Ford looks beyond traditional audience at it tilts new Fusion campaign toward hip youth
GREG BOWENS | Automotive News
DETROIT -- Ford Division is confident its marketing campaign for the new Fusion will attract a young hip audience.
Ford concedes that, so far, most buyers of the mid-sized sedan are in their mid-40s. But many of them are buying the car for their college-age children, Ford says.
"There are so many lessons we are taking as a company from the success of the Fusion," says Ford spokesman Jim Cain. "We can reach beyond our traditional audience, which is primarily Midwestern and suburban."
Ford is aiming the Fusion campaign, "Life in Drive," at consumers between the ages of 18 and 34. By contrast, Cain says, the typical Ford Division buyer is around 50 years old. Ford is pricing the base-model Fusion at $17,795, including shipping.
Among the events Ford is sponsoring to promote the Fusion to young buyers are speed-dating blitzes in several cities. The first took place this month in Miami. Ford parked 10 Fusions at Cafeteria, a trendy South Beach restaurant.
Match.com, a dating Web site, picked 43 people to pair off and talk to each other for eight minutes at a time in the back seats of the cars. The goal was for couples to decide whether they should go on a date. The event moves to Los Angeles in January.
On the radar
The point of such exercises is to get the Fusion on the "radar" of young urban consumers, says Liz Boone, who directs Ford's car group account at the company's advertising agency, JWT in Detroit.
"If you speak to them about horsepower, they are not going to pay attention," Boone told Automotive News. "We wanted something that was going to break down some barriers and create a connection, so they can start to see themselves in the brand."
Ford dealers say Fusion buyers are younger than their typical customers but older than the marketing campaign's target demographic.
"It's a long, hard fight to get away from your traditional buyer," says Dave Machavern, a Ford dealer in South Burlington, Vt. "If you want a nice Fusion, it's not a cheap car. I've got one here for 24 (thousand dollars) and another for 26."
Michael Bernacchi, a marketing professor at the University of Detroit Mercy, says he sees a similar disconnection between the Fusion's target audience and its likely buyers.
"This is almost a manufactured demography now," Bernacchi says. The youth market "is not big enough to justify the launching of a vehicle."
He adds: "It's the attachment and willingness of people in their late 30s who want to be in that market. It's part of the Ponce de Leon syndrome."
The Fusion campaign's TV commercials and print ads contrast what Ford calls "a prosaic moment in everyday life" with the excitement of driving a Fusion.
In one commercial, a man reaches the curb with his trash just as the garbage truck drives away. In another, a woman who removes her shoes at an airport security checkpoint discovers her big toe sticking out of her sock.
The commercials label such vignettes: "This is life." An adjacent image of the Fusion has the tag line: "This is life in drive."
Other TV commercials show a passing Fusion infusing people and buildings with new life.
The spots are being broadcast during such shows as "Alias" on ABC, "American Idol" on Fox and "Smallville" on the WB. Ford also is advertising on the MTV, Comedy Central and FX cable networks.
Ford is incorporating the Fusion into episodes of such shows as ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."
The print campaign began in USA Today and local newspapers in several big cities.
Ford's Cain would not disclose the cost of the Fusion campaign. But he says Ford is so confident it will succeed that it already plans to base the launch of its new Ford Edge crossover in fall 2006 on the campaign.