Ford Test-Drives E-Mail Marketing in California

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Under a plan to begin selling cars online to Californians sometime in the first quarter of 2001 and eventually to roll out the service nationwide, Ford Motor Co. has begun a multimedia e-mail campaign promoting its Escape 2001 sport utility vehicle.


The so-called e-brochures, created by MindArrow Systems, Aliso Viejo, CA, were sent Dec. 4 to 18,000 Californians. They feature a 30-second video clip of the Escape's television commercial, links to Escape-associated areas on Ford's Web site and a forwarding feature that enables people to send the e-brochure to others.


According to Ford, Dearborn, MI, 11 percent of the recipients viewed the e-mails as of last week, and more than 2.5 percent clicked through and entered a month-long sweepstakes that the car manufacturer is running with ABC Sports called Escape to the Bowl Championship Series.


In the promotion, Ford and ABC are giving away 16 Escapes and two trips to the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange bowl games.


The e-mail recipients had signed up to receive additional Ford product information at Forddirect.com, the company's subsidiary Web site launched in August. Addresses were also collected during a college promotion tour at some of California's largest campuses in the past year.


While information gathered with the e-mail campaign will be stored in Ford's database of prospective buyers, California is mostly being used as a test market to see whether e-mail campaigns can be effective marketing tools for the car company and to generate interest in Ford's new SUV.


"More than anything else, we wanted to create a buzz," said Michael McCarthy, senior regional marketing manager at J. Walter Thompson, New York, Ford's advertising agency, which designed the campaign. "At this point, although it's probably too early to say as the results are still coming in, we are happy with the results so far."


While Acura, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota have all dabbled in multimedia e-mail with MindArrow, Ford trails these competitors in e-mail marketing because of concerns with consumer privacy, said Tom Grill, marketing manager at Ford's California division in Los Angeles.


"We are looking for your hand-raisers, not just a list of names," he said. "We have been very careful in concerns [about] privacy, and that has kind of stopped us from doing this maybe a year or two ago. [Conducting] an e-mail campaign with a nationwide list of people who have asked for additional information takes time."
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