouTube, but that's not the point. This is not some pet project of Ford's web evangelist. It is 2.0 marketing being done by a major company at the highest level of the organization.
Is it risky? sure. A bold move. You bet.
If anything, it is a fantastic example of a brand living up to its strapline. Those who were so quick to critisize "Bold Moves" should consider revising their initial opinions.
If I were working at Ford, I'd feel pretty good about this campaign. HR must be very happy, as internal stakeholders are benefiting.
And me? Well, for all the crap I've been giving Martin Sorell lately, I should point out that JWT (a WPP company) created the campaign. There is undoubtedly a queue of people in at their NYC and Detroit shops waiting to work on this.
Nothing is perfect, and this campaign is no exception. Why isn't this project being promoted on the Ford.com homepage or any other sub-sites? Why would Ford rely only on WOM to drive traffic to the project? Is this a blogosphere-only event? Or, can't they coordinate/integrate their online efforts well enough?
The biggest issue, however, is the Ford brand, a name that remains its own worst enemy. When you say "Ford," people think Ford, Lincoln Mercury. They don't associate it with brands like Mazda, Jaguar, Land Rover, and Aston Martin. And that's a problem that no documentary can solve.
Technorati Tags: advertising, 2.0, viral, ford
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Hey, George, I enjoyed reading your thoughts on Ford's "Change or Die" docu-virals.
My thoughts on Ford's sad state... if you close your eyes and just think about their advantages it's really surprising they're having trouble. They've got (in my opinion) perhaps the most diversified and distinguished group of auto marques. They have one of the world's largest R&D budgets in the auto segment. They're present on nearly every corner of the globe. On top of that, they practically invented the auto industry.
So when did they get themselves in a "Change or Die" situation? I think that despite the troubles for American automakers, they can make a comeback if they walk their talk. Bill Ford's recent announcement of not sticking to his commitment to hybrid numbers troubles me. Ford had a head start on GM with their hybrid Escape. If they roll out more of their concept cars, focus on process efficiency, and make design a key factor, I think they'll be better off. But above all, they have to deliver a better (than Toyota) value prop when it comes to total cost of ownership (ie: fuel efficiency).
Bottom line: they're going to need more than documentary crews with "all access" to make the turn around really happen.
# posted by Trent Bigelow : 6:32 PM, July 08, 2006
You're right, Trent. In the end, the value prop and quality of their products will make of break them, regardless of how good a job they do at creating conversations with ford customers.
As my friend Peter Levitan wrote me, "Dosen't it come down to building cars we want for the price we want to pay?"
He does have a point ...
That said, their transparency is refreshing and (hopefully for Ford) signals more "bold moves" to come ... The site/project walks the talk. Will the rest of Ford follow?
# posted by George Nimeh : 11:55 AM, July 12, 2006