Putting the customer, at the centre of the communication is a brave move. Could you tell us about the genesis of EcoSport's Urban Discovery campaign?
The way the current campaign has been designed in India is quite innovative and brave. We are literally handing the keys to the launch to the customer entirely. It's quite an ambitious thing for a big company. But we think it is the right thing to do for our brand. It is also a more efficient way of advertising. If you are confident, you need to turn the brand over to the customer, since they will be able to tell the story in a manner that we'll never be able to. It will be more authentic and more shareable. And that's the currency of today's marketing.
What the Urban Discovery campaign is doing is simply handing over the keys of the soon to be launched EcoSport to 35 specially chosen teams and then be a part of their urban discoveries. The idea is to form the emotional connect with the consumer and making them engaged enough to share their experience with their brand community, their friends and families, in a real life situation. The core DNA of this launch campaign is not the fancy TV ad but it will anchor around the awareness we build based on these 35 teams. (Also Read: Ford EcoSport for Indian market unveiled)
India is a tough market where many leading global auto brands are finding it difficult to become profitable. What has the Ford experience been?
India is the big idea market. The Indian consumers have a different reference point when compared to most other markets globally. To add to that they are also very tough and are among the most informed customers in the world. For instance, in a focus group in India the customer is aware of not just about the car-technology but even the difference between the tyres and their diameter. For a marketing guy this is a very special market and also a difficult one to crack. That is why innovation is so important here.
What have been some of the key learnings from the Indian market and consumer?
We are relatively young here (Ford has been in India since 1995). The consumer opinions in this category are formed over time and not overnight. This is a market that we feel is ready for an innovation like the EcoSport. There is a lot to learn from the Indian market that we can export to other places. For instance Figo, which we rolled out in countries like Mexico, South Africa, etc after it was launched successfully in India. Figo really changed our mind on what price Ford should compete at. We have been in the automotive business for over 100 years but the gift that India has given us is an appreciation for making a product affordable - around the globe.
To what extent has Ford's marketing strategy been impacted by the changes in the media consumption habits of consumers?
While the market is still being guided by very traditional media, the old order is changing at a rapid pace. For instance the use of celebrities where a star or a cricketer using the product would get the consumer to buy it is something that in many markets is finished. Nobody believes them and no one will buy the product that way.
What about the interplay of traditional and new age media?
The use of mobile phone has really transformed the media landscape in this market and I feel has brought the situation to a tipping point. The way we see it, while all media is important, instead of designing a campaign for traditional media first and then moving to the non-traditional space as the amplifier, let's reverse the process. Start with digital and then move to other media so that people have a conversation about the product way before it is available commercially. Let the interest grow organically and then augment with traditional media to give it scale since by then you have already got many people interested. This approach becomes a much more seamless and cost effective activity.
Car advertising in India like many other markets is criticised for sticking to a template; one followed by pretty much all auto brands. How does one break this clutter?
The mistake is that people put pressure on the advertising itself to be different instead of the tactic being different. Brands should learn to challenge the prescribed traditional approach. For instance, it just does not make any sense to spend 100% of the ad-budget in three months alone. Today's customer has so many things to engage and entertain him. It takes time for people to get used to new products. It's very important for us as an industry to try new tactics as much as new campaigns.
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