Mobility, mobile marketing fuel Ford Figo: Anurag Mehrotra

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Ford recently launched the new facelift version of its popular compact hatchback Figo in India, along with a new campaign. Anurag Mehrotra, Vice President, Marketing, Ford India, talks to Pitch about the new launch and consumer insight that led to it. He also shares how mobile marketing will be the calling card for Ford to engage consumers. He also throws light on how simplicity in communication is crucial for the Indian automobile industry and that excessive product push can be destructive for the brand. Excerpts…

How does the new launch affect the positioning of Figo?
The positioning does not change; bursting with substance is the core proposition, which means it needs to stand for value for money. It is the most spacious car, it has the largest boot, has the largest air conditioner in its segment and is priced much lower than its competitors. Moreover, it is also styled with the newest trends in mind. When you put all these pieces together the consumer says this is a substantial package for me. This substantiality is the reason Figo has 2,35,000 customers.

Anurag Mehotra, Vice President, Marketing, Ford India

Anurag Mehotra, Vice President, Marketing, Ford India

What is the kind of research that went behind this launch?
From the time we start thinking of a product our research starts. The research on Figo was initiated five years ago; in addition we do massive research every year. We call it the ‘new car buyer survey’ and conduct a brand track with intenders of car buyers. In that we aggressively look at what are the triggers and how are they changing. Five years back when we did the study on Figo it was very evident that mobility was going to become a big deal, not everybody was latching on to this. We thought if there is one bet we want to have, it is mobility, and we are seeing this bearing fruits now. We want to democratise technology, so, five years ago we decided to use bluetooth in our cars and 70 per cent of our cars carry it now.

Figo has been the game changer and volume driver for Ford; what were the insights behind launching the new Figo and the ‘Change is a wonderful thing’ campaign?
There were couple of insights that we had, while briefing the agency, to put the campaign together. For instance, if you look at our typical customer, he is 25- 28 year old, just married, probably just got a promotion. In his own mind he has a certain duality with which he is trying to cope. He is trying to settle into the rhythm of married life, however, at the same time he is not able to completely let go of his bachelorhood.

This is something that every individual can relate to as the TVC puts it across as ‘Shaadi ki baad kuch toh badalna chahiye’. Thus, if you are able to create something that the consumer can relate to in a credible manner, the chances of the message being heard or absorbed are much higher.

Could you please elaborate on the philosophy of change?
The first insight was there is change happening in his life and that is a wonderful thing. 60 – 70 per cent of our customers are first time car buyers, which means either they have been driving a two wheeler or did not have a vehicle or been using their parents vehicle. Now, if that is such a high indexation of the purchase, when he buys a car, he wants the world to notice his purchase, as there is change in his life stage. You cannot communicate change if the product is not singing it. All the changes we made to the product had to be perceptible by the consumer. Change as a word is very reflective of the character Sandeep. We started thinking what the creative manifestation of such insights is, and arrived at the conclusion that change is a wonderful thing.

What were the challenges while executing the brief?
Ironically, it was the simplicity of the line ‘Change is a wonderful thing’. It took a couple of rounds of convincing internal stakeholders and getting them to believe that being simple and talking less is good.

Additionally, I believe that communication has to be emotional and relatable too and hence, much of product push is like setting the brand for a disaster.

How so?
There is a stark polarity in the automobile segment in India when it comes to communication, either you will find those who will just stick to the proposition, and those who will find every nook and corner of the ad and write something. While this may have evolved in other categories, I think in automotive marketing it is still evolving to a stage where simple is good. The likability factor needs to transcend advertising, even in the owned media space. Therefore, for our website and facebook pages we have taken a conscious decision not to use social media for sales.

What is the importance of mobile in your marketing strategy?
We use a mix of traditional media that is TV, print and the works. The one space, I am very excited about, is new age media digital and within that Ford is placing a big bet on mobile. We were spending 4- 6 per cent on digital but today it has scaled up to 10- 15 per cent. In the near future this will go up to 20 per cent. Spending is going to increase as the mix is going to increase as well as the absolute value will increase. Mobile marketing will be the calling card as it is what drives the business.

Additionally, among 4 .5 lakh customers that we have in India, our email penetration is around 40 per cent and mobile constitutes 97 per cent. There are six billion people on this planet, 5.3 billion mobile devices, 1 billion desktops and 1.2 billion TV sets. We are very clear for every element of the consumer journey we are going to map and we are going to make mobile the intervention tool.

How is this strategy being incorporated to retain customers?
I know that for the Fiesta 30 per cent of the existing customers are Ford customers. I have two choices I can either send them physical information, which can get prohibitively expensive or a mobile led CRM. If you think about it from prospecting to servicing, the mobile intervention we can do is phenomenal. The magic is going to happen in the mobile segment.

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