Ford Strategy To Market Focus To Younger Set Is Paying Off

Karl Greenberg
May 12, 2008

If there's a bit of good news in Dearborn, it's that Ford's small cars are selling well. The company's car retail sales were up 21% last month. April sales of the new Ford Focus were up 88% worldwide and 45% in the U.S. versus the month last year. Year-to-date sales of Focus are up 30%, to 72,920 units in the U.S., per the company, which says April sales of 23,950 are the highest for the nameplate in eight years.

Sales of Ford's Fusion were also up 31%--and sales of siblings Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKZ were up 19% percent and 20%, respectively, with Fusion and Milan setting April sales records.

Ford has been marketing Focus to younger consumers with a Web-heavy program that touts its Sync telematics and entertainment system as much as the car itself. Programs included an effort using viral rich-media ads called widgets, via Interpolls, an L.A.-based ad-erving and tech company.

Another program, launched in February, was a whimsical bit of online buzz marketing similar superficially to the now-famous Office Max "Elf Yourself" campaign. The Ford Theme Songatron, at, developed by Wunderman and N.Y.-based Oddcast, lets you upload a photo, choose from among 25 songs, watch yourself shimmy in front of a Focus, and send it to friends and enemies.

Scott Kelly, digital marketing manager for Ford, says the company has been focusing on getting younger buyers to look at Focus with music-themed activity that aligns with the fact that the car is the first featuring Ford's Sync technology.

He says Ford has increased the percentage of 20- to-35-year-old Focus buyers from 26% to 30%. "We don't have age data on who is visiting the Focus Web site, but we know who uses content [like Songatron] and it skews younger."

"We found that there's a certain population that won't interact with a car ad. If you can create something like a theme song game that's fun and use it as opportunity to introduce a product they will have a more favorable opinion of the brand."

The company has also promoted Focus and Sync by sponsoring gaming and graphic arts sites like "If you can bring them in and engage them on something fun first, they are likely to engage the product," says Kelly.

He concedes that he was worried about getting incredible reach with no awareness, as did the Elf Yourself campaign. "It was funny because we put this together when 'Elf Yourself' came out, so that was on our minds." He says the company tried to avoid the trap of a lot of impressions with no brand or product context by making the game a part of the Focus site.

"A lot of people who participated left the site, but 55% went on to view Focus content. If I am getting 55% of the half a million who [created Songatron content] to also check out Focus, I'm happy."

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