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Live From Dearborn, It’s the New Explorer
The New York Times

December 20, 2010

Which came first, Ford Explorer or Internet Explorer? According to Wikipedia, the former preceded the latter. Now, the flagship Ford division of the Ford Motor Company is using the latter to promote the former.

For the 2011 model year, the Ford Explorer sport utility is being completely redesigned to be more like a crossover than a truck. That means, among other changes, better fuel economy, improved ride and handling and three rows of seats.

The Internet played a major role in the introduction of the revamped Explorer when, in July, Ford used Facebook for the unveiling in addition to events in nine cities like Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and New York.

This month, as the first of the 2011 Explorers reach the showrooms of Ford dealers, the Ford division is returning to the Web for a campaign called Explorer Live.

The Explorer Live initiative is starting before the television commercials and print advertising for the new Explorer, which are scheduled to begin appearing on Jan. 1. The online campaign also costs a fraction of what the campaign in traditional media will.

The Explorer Live campaign is being created by Team Detroit in Dearborn, Mich., the consortium of WPP agencies that works on the Ford Motor account in North America.

The campaign includes the Explorer fan page on Facebook, the Ford channel on You Tube the Ford Web site and the Ford account on Twitter.

At the heart of the campaign are video clips, photographs and text that are being uploaded and posted in response to questions and comments from consumers about the 2011 Explorer. In some instances, celebrities are unexpectedly turning up in the videos, among them the rock singer Bret Michaels and the rapper Snoop Dogg.

The campaign is emblematic of how ardently automakers are embracing the new media to reach potential customers as well as keep in touch with people who bought their products.

Other recent examples include a promotion involving Twitter that is being sponsored by Mercedes-Benz, in connection with the commercial the brand plans to run on Super Bowl XLV; a “flash sale” of Volkswagen Jettas on, during which three shoppers bought cars for $5,995 apiece, or $10,000 off the list price of $15,995; a promotion for the Lexus CT 200h hybrid with the Xbox 360 video game system; and a teaser Web sitethat is seeking to build interest in the redesigned Chrysler 300 for the 2012 model year.

“We’re having a conversation” with consumers, says Scott Kelly, digital marketing manager at Ford Motor in Dearborn.

In the past, Ford would “make a big splash” at an auto show with a new model, he adds, reaching out to automotive journalists to write about it but not directly cultivating consumers.

“The next time they hear about the product is when it’s in the dealership,” Mr. Kelly says, referring to would-be buyers, “and we have to spend media money to build up interest.”

“As a brand, what we’re learning is that if you start much earlier you can get people more engaged,” he adds.

When the fan page for the new Explorer went up in July, it soon drew about 10,000 Facebook users to declare they “like” it. As of Thursday morning, when Mr. Kelly and other executives involved with Explorer Live were interviewed by phone, the fan base had grown to more than 89,900.

And the number keeps increasing; by late Sunday afternoon, it had exceeded 103,000.

The posts on the fan page are a mix of questions, praise, criticism and comments. Some come from consumers, others from Ford.

The most recent content includes a video featuring Mr. Michaels, inquiries about when local dealerships will be receiving their 2011 Explorers, queries about specific features like the tow package, paeans to the new model (“Explorers are insane!”) and complaints about the changes (“Ford has abandoned the premium midsize truck market”).

In some instances, there will be official responses to posts, labeled as coming from “Ford Explorer.”

For example, after one Facebook member, identified as Rose Bellamy Powell, recalled an accident some years ago in an Explorer in which no one was seriously injured, “Ford Explorer” replied: “Rose and team — glad to hear everyone is all right. Just to let you know that the 2011 Explorer will be our safest vehicle yet.”

More, actually MUCH more, at the link

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On that note...Which came first, Lincoln Navigator, or Netscape Navigator
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