The automobile revolutionized the transportation industry as a faster, cheaper means of getting around without hitching (and feeding, bedding, shoeing, and…) horses to a buggy. Although Henry Ford didn’t invent this fossil fuel-powered contraption, his assembly line revolutionized how it and many other products were manufactured in this country and around the world. A century or so later his company and others like it leveraged tools available by another revolutionary development-social media (SM), to captivate customers.
Ford Motor Company’s colorful, engaging and entertaining corporate pages on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn complement its marketing program well, bringing lifelong Ford enthusiasts and the next generation of drivers closer to one another-and the brand. Honda, one of Ford’s fiercest competitors, is no slouch in the SM department either, earning over 1.4 MM YouTube views, 3.5 MM Facebook “likes” and 83,000 new fans and reaches over 3.6 MM Twitter followers. Honda differentiates itself from Ford as a fuel-sipping, inexpensive car while Ford’s bold designs, historic lineage and powerful engines continue to convert drivers to fans of its brand.
Both companies’ SM campaigns play a vital role in highlighting these differences for its current and prospective customers, which helps each remain relevant to their customer bases, building reverence for the brand as well as strengthening its bottom line. However, each company engaged its followers using very different “voices” and multimedia elements to call them to action. For example, Honda encourages its SM fan base to live their lives on their own terms, appealing to the target market for its “Fit” line of vehicles: free-spirited, non-conformist, independent first-car buyers (Bernstein, 2006). Ford, on the other hand, appeals to an older demographic – the average Ford owner is 50 years old, however the company is working to bring affordable innovation to the (younger) masses. The content on its SM platforms tout power, reliability and affordability, as does Honda. However, there is a more nostalgic feel to its messages. The company’s typical consumer remembers when American “muscle cars” ruled the road, associating them with rites of passage, their childhood and independence. Let’s delve into how Ford and Honda use the power of SM to build brand equity, loyalty and profitability.
According to Robin Frey Carey, CEO of Social Media Today, Ford Motor Company embraces networking and transparent media creation not only as a marketing and communications initiative, but also as a means of changing the ways that large enterprises use data, manage strategically, serve customers and develop products. For example, Ford’s Facebook page offers visitors crisp, engaging photos of new vehicles, road test videos featuring classic models, celebrity interviews, and other exclusive material in exchange for their attention and “likes”.
Frequent updates prevent the page from becoming stale and predictable. New or updated information not only encourages new and repeat visits, but also inspires engagement by using a personal tone, asking questions that spark an emotional response (ex: “Which is a better brand, Ford or Chevy?), and incorporating a call to action in some of the company’s posts. Frequent posts, especially during peak hours, allow its SM team to determine what forms of content are most popular.
The quality and quantity real-time of data, ability to apply it to marketing research, CRM and other functions are invaluable to its operations. Marketing teams mine these posts to determine whether their plans are effective by “listening” to product- or service-oriented suggestions. This low-cost sensing session may reveal new, unintended uses for a vehicle or feature; if the idea generates enough “buzz” from other guests, Ford may be able to build a better, more functional cup holder, navigation system or other accessory. Ordinarily, expensive focus groups, surveys and other tools would be used to gather customers’ opinions, however, Facebook and other SM platforms provide personalized data in real-time and at a significant discount.
Honda utilizes Facebook and other SM platforms for similar purposes, however used its unique voice to reach a younger demographic by building brand loyalty through a very strong sense of community. For example, the company realized that a lot of Honda fans go to extremes to demonstrate their loyalty to the car. Some shaved the logo into their heads, tattooed it onto their bodies and placed it on other interesting people, places and things. When its Facebook page hit a million Likes, Honda associates did things like shave fans’ names into their heads! The company’s reciprocal dedication to their online community is commendable and one of the reasons their SM platforms are so robust. Like Ford, Honda can mine this wealth of real-time data to track and bolster the success of a product or service, contributing to its profitability, CRM and many other aspects of its business operations.