The BRAND Series from eIQ aims to provide a snapshot of how the world’s largest companies are changing their marketing strategies to incorporate digital to reach the newest generations of consumers around the globe.
The first of this weekly series kicks off with FORD, the American multinational automaker that recorded $151.8 billion in revenue last year.
Millennials aren’t investing in cars as the younger generation is already familiar with the on-demand transportation services like Uber and Didi. This has caused auto car sales to experience sluggish growth worldwide but Euromonitor predicts that 2017 will be positive for developed markets such as the US, while developing markets such as India and China have seen positive auto sales.
Where does Ford fit into this picture?
Known for its quintessential American middle class, suburban family minivan and pickup truck, Ford Motor Company has been operating for over a 100 years. Ranked as the second largest automaker in the United States, preceded by General Motors, Ford counted 11,971 Ford and Lincoln dealerships worldwide, with 3,238 locations across the United States.
The company has resonated with families as a practical and highly sensible car but missing the mark in appealing to young people, falling behind both Toyota and Honda in Google’s “cool factor”.
“Millennials don’t remember the bad stuff,” said Chris Travell, VP of Maritz Research. “They’re coming in as mostly clean slates. Ford is not considered the ‘old Ford’ to this generation.”
To reach a new audience, Ford’s 9-year old Youtube account boasts the most subscribers (830,000) among all auto brands according to L2 and its monthly visits to the US site sees 12 million visits per month.
The company has also joined the ‘driverless car’ trend after it was reported earlier this year that CEO Mark Fields is being replaced by Jim Hackett, Ford’s Head of Autonomous Driving. This, combined with the construction of its data center and investment in Pivotal, a San Francisco based enterprise software company focused on cloud technology, shows that Ford has its eyes on becoming much more than a suburban staple.
Over in the east, Ford Motors has also pushed an extensive online strategy in China, which essentially means a Tmall strategy as Alibaba’s marketplace remains a critical channel for brands to reach Chinese customers.
Ford’s recent moves are taking after global luxury auto brands like Jaguar and Alfa Romeo, the latter selling 350 cars in 33 seconds on Tmall.
Through the Ford Tmall official shop-in-shop, customers can purchase an online voucher to claim a special price offline at a Ford dealership. Because of the e-voucher, customers will have the chance to pay ¥136,800 instead of ¥153,300.
“Chinese auto buyers are using digital technology at all steps in the purchase process. A majority of Chinese buyers already know what model they want before visiting a dealership, and online research is a key influence factor,” said a report published by L2.
This year, Ford has turned to technology to make buying cars a less painful process through a tech platform called AutoFi where Ford has made a small, undisclosed investment in.
Once the platform launches, customers will be able to buy one of Ford’s vehicles through a mobile phone or on desktop. The customer simply needs to go into the dealership to finalize paperwork and collect the car.
The idea behind this, according to Ford, is to give customers the best of both worlds; reduced time in dealerships and a chance to see the car before signing the final paperwork.
As previously mentioned, through Ford Smart Mobility LLC, the company is focused on the autonomous cars. It also launched FordGoBikes in San Francisco and acquired Chariot, a crowd sourced shuttle service to target the overcrowded, underserved communities in the Bay area to target students and workers.
Ford Motor has also launched FordPass, an all in one app designed to help drivers find parking spaces ahead of time, compare fuel prices and access FordPay, the company’s digital payments platform that allows drivers to pay for parking and make payments for vehicle related finances such as maintenance costs at dealerships.
The company intends the platform to become the “iTunes of motors”.
Ford Motor is either building or acquiring pieces of what seems to be shaping up to an integrated digital ecosystem. It’s presence on Tmall also shows that the company is serious about its ecommerce strategy in the east, and through an online marketplace, it will be able to reach auto buyers beyond the capital cities.
Although Ford is emphasizing its digital strategy in the US and China, its Southeast Asian presence is mainly limited to offline advertising, commercials, and dealerships in countries such as Thailand and Indonesia.
Through the company’s various tech investments and efforts in ecosystem building, Ford Motor has a strong chance in strengthening its appeal to the growing digital audience.
Stay tuned for next week’s installment in eIQ BRANDSeries.
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