After recently launching a one-of-a-kind digital campaign ‘Fun on your side’ Rahul Gautam, VP, Marketing, Ford India talks about cracking the code on the Indian consumer which he believes is the biggest challenge the brand faces.
BY NEETA NAIR
Q] What was the insight behind your innovative digital campaign where you partnered with Google for the new Ford EcoSport?
We are into Digital in a big way and work with all key partners very closely, be it Google or Facebook or in case of retail-- the auto portals. So, it was a joint idea. Its origin was in the positioning of the new Ford EcoSport which is fun, style, and technology. When it’s fun then everything we do has to be presented in that fashion, so it was a nice integration, and done differently. Basically for a week people searching for ‘Fun with EcoSport’ on Google Search were asked to choose their favourite fun activity such as movie mania, make a trip, grab a meal and fun hangout. After voting, consumers had to click on a ‘Thank You’ link to get a chance to win vouchers related to the voted option.
Q] What kind of response did you get for this campaign?
How many people did you reach out to? We got phenomenal response overall for the Ford EcoSport, and not just through this, but other initiatives as well like the exclusive booking on Amazon and the unboxing video featuring Mallika Dua with Siddharth Patankar. We have got more than 12 million views for the TVC.
Q] What is the marketing mix for the campaign?
It is a heavy mix tilting towards TV and Digital. Right now we are running ads pretty much on EcoSport alone. So, I would say close to 100% is EcoSport effort right now for Ford as a brand.
Q] How important is Digital as a medium for the brand? How much do you spend on it in a year?
Let’s say if the industry is spending 10%, we would be at 20%. We typically stay at double of the industry when it comes to digital, which is a pretty thought-through strategic bet because we think digital as digital first and not as an add-on medium. The key reason is that in any communication, we have got to be there contextually where consumers are, and be relevant. And this is a medium where you can be non-intrusive in some ways as well as be contextual, and therefore relevant. So, the digital platform allows you to be that much more targeted. We have better engagement here, and thus we are over-indexed on digital.
Q] The compact SUV segment is expected to grow in a big way. How much of that growing market do you hope to capture with Ford EcoSport?
So, this is a market which keeps surprising us. When we launched in 2013, the segment literally came from nothing to 109% of growth. So, the compact SUV segment got created with Ford EcoSport. And pretty much everybody has come and added growth to it. I think it’s growing at about 24% versus an industry which is growing at a rate of 7% to 8% on an average. So, that tells me there is a lot of appetite for the body style i.e. SUV styling, and for good reasons because it’s practical for the road conditions, it’s compact as far as parking space is concerned, it is more comfortable and gives you a commanding position. It also ties in with the value conscious consumers. So SUVs per se are going to be the emerging segment in India and compact segment will be at the forefront. I hope we will drive the growth further and there is room for everyone to play.
Q] At what rate is Ford growing, you recently witnessed a slowdown?
So, Ford till the first half of the year was growing at double the rate of the industry. Then we ran into some supply issues, there was the changeover to the EcoSport, and we are adding some new export markets as well. So we are growing but it’s not at a very high rate. It is more production driven for us right now.
Q] Ford India president and managing director Anurag Mehrotra said you will try to be back on track by the fourth quarter of the year. How do you plan to do that?
That would be with the help of the new EcoSport. So, production will come back in full swing. And trust me, we are putting enormous amounts of pressure on our manufacturing friends to give us as many cars as possible.
Q] E-commerce is not generally the best resort for a car purchase, but you did remarkably well on Amazon, tell us the strategy?
Honestly, we had no expectations but we keep experimenting a lot. So, we got together with Amazon who were also not too sure about how it would work out. But we said let’s try. It was just amazing, you hear about people riding on a horse to buy an iPhone X, and here we got people actually staying up and waiting for the online bookings to open. There were limited number of cars because we connected it back to the message which is the 123 PS new engine, and 123 cars open for booking. The point was to give exclusivity and everything got booked in a matter of a few hours.
Q] Do you plan to make that a year-long option, would you open online bookings?
Yes. We are pretty excited about that. I think we have just touched the surface. There is huge potential in online bookings, but it’s also a category which is very different considering that it’s a high involvement purchase. People do want to experience, touch and feel the car and test-drive it. But I think it will evolve, and we want to be at the forefront of it when it happens for sure.
Q] What are the big challenges for your brand in the market today?
Cracking the code on the Indian consumer is the biggest challenge because while the Indian consumer is tough, clever, knowledgeable, they are also big value seekers. And that makes things a little difficult for us, like when we want to pack in safety, or superior driving dynamics or technology, as the consumer doesn’t sometimes see value in it. They mostly look at only the price tag, and we don’t like to do anything to dilute the product. But having said that, we are an evolving society, because the younger lot is more experimentative and they are more exposed to what’s happening on the tech side, so while there is a challenge there is also an opportunity. But winning the consumer’s heart is not easy.
Q] Whenever one talks of Ford, the ‘expensive service’ is always a concern, something you called a myth in your previous campaign, have you managed to change the perception?
Yes, the campaign did work, many of our consumers after buying our product have experienced the service and agree that our cars are not very expensive to maintain. But that perception lingers simply because consumers who have positive experience tend to stay quiet versus those with the negative perception which tends to be highlighted more. That’s the nature. I would say things may not be perfect but at least we are trying very hard to make the consumers feel the difference. So, it worked in a lot of ways. Mostly because we armed our consumers with the right information which is like empowering them.
Q] Apart from Ford EcoSport which are the products you are betting on?
We are a very focused company. So, every product is important for us, and we just want to make sure that whatever we offer is the best by setting the bar a little bit higher in each of the respective segments. We don’t have a large portfolio but we have a great portfolio.
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