Ford is promoting the new 2010 Mustang with a microsite at FordVehicles.com that lets prospective buyers customize the car. The customizer, at fordVehicles.com/the2010mustang, lets as many as four people work together to choose accessories, colors, decals and the like. The automaker is touting the site with Web ads on major portal sites like Yahoo.com.
Ford says the site, which launched last week, has had 52,000 cars built, with more than 16,000 of those saved into the site gallery. And more than 30 forums and blogs have been spawned from it.
The site, by Wunderman/Team Detroit and a New York-based firm called Firstborn, includes a chat feature for groups working together to customize a car. The gallery lets Mustangs submitted to be voted on by other users, with the winners displayed each week.
A Ford spokesperson tells Marketing Daily that the point of the exercise is less about getting people to design the car, then go out and buy what they designed than it is to whet their appetite for the car and all of the things they can do to it.
Dan Gorrell, principal of Gorrell Group, a Tustin, Calif. automotive market research firm, says the program is on target for that vehicle and that demographic. "A car customizing platform is highly effective because with a car like Mustang there is a great deal of personal connection, and with that, comes the desire to customize and make it one's own," he tells Marketing Daily.
Gorrell adds that the social-media component of the program, in which the Mustang customizer serves as a hub for several people to customize the vehicle in real-time, is the key. "It's particularly relevant for several reasons. First, younger people are more into social approval, and are going to seek the advice of their trusted friends; secondly, the number of choices are bewildering, and when people are customizing they seek opinions about what to get and what not to get."
Ford may be the first automaker to make car customization a social-media behavior, but not the first to make customization central to market strategy. Toyota's Scion division was designed from the ground up as a way to pitch a car as a blank canvas for personalizing to a younger demographic. Scion has among the youngest customers in the business. Can it work for Ford?
Todd Turner, president of Car Concepts, says it already has. He says Galpin Ford in San Fernando Valley, Calif., has had a big success with a customization program at the dealership level targeted to younger buyers. "It's so popular, it has spawned its own term, Galpinized. It works."