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Auto industry growth seen at 6-7% in 2017; Ford to grow in line or faster than sector: Rahul Gautam, Ford India

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Auto industry growth seen at 6-7% in 2017; Ford to grow in line or faster than sector: Rahul Gautam, Ford India

Ford India has set its 2017 vision in action by rolling out a new ad campaign. The company has also allocated Rs 25 crore purely for its digital marketing in a bid to wrestle with its competitors head on. In an interview with exchange4media, Rahul Gautam, VP, Marketing Ford India shares his views on the company's new aggressive stance and more.

What kind of an impact did demonetization have on the auto industry?

Demonetization is a bold step and has resulted in short-term headwinds in November & December with Industry and consumer sentiment weakening. We believe the impact would continue into the entire quarter one if not beyond. Therefore the early implementations of reforms like GST which will lead to administrative ease of doing business are the need of the hour.

Tell us about the marketing strategy that Ford will be adopting in 2017 and how will it be different from last year?

Ford has been continuing on a growth 2.0 strategy, focused on product led innovation, delivering differentiated customer experience and busting the myth of cost of ownership. Our recent brand campaign delivering the 'Feels Like Family' promise is paying rich dividends. A measure of our success is the fact that in FY 2016, we have grown faster than the Indian automotive industry. We will continue to stay focused on bringing our strategy pillars to life through some innovative and disruptive communication in the year ahead.                                                                                                 

Ford cars are perceived to be high on maintenance, tell us about the new campaign that Ford has rolled out to address it?

Perception is often different from reality and we aim to correct it with the new campaign. One of the key focus areas for Ford’s India strategy is busting the myth of cost of ownership. We, as a company, have been working on improving the overall value of ownership across our portfolio. With over 800+ sub assembly levels of parts, we have broken big assemblies into sub-component, thus enabling substantial savings for customers. Also, we have empowered our customers to know the cost of their service as well as parts with the help of an online calculator on our website even before they step into the dealership. This is not where it stops. We have also strengthened our parts availability through a vast network of authorized parts distributors across the country. These distributors supply genuine Ford parts to retailers and roadside garages - to assure that Ford genuine parts are readily available to you no matter where you go.

What was the idea/inspiration behind rolling out the new campaign?

In most situations, human beings tend to blindly go by hearsay and form perceptions - which may or may not be true. While Ford is known for proven safety and quality, some sections of consumers perceive that the cost of ownership of a Ford vehicle is high. However, the truth is exactly the opposite. The campaign, therefore, aims to bust the myth of high “cost of service” by use of a disruptive creative hook and challenge perceptions to state facts like the annual scheduled maintenance of a Ford EcoSport in its fifth year or 50,000 kms being as low as Rs 3,662.

What do villains signify in this current campaign or why did Ford choose villains as their cast?

We wanted to create a ‘disruptive’ hook to the communication for people to take notice. To bring the concept of misdirection or myth-conception alive, we relied on well-known on-screen ‘villains’ – Singham fame Prakash Raj, bad man Gulshan Grover, and small screen vamp Sudha Chandran. All antagonists in the campaign highlighting how they have also been stereotyped as bad in real life too due to their evil appearances in cinema/ television. As seen in the treatment, the assumption of the villains perceived to be indulging in a villainous act being proved wrong will make people take notice. This will help Ford make a point to customers on not getting misdirected by half-truths and myth-conceptions.

Share the total digital spend and target of the campaign?

For the launch phase of the campaign covering television commercial across GEC, sports and movie channels along with corresponding digital and communications efforts will see Ford spend close to Rs 25 crore.

 What is Ford’s sales vision for 2017?

2016 has been a year of growth for Ford in India. Our strategy of product led innovation, delivering differentiated customer experience. In CY 2016, the industry grew 6-7% while Ford grew 12% year on year. For 2017, we expect the industry to grow by a low single-digit (6-7%), and Ford is expected to grow in line with or faster than industry, thanks to the youngest product portfolio and the promise of ‘Feels Like Family’.

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