Its recent campaign #CommittedToServe assures customers of service even after the company stops production.
Ford’s decision to stop production in India, announced in September last year, affected three parties the most- its employees, dealers and customers. Around 4000 employees are said to be affected by the decision. Many of them protested against the job loss at its manufacturing facility in Sanand, Gujarat and near Chennai. Another 40,000 people are employed at its dealerships.
Meanwhile, the customers were concerned whether they would receive service and spare parts after the US-based company’s exit. Though it's an unsaid rule that all manufacturers are mandated to provide service and warranty support for 10 years after exiting their operations from the country, the worries still remained.
Months after making the announcement, Ford has finally reassured these customers through its latest campaign #CommittedToServe. With an aim to build trust among its existing customers, the campaign takes the concern head on to say that “no matter how old the relationship is, Ford has been maintaining them and will continue to do so”.
The ad film depicts an emotional scene where the company services and delivers a family’s first car, a Ford Ikon. Accompanied by soulful music in the background the ad conveys the message well.
Conceptualised by BBDO India, the campaign is spread across TV, print and digital.
Speaking of the timing of the campaign, Kapil Sharma, general manager - consumer marketing, said, “From the time we announced restructuring in September, Ford has repeatedly conveyed its commitment to serve its one million customers in India. New year was the perfect time to reiterate that promise.”
“Ford also held detailed discussions with our dealer partners and had a majority retained and continuing to serve customers in over 240 cities. The vast service network message along with continued promise of transparency, warranty and convenience were used as strong proof points in the current campaign. The TVC further built on these to show the emotional bond customers share with the Ford brand and its vehicles.”
Ford began production in India in 1995 as Mahindra Ford India Limited (MFIL), a 50-50 joint venture with Mahindra & Mahindra Limited. And after 25 years, in September 2021, it announced its plans to stop making cars in the country as it did not see itself making profit in the country.
In a press release Anurag Mehrotra, the president and MD (Ford India), had said, “The decision (to cease manufacturing in India) was reinforced by years of accumulated losses, persistent industry overcapacity and lack of expected growth in India’s car market.”
Ford is the latest American vehicle manufacturer to leave India, after motorcycle manufacturer Harley Davidson exited in 2020 and General Motors quit in 2017. Even when GM quit, they reassured customers through social media posts on its service presence.
Pallavi Singh, former director-marketing at Harley Davidson draws an interesting parallel between the motorcycle brand and Ford. “They are very different brands, but some parallels can be drawn. Harley Davidson is an extremely emotional brand, with a very strong community of connected enthusiasts. Ford also enjoys that kind of loyalty and strong community for the Mustang, Endeavour and EcoSport. But Harley Davidson’s community is very different, so they can talk on one platform. For Ford, because of the way the brand is, the platforms have to be multi-dimensional; it cannot be just YouTube or Instagram or Facebook. It also has to have print and television.”
For Ford, because of the way the brand is, the platforms have to be multi-dimensional; it cannot be just YouTube or Instagram or Facebook.Pallavi Singh, former director-marketing at Harley Davidson
Speaking from her immense experience of working with automobile companies, having worked with Morris Garages India and BMW India, she says Ford needs to communicate to three sets of customers. One, the enthusiastic, community-driven customers, like Endeavour or Mustang customers, who really want to know from the company that they will be looked after. Second, the stakeholders and dealers. “An ad like this is a huge confidence booster for them. We're an emotional country and emotional messaging always works,” she adds.
Third, the transactional customers who are looking for a clear message that their vehicle will be serviced well even in the absence of Ford in India.
Sharing her views on the campaign, Singh said, it's very important for the brand to communicate the right messaging to its customers, under the current circumstances.
“Ford’s exit felt like the brand had given up on the country. Apart from some press releases or some amount of conversation in the media space, the brand has not really spoken to its customers. That's very important to build confidence and give customers that comfort that Ford is always going to be there to provide that service experience and the Ford community will always be looked after,” she said.
She says it’s critical that the brand has consistent messaging and a proper plan to ensure that the customers feel the trust even if the brand is not present.
“This is not just having conversations online, or sending one campaign, but really having a proper annual plan of communicating with customers. Or even meeting customers to ensure that they're happy about the service. We're a service country. Hence an ad like this is a great starting point to engage with the current set of customers and reassure that, Ford is here to serve its customers, build trust and give them comfort."
Sraman Majumdar, senior creative director, Brave New World Communications, said, “It is a sweet commercial. It may have been worth considering a story centered on the service staff themselves instead of a specific albeit emotional use case. Romancing their relationships with Ford owners with a sense of diverse but ultimately personal purpose could have painted a richer role for the brand, and lent the world a sense of scale. But while it’s always convenient to ponder other possibilities in the face of a finished commercial, the core message is unmissable in this film. The protagonist’s performance and the music deserve special mentions.”
It may have been worth considering a story centered on the service staff themselves instead of a specific albeit emotional use case.Sraman Majumdar, senior creative director, Brave New World Communications
Need a social media marketing agency for your project? Choose among 82 such agencies on afaqs! Marketplace now. Click here