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David RodriguezMulticultural Marketing ManagerFord Motor Co.
National activity and regional spot marketing, where dealers keep the overall brand in tune to the local nuances, drive Ford Motor Co.’s digital brand strategy for US Hispanics. David Rodriguez, multicultural marketing manager at the automaker, spoke with eMarketer’s Danielle Drolet about the demographic, its mobile-skewing behaviors and the state of Spanish-language search.
eMarketer: A Hispanic consumer in Miami is very different from one in Los Angeles. How does Ford handle these disparities?
David Rodriguez: Many marketers, particularly national marketers, grapple with those nuances and dynamics within the market. Our approach is to reach the market in totality as effectively and efficiently as possible. There are many different forms in which that takes place.
As it relates to our dealer marketing activity, we include the approach and message elements that a dealer organization uses. For example, the Southeast, which would include a market like Miami, is very different from what we may see in Houston. The nuances, messaging, regionalization and nature of the advertising get very customized. It goes as far as to the type of talent you hire or music you use. The overall tonality does get tailored to those specific regional considerations, where you want to reflect those unique market characteristics as much as you can.
eMarketer: How do dealers and their ideas get visibility at the Tier 1 level?
Rodriguez: One thing Ford has been very successful at is having a unified business strategy. There is a shared point of view in how we go to market and where opportunities reside for vehicle segments. Our plan starts at that level so that there’s no line of demarcation between the different business strategies.
As it relates to the dealer voice, we have various mechanisms in place allowing for dialogue on a continuous basis for monitoring market trends and sharing ideas for sales events, activity, and so forth. It’s a very fluid process. On the Hispanic side, we basically have the same type of arrangement—where we’re monitoring what’s going on from a regional standpoint and where we see different growth opportunities emerging.
eMarketer: Is there anything to the idea that many Hispanics in the US overindex toward the mobile-first or mobile-only web?
Rodriguez: We definitely see that trend as it relates to the metrics we develop. We cover the full spectrum in desktop and mobile. But, we are seeing an increase in effectiveness in mobile activity—certainly as it relates to video. The trend shows such high engagement and click levels that we can no longer sacrifice one for the other. It’s more of a total digital approach that we try to take. Mobile is definitely becoming a central platform in Hispanic digital activity.
eMarketer: How does this play into strategy?
Rodriguez: As a high-decision goods maker, we ask ourselves those exact questions. Particularly in our campaigns, as it relates to search. We’ve seen differentiations in the types of key buying activities that come from mobile and desktop. In mobile, we may see more activity as it relates to a photo gallery and consumers’ reviews of model options as they, for example, look at our Titanium model vs. our SE model, and so forth.
Meanwhile, desktop metrics suggest consumers may be going a little deeper into the purchase funnel. For example, they are getting into price-building and dealer locator activities. We keep a really close eye on that and adjust our plans to be cognizant of where we see most of that activity coming from.
eMarketer: How much have you delved into Spanish-language search? Is there a difference from English search engine marketing and search engine optimization strategy?
Rodriguez: We designed our overall Hispanic search strategy program in tandem with our general market activities and use a combination of Spanish and English search terms. We go to market holistically to not cannibalize and compete against ourselves in vying for the appropriate keywords. This is a very efficient way of going into a market for us.
There’s no rulebook yet. We haven’t been able to identify the right approach. We continue to optimize that whole process. The key is the element of “always on” and making sure we’re covering the market in both languages.
eMarketer: What vehicles or segments get the most attention?
Rodriguez: We definitely look for where the volume opportunities reside in the overall market—as well as from a regional standpoint. The Hispanic market in totality overindexes. Our concentration for the demographic is on the B segment (Ford Fiesta), which is what the industry refers to as the entry point of the market, the C and D segment (Ford Focus, Ford Fusion) and then, small utility (Ford Escape).
When you look at where the concentrations of sales are in the industry, the Hispanic market is very much concentrated in those areas, and our strategy is aligned to that. Certainly, on our side of the equation, makes like the F-150 are always very important and have a lot of regional appeal. We have efforts that identify that, too.
eMarketer: Where do you see growth? Where have you found success?
Rodriguez: Those particular segments continue to do well and grow. Certainly, as the economy has picked up, we’re seeing uptick in other segments, such as full-size pickup and medium sport utility. But the concentrations of the sales are in those four segments.
Certainly, everyone is grappling with fuel economy challenges. In particular, we see the Hispanic market very, very cognizant of that—and looking for vehicle solutions that deliver great miles per gallon.
eMarketer: What are the biggest challenges for automakers today that want to engage the Hispanic market?
Rodriguez: The recurring theme for us is the identification of benchmarks. There is, of course, a wealth of information on the overall industry. But, as it relates to the in-language portion of the industry, there are limited benchmarks. Granted, we need to have the right ideas in order to develop programs.
It’s tough to do the projection on performance and identify how high is up. We continue to try to establish our own benchmarks, as well as access what the industry makes available for us. It’s getting a lot better, but it’s definitely still an opportunity for all of us.
Another challenge is this go-to-market approach as it relates to language. The easy marker in engaging Hispanics is to lean into the language piece of it. It’s easily identifiable, and you can certainly go to different partners that are delivering that audience. But, the quest is to keep up with the trends, particularly with the US-born Hispanic market, which is becoming an increasingly large part of the overall population, and this notion of living in both worlds. We continue to try to stay in the forefront of that.
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