Ford Hands Over the Keys to Fiesta Marketing

When I started working for the New York Mets in 1986, there was a nice clean line between the fans and the game:

1. The players played the game

2. The fans watched.

There were exceptions — I remember a particularly violent Upper-Deck encounter between a group of intoxicated corrections officers and everyone around them — but in general, the customers were expected to buy their tickets, watch, and go home.

By the mid-90’s, things had begun to change. Fans were demanding more opportunities to interact with the team, and we had responded with baby steps such as letting them run the bases after some games. Our VP of Operations, who had worked for the team since 1962, was not happy about it.

“All of a sudden, the fans think they’re part of the show,” he said. “They’re not the show. Why can’t they just watch and enjoy it?”

I was reminded of this, and how it has played out in marketing since then, when I read this article about Ford’s new campaign to market the Fiesta:

The company has picked 100 young, Web-savvy drivers to get behind the wheel of its new Ford Fiesta subcompact for six months and post their impressions on sites such as YouTube, Flickr and Twitter.

The marketing campaign starts later this month, almost a year before U.S. consumers will be able to buy the Fiesta. Since the Fiesta name has been absent from the U.S. market for years and Ford hasn’t been in the subcompact market for a long time, the company has to find a way of turning heads away from top-selling small cars like Toyota Motor Corp.’s Yaris and Honda Motor Co.’s Fit.

The most interesting part of this to me is that Ford has accepted, and perhaps embraced, the fact that although they’re paying for the whole thing,

[Ford] will have no control over the online material posted by the 100 participants. That means some could be bluntly critical of the car and Ford won’t be able to stop it.

The marketing world has changed from the days when it was the advertiser’s job to broadcast the commercial, and the consumer’s job to watch it. Like it or not, your customers are now part of the show.

Ford deserves congratulations for recognizing this — here’s hoping the Fiesta is good enough to justify their faith.


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One thought on “Ford Hands Over the Keys to Fiesta Marketing

  1. Wow, chalk up two great decisions by Ford recently (the other one being not taking the bailout money!).

    While I know it’s been done before, I don’t know that this type of tactic has been done at this level by this big a company yet. I love it. It underscores the fact that a product truly needs to be remarkable now.

    How do you get on that Web-savvy list of testers, I wonder . . . . ?