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Ford's 'Drive One' Message Grows from Bottom Up

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Four hundred-plus employees, thousands of hours of blood, sweat and tears as well as dealer insights are fueling Ford’s quest to win customers on the strength of its vehicle quality, fuel economy, safety advances and smart technology.

“The best part of Ford’s story is unfolding in the studios, labs, factories and dealerships, and we’re opening the door a bit, so people can see inside,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s group vice president of Marketing and Communications.  “Customers are smart.  When they meet our team and see what they’re working on, people will finally understand where the excellence in our products is coming from.  That’s what this campaign is all about.”

This week alone, Ford hopes to reach 70 million Americans with the best thinking and hard work of engineers, scientists, designers and technical experts and dealers throughout the country, who have been working together since November to start telling Ford’s story. 

Their collective effort is called “Drive one,” which chronicles in digital, TV and print media how Ford employees have closed the gap with Asian competitors on quality, advanced vehicle safety, made vehicles more fuel efficient and led the industry in developing in-car connectivity.  It also invites people to drive a Ford and see for themselves how the company’s vehicles stack up versus the competition.

drive green “The four areas – quality, green, safe, smart – match customer concerns 100 percent,” said Victor Benitez, vice president and general manager of Gus Machado Ford in Hialeah, Fla.  He helped develop “Drive one” with Ford employees, other dealers and Ford’s agencies – JWT Team Detroit and Wunderman Team Detroit, both part of the WPP Group.

The super group test drove 60 different themes and taglines, sometimes in unusually hands-on ways.  For instance, Ford’s Marketing Dealer Advisory Board participated in a consumer-style focus group, complete with professional facilitators and one-way mirrors. 

This week, Ford brought experts and hands-on technology demonstrations on quality, fuel economy, safety and smart technology to share with more than 3,000 dealers gathered for a product introduction event in Las Vegas.

“I’ve never seen this level of partnership between any automaker and the people who spend the most time every day face-to-face with customers,” said Charlie Gilchrist, owner of Southwest Ford in Weatherford, Texas and chairman of the national Ford Dealer Council.  “The collaboration is great, but the end result is even better: ‘Drive one’ is a confident statement – and an invitation to help customers experience the product strengths that really matter to people.”

Finding the Story
“Drive one” is being introduced just as Ford’s rollout of new products is accelerating: 70 percent of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury products will be new or significantly freshened by the end of the year, and the company’s quality is at record levels.

drive qualityThis week, Ford released findings from the RDA Group research that shows Ford is second to none in vehicle quality in the U.S.  Ford has now matched Toyota and Honda in initial quality.  This news follows a strong showing in 2007, when Ford earned more J.D. Power Initial Quality awards than any other company.

To help tell the quality story, camera crews and agency reporters interviewed 115 designers, engineers and technical experts and visited facilities that most people inside the company will never see. 

This includes a room called the “Bat Cave,” where Ford employees conduct virtual reality quality experiments, as well as the VIRTTEX lab.  It features a full-motion driving simulator where Ford studies driver drowsiness, distraction and tries finding new ways to boost safety.

 “What we found was inspiring,” said John Felice, Ford Division general marketing manager.  “As strong as the technology is, what’s even more impressive is how proud people are of their work – and how much they want to help the company succeed.”

Count Product Design Engineer Jason Johnson among them.  He works on SYNC, a Ford-exclusive technology that allows users to control Bluetooth-equipped cell phones hands-free, using voice commands.

drive safe“One of my favorite things to do is talk about the work I do,” said Johnson, who will be featured in Ford commercials and webisodes.  “But going through this process, I was surprised to learn we’re using recycled and organic material in our seats, and I didn’t realize all the work we’re doing on safety and hybrids.  Now I have more to talk about with my friends and neighbors.”

Employees including Elizabeth Baron, a virtual reality and advanced visualization technical expert, believes Ford might have a better idea in its new communications plan.

“There is a lot of good work going on at Ford, and I’m actually seeing results from the great products we’re putting on the road today,” she said.  “My 16-year-old daughter’s friend wants to get a Focus because of SYNC, and her parents approve because of the safety ratings.  The family is not loyal to purchasing Ford products, so I count this as a win.  With ‘Drive one,’ now we have even more ways to win people over.”

Ford will continue to update www.forddriveone.com with new webisodes, with as many as 30 planned to launch over the spring and summer.  Televised 30- and 60-second spots will air throughout the summer as well.

Regional Advertising to Focus on Vehicles, Consumers
drive smartConcurrent with the national launch of “Drive one,” Ford dealers around the country will begin airing a complementary series of Drive One television, print and digital ads built around the theme, “Town to Town – Friend to Friend.”

To film these experiences, Ford approached competitive vehicle owners in two towns – Marietta, Ga. and Windsor, Calif. – and asked them to drive a Ford for a week and then share it with a friend. 

Ford crews filmed 180 test drives, creating more than 20 unscripted, 30-second commercials covering nearly the entire Ford product range.   Although the vehicles varied, the results were the same:  people were pleasantly surprised by Ford products.

“To be honest, I was skeptical of Ford vehicles.  But after spending nearly a week in a Ford Escape, my perceptions completely changed about the Ford brand,” said Amy Hardigree, who appears in one of Ford’s “Town to Town – Friend to Friend” advertisements.  “I was so impressed by the design and technology, I realized what I was missing in my Volkswagen Beetle, and it was great that I was able to then share the experience with my friend.”

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Ford's 'Drive One' Message Grows from Bottom Up
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