Jim Schroer, executive director of marketing strategy and brand management at Ford Motor Co., was interviewed by Laura Clark Geist about Ford's marketing strategy.
How do you see your overall marketing budget going over the next year?
Total spending will be about the same. The mix will be more toward brand building, and we want to edge it more in that direction and down on the discounts.
Do you see changing the mix of media in terms of how you are going to spend that money?
You are going to see greater evolution over time toward individualized marketing. Part of that will be on the Internet, and part of that will be relationship marketing and programs for owners. But it will be about the same level of mass marketing in network and in print. And then the amount of money that we would like to shift behind advertising the deal to advertising and building the brand, we want to move that into the Internet and relationship marketing, one on one.
Can you describe what kind of relationship marketing efforts you are looking at?
One is a new program on the Internet called 'Owner Connection.' That is a way of having every interaction we have with the customer be done over the Internet. All you have to do is log on, and anything you want to know about your vehicle, like service records, comes to you via the Internet. It's the ultimate in your personal owning relationship.
Are you changing your views toward demographic marketing, particularly African-American, His-panic and women's marketing?
We think we're getting better, but we're not as good as we'd like to be. We made some dramatic improvements last year with women in the United States in our market share. The minority market in general is an area where we want to do a better job. It's just a matter of emphasis. We are mass marketers with mass appeal. We are moving more toward connecting with individuals and connecting with groups of people. Essentially that's what great brand marketing is all about; it's really how you connect with people. Not mass selling in volume, but individually connecting.
Do you see yourself doing more sponsorships?
Yes. In New York alone we have 150 corporate sponsorships. We want to connect what the public relations folks do and the dealers do. I think our sponsorship with our dealers in the Race for the Cure (breast cancer research) is much appreciated by women. The dealers get behind it all over the country. We've developed a connection with people that's beyond the sheet metal and beyond price. That's real relationship marketing and good corporate citizenship. It's marketing as connecting as opposed to the historic definition of marketing as selling.