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Interview

Special Columns
Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Chief Consulting Editor's Desk
Rajita Chaudhuri
Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Editor-in-Chief
Dr. Arindam Chaudhuri
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MARKETING INTERVIEW
"We were slow in expanding our portfolio but will be fast now"
If the High hopes for the ecosport, about to be launched, come true, ford’s plans to crank up its repertoire of offerings could fructify sooner than expected
 
To go further” in order to surpass people’s expectations is the philosophy by which Ford lives by, says Sriram Padhmanabhan, its Vice President, Marketing, who has served the company for 15 long years in various roles in India and the Asia-Pacific region – from consumer marketing, brand management, marketing information, research to customer relationship management. Padhmanabhan, who began his stint with the American car maker as brand manager for its Ford Ikon model and has since played an integral role in the marketing launch of all its products in India, says it’s the same “go further” approach that Ford has brought to bear on the product engineering, designing and branding of its next big product, the EcoSport, whose upcoming launch is being eagerly awaited. “We have made huge investments in our Sanand plant and the product boasts of a distinct technology, the EcoBoost, which offers greater power and fuel efficiency,” he says in an exlusive chat with 4Ps B&M.

The pre-launch marketing campaign of EcoSport was rolled out earlier this month. What kind of leverage do you expect to get and what has been the response to the campaign so far?

The response has been pretty good. “The EcoSport Urban Discoveries” campaign will offer our customer base the opportunity to drive and experience the EcoSport ahead of its market launch. We are doing this because we believe that involving real people and getting them to experience the product will help deepen our relationship with customers. This campaign will help us go further in engaging with our customers and educating them about our upcoming product.

With all the efforts that have gone into the pre-launch marketing campaign for EcoSport, one would expect your post-launch plans to be even more ambitious. What does Ford have up its sleeve?

I would say keep an eye out for what we will do! Figo has been the game changer for us so far. We are expecting EcoSport to be the next game changer for us. We have invested a huge amount of money, about $2 billion, in our Sanand plant in Gujarat. So you will get to see a lot more about what we do. The post-launch plans would align with the buzz we have already created with the EcoSport Urban Discoveries campaign. Our future marketing and branding plans will no doubt drive the buzz even harder. These plans will revolve around our existing products like the Figo, and would seek to build new stories around upcoming products like the EcoSport.

How important is the social media for building brand value? How is your marketing aligned with the new media and has it helped you to connect better with your audience?

 
Social media is the new media where consumers are really engaged with one another and with the brand. That’s the place they talk their heart out, that’s where they talk about their concerns and communicate what they want from the product. Before launching the Figo celebration edition model we collaborated for the design with our customers who are on our Facebook Fan Page, under the mentorship of designers Shantanu and Nikhil. We have more than 32K fans on Facebook. So we had an opportunity to reach out to the people who wanted to be part of our marketing campaign. As a marketer, it was a big step for us to take. We were practically handing over the launch of the product to people on the social media platform. Why did we do this? Because we realise the power of social media. In the past, when social media did not exist, we used to write mails, make calls and made individual connections. Social media has changed that process of interaction. Even mobile phones have changed the equation completely. So today, a lot of our communication and marketing campaigns are driven by the mobile and digital mediums.

What will be your marketing expenditure for the next fiscal and how will you allocate it between the digital and traditional medium?

See, what is more important is not what we spend but how we spend it. It is more about the effectiveness and about the efficiency of a medium. We will spend 10-15% of our budget on the digital and mobile platforms. But what we are really particular about is how we spend this allocation to drive a similar level of interaction and engagement that we expect to derive from our ATL and BTL activities. Traditional media is still very important and so it’s a very important part of our media mix. But digital and mobile are gaining in importance for the kind of reach and interactive power they provide for our brands.

What kind of BTL activities you have carried out in the past ?

We do on-ground activities like Drives. We did the Great Ford Endeavour Drive, where we got one of the most famous rally drivers Jagat Nanjappa to come in and drive the vehicle with our customers so as to give them the experience of a 4X4 offroader on a especially designed track. Then we did Smart Drive for Ford Figo where 4 lucky couples from across the country, selected after a contest, were invited to participate in a 2,500-km drive across the country, spread over 25 days. The “Discover Smart” campaign was designed to give people real experience of driving a Figo and understand the value of the car.

Brand communication draws strength from the positioning and philosophy of the brand. What is Ford’s positioning and its brand philosophy?

Our brand promise to consumers is that we “Go Further”. We develop vehicles that are smarter, which pushes our capabilities to go further. For example, take the Ford Figo Bluetooth technology, which is available only in high-end car models of other manufacturers but is almost a standard feature in 70% of our vehicles running on road. If you talk about the EcoSport, it has a distinct technology, the EcoBoost, which boots fuel-efficiency. So our philosophy is about bringing technology nearer to the people and serving quality. We have dealerships where we ensure quick service, which gives us the ability to connect with consumers much better.
          
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