NMA Peer Index Top 100

OK pop – pickers. Guess who’s made it into the charts this week in  NMA Peer Index Top 100. Yep, I’ve sneaked in through the back door and now find myself perched rather precariously at the bottom of the league in 100th place!

I guess it’s nice to know this blog and tweets isn’t falling enirely on deaf ears but at the same time I’m not sure there’s much kudos coming last!  In some ways it feels a bit like competing against Ursain Bolt only to find he’s crossed the finishing line and jumped in the shower before you’ve even got off the starting blocks. But hey, I’m not complaining.  I’m not sure I like the idea of sharing a shower with Bolt anyway.

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Is social media just for chavs?

I was invited to present at the IAB Luxury Forum last week to talk about social media within the luxury sector.  There was a very interesting mix of speakers including:

  • the Deputy MD of Grazia (topline view of key digital insights within luxury sector)
  • the Head of Research & Insight at Microsoft Advertising (qualitative research on digital consumption in luxury sector)
  • the Founder of Howto.TV (how luxury brands are using video on demand)
  • the Head of Digital Planning and the Creative Director from Imagination (digital event case study for Christie’s Auction)
  • the MD from Maximiser (website optimisation tips).

If you’re interested in reading their presentations you can access them all here.

My presentation was initially billed as “Practical social media tips within the luxury sector” but that was until I found out I had the graveyard slot as the last presenter!

Whilst deliberately tongue-in-cheek  I was also trying to make a serious point  – is social media marketing a viable means of engaging affluent, aspirational audiences or is it more suited to mainstream brands who tend to cater for the masses?

This presentation puts forward the case that the luxury sector cannot afford to ignore social media, particularly when one considers how fast the social web is evolving. Yet at the same time, if Gartner is to believed, there’s a very high chance their social media campaigns will fail.   I therefore outline some key strategic considerations to help improve the chances of success, backed up with two practical social media examples from my client Infiniti Europe to bring this strategic approach to life.

If you work within the luxury sector – or any sector for that matter – I invite you to read this as there may be some useful nuggets for you to take away and apply.

Fiestamovements: Innovative buzz campaign

fiestamovement

In advance of the US launch of the new Ford Fiesta in 2010, Ford has already kick started an innovative buzz campaign which draws on an impressive array of social media. The car manufacturer hopes to create significant word of mouth by recruiting a number of socially connected, tech savvy individuals and getting them to trial the car for free over a 6 month period. In return for the loan of the car, free insurance and petrol, they’re encouraged to document their experiences in a variety of social media channels.

Phase 1: Recruitment drive

The recruitment drive to find suitable ambassadors was a masterstroke in interactive marketing in my view. Instead of targeting the blogging community covertly they opened it up and invited the general public to apply.  The application process included submitting a short video clip as to why they should be considered as one of the few Agents of Ford Fiesta.

As many as 4000 people applied, creating significant interest within social media before the main campaign had even started. All the applications can be viewed on  YouTube.  According to the Wall Street Journal, these applications have been viewed online as much as 640,000 times.   This amusing application below generated 37k views but if you think that’s impressive there are reports of an aspiring rap artist Tim Chantarangsu attracting as many as 285,000 views. Respect!

Phase 2: The Campaign – Monthly Missions

As of today, all 100 Agents will be in possession of their new cars where they will be asked to complete monthly missions and record their experiences in the process.  It will be interesting to see what tasks they have been set as the campaign unfolds.

In parallel to this launch, Ford organised a Fiestamovement taxi service today in NYC where people could book a free taxi ride via Twitter. You can follow the buzz created on #fiestamovement.   Whether this was the first mission of the campaign is unclear but it goes to show how Ford has fully embraced the microblogging platform into its marketing mix.

Phase 3: Leveraging Word of Mouth

“It’s all part of a plan to build excitement and spread the word about the arrival of the new Ford Fiesta to the next generation of customers,” Sam De La Garza, Ford’s small car marketing manager, said in a statement.

To this end, Ford have created a campaign microsite at Fiestamovements.com which acts as the Social Media Hub.  Essentially this is the place where all the social media content produced by the Agents over the next 6 months will be  aggregated under one roof, making it easy for people to follow the campaign and their favourite Agents.

To maximise WOM, Ford have clearly chosen their applicants careully not just based on the merits of their video submissions but also because they were considered opinion leaders and digital storytellers. You only have to look at their profiles to see that most of them already maintain a blog or have an established presence in social networks such as Facebook, myspace and Twitter.

Phase 4: User testing

Ford says that not only will the program build hype ahead of the Fiesta’s launch, but it will also provide the automaker with useful consumer feedback prior to the official launch, presumably allowing for detail changes when full production models reach showrooms.  Whether that’s true or just marketing spin we’ll have to wait and see but it neatly completes the loop in what promises to be a pioneering campaign for buzz marketing.

Summary

This campaign is a huge gamble for any brand but especially for a brand such as Ford which is feeling the brunt of the current economic downturn. Whether it succeeds in maintaining positive buzz for the next 12 months up to launch remains to be seen but for sheer bravado and placing such faith in social media,  we salute you.