Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally in a half-hour session today trades “tweets” with the Twitter online community as the auto maker further delves into Internet social networking.
Ford has been exploiting social networking and micro-blogging services such as Twitter in recent marketing campaigns, including fiestamovement.com, in which 100 applicants were chosen to drive the new Fiesta B-car, before it hits the U.S., based on videos they posted to YouTube.
Similar online viral marketing campaigns were utilized by Ford marketing chief Jim Farley, when he launched the Scion youth brand for former employer Toyota Motor Corp.
The auto maker is placing greater emphasis on such marketing ploys, which are cheaper than traditional methods and have proven effective in reaching the sought-after Millennial Generation, the growing population of 14- to 29-year-olds expected to represent 38% of the driving population by 2010.
Ford’s interest in the online phenomena is so high the auto maker recently hired public-relations specialist Scott Monty to head up its digital and multimedia communications efforts.
Most of the 169 questions posed to Mulally in the Twitter session were mundane, including one asking the CEO if he planned to grow a beard for the upcoming playoff run of the Detroit Red Wings hockey team.
But some of the questions were serious, as were Mulally’s answers.
The Ford chief, for instance, confirms the auto maker will offer high-performance SHO or RS versions of the Focus, Fiesta or Fusion “over time,” prompting the questioner to tweet, “Holy crap, Alan Mulally just responded to my question about more SHO/RS Fords!”
Mulally also says the Ford Advantage incentive program, which covers vehicle payments of new-car buyers for 12 months should they lose their job, is working.
Additionally, he says the Fusion will be offered with a direct-injected turbocharged EcoBoost engine in the future.
Is a hybrid-electric truck in Ford’s future? “EcoBoost is the next dramatic step in capability and fuel efficiency in our trucks,” Mulally tweets.
Asked what type of car he drives, the CEO says he cruises in a different vehicle every day, including those of the competition.
Monty says Mulally’s first-ever Twitter session went better than expected and promises it won’t be the last time the executive addresses the online community.
“Alan had a great time,” Monty tells Ward’s. “He’s so pro-customer and loves to interact with people. It’s like (Twitter) was made for him. We’re going to do this again in a variety of ways.
“This is less about marketing and more of way of doing business,” Monty adds. “We want to be able to talk with stakeholders, dealers, suppliers and customers. We want to connect with people and build relationships.”