chatter in social networks, discussion
boards, blogs and online communities
as a potential goldmine of product ideas
—free R&D, if you will.
“We believe that listening to the customers online is a tremendous opportunity to better shape our future product and
company strategy,” says Scott Kelly, digital
marketing manager for Ford Motor Co.
Like Kia, Ford pays close attention to
what people are saying about its brands
on popular social media sites such as
Facebook and Twitter, and elsewhere
on the Web. But Ford has taken it a step
further by inviting consumers to submit
their ideas directly to the automaker, on
a website called thefordstory.com.
The website’s “Your Ideas” page allows consumers to post their ideas about
existing or potential Ford vehicles, as
well as comment and vote on other consumers’ ideas. Based on the type of suggestion, Ford routes the ideas to the appropriate product-development team.
“It could happen in the shower. It
could happen at the grocery store while
deciding between one- or two-ply napkins. Most likely, it’ll happen when
you’re driving,” the website teases.
“A great idea pops into your head
about how to make your Ford even better. Don’t keep it to yourself. Post and
read ideas here.
“You never know,” the website continues, “your idea could become the
next big thing at Ford!”
Nissan’s Erich Marx on social media:
“THE BRANDS THAT ARE LISTENING, THAT
ARE WILLING TO LEVERAGE IT AND BE OPEN
TO THE POWER OF IT, I THINK THEY’RE GOING
TO BE MORE THAN A STEP AHEAD.”
The “Your Ideas” page isn’t a PR ploy,
though. Ford is seriously considering
several ideas received on the website,
Novak says, while several other suggestions have served as validation for ideas
that Ford already had in the works.
As for specific examples, Novak says
he’s “sworn to secrecy.”
While Novak points out that “Your
Ideas” is just one of many inputs in
Ford’s product-development process,
he says the daily feedback from con-
sumers “clearly has been a bonus and a
value-add to the process.”
“Obviously it gives us a little bit more
flexibility on reading the market and
understanding the market and wants
and needs,” Novak says.
THE NEW FOCUS GROUP
A FLOATING CAR IN
Since Ford launched the “Your Ideas”
page in April 2010, the automaker has received more than 4,000 ideas from consumers—running the gamut from one
woman’s desire for a dog-friendly SUV to
one man’s wish for a floating car (to survive the floodwaters of a hurricane).
There are no bad ideas, emphasizes
Ford’s Rick Novak. But Novak, cross-
vehicle strategy manager for the auto-
maker, admits that “not all 4,000 ideas
make the cut, so to speak.”
“We have 4,000 ideas, but a lot of them
could be duplicates, and so we try to bun-
dle them up so they’re properly evalu-
ated,” Novak says. “We put them into key
buckets like convenience, safety or in-
fotainment, and then based on those we
evaluate the best ideas that are bubbling
up out of those core buckets, if you will.”
With four new-model launches slated
for 2012, Nissan Motor Co. is in a growth
mode this year. That is, the automaker is
trying to grow its fan base on social media
sites such as Facebook and Twitter so it
can squeeze the “maximum impact” out
of them when it launches the new models
next year, explains Nissan’s Erich Marx.