Detroit Blogs for a Bailout? 4

(Alan Mullally, Ford CEO, discusses the company’s new direction in a YouTube video posted on, which was launched last week)

While folks like Jason Calacanis can make a strong argument that Silicon Valley has surpassed Detroit with its savvy in manufacturing more energy efficient vehicles; somewhat surprisingly, Detroit continues to illustrate its savvy in using sophisticated digital marketing and social media strategies. Some of which – could even make Silicon Valley marketing types jealous.

Alas, the world seems somewhat backwards.

Emily Steel chronicles how the social media and digital marketing brain trust of Ford, GM and Chrysler are working from their “War Rooms” in Detroit, while their CEO’s continue to lobby Congress on Capital Hill for funds in today’s Wall Street Journal.

According to Scott Monty , global digital and multimedia communications manager at Ford, it’s utilizing social media to reach the consumer directly, over an extended period of time:

“With digital media, it lives on for a long time. It’s picked up in Google searches, people pass it along and share messages they care about with blogs and their social networks of choice.”

(Scott Monty -above- Leads Social Media Efforts ‘from Twitter’ for Ford)

According to Steel, Ford is also using the social media campaign to cut costs:

“To save money , Ford is also reaching out to consumers directly through blogs and other social media. The company has enlisted members of its staff to respond to blog postings and messages on Twitter.”

The strategy is a sound one and as Steel quotes Monty in the beginning of the article “The auto makers in general have gotten a black eye in the media, and we didnt’ feel like we were getting a fair shake.” With that in mind, social media appears to be giving the automakers a new avenue into the ears of Americans (and hopefully into the ears of their congressmen and women). As you can see on Twitter, the story has grown outside the walls of mainstream media and into social media conversations across the country.

Given the daily news of major corporations cutting their marketing budgets (GM is going to cut $600 million from its marketing budget) and advice for sticking to what is core in order to keep your job in the downturn – it is refreshing to hear that cost-effective social media strategies are being looked at as core crisis communications’ tools in the current recession.

Of course, the idea isn’t completely new. Forrester put out research at the beginning of this year that social media could thrive during a recession (even though hardly no one thought we were in a recession at that point). Their reasoning at the time included three major points, which seem to be echoed by the automakers in their current initiatives:

  1. Social media programs leverage the voice of the customer.
  2. They carry messages further than ad impressions (= Higher ROI).
  3. They motivate consumers in the middle of the funnel.

If you also add, they can be measured in real-time, unlike most traditional marketing efforts, you get some pretty good reasoning why the likes of Ford and GM are counting on using social media to get their message heard during the most crucial period in the history of their companies.

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