Ford Recognizes Millennial Consumer Marketing Trends

Posted by: Jeff Fromm

When we consider the Millennial Mindset®, brands must understand the concept of “democratization of consumption” for mature Millennials.  As we watch this “enigma” generation mature into adults (getting married, having children and purchasing homes, cars, etc.), we can’t make the mistake of grouping Millennials as one uniformed adolescent group. Democratization of consumption is a shift in behavior for Millennials as they mature into pragmatic consumers from previously being enigmatic consumers.  A group of consumers that once seemed unpredictable and disloyal can now be considered “savvy” as they calculate purchases based on a new formula of brand value.



These smart and savvy consumers are armed with limitless information at their fingertips when considering purchasing decisions.  Brands can no longer survive on gimmicks and add-ons that may have appealed to a less-savvy consumer.  Millennials demand more–more information, more benefits and more value!

We used to say that brand value was the sum of functional and emotional benefits divided by price.  In the Millennial inspired participation economy, marketers and brands must consider participatory benefits in this equation.  Brands that incorporate all three benefits add real value to the equation and win with Millennial consumers.


Brand Value

Functional Benefits:

We often describe Millennials as the digital native group of consumers raised with technology.  Since this group is so accustomed to having technology support every aspect of their lives, it is obvious that brands must leverage technology to have a fighting chance.  Easier said than done.  Millennials know how to sniff out the “bells and whistles” and “cheap tricks” when brands attempt to incorporate technology.  The automotive industry is not immune to this. Auto retailers must understand that Useful Is The New Cool® with this group.  Ford seamlessly integrates innovative technology in ways that add functionality, which drives Millennials to purchase Fords.

  • BLIS (blind spot information system): detects and alerts drivers of other vehicles entering your blind spot.  Available on: 2013 Edge, 2014 Explorer, 2014 Taurus and the 2014 Fusion.
  • Active Park Assist: searches for available parking spaces and actively parallel parks the vehicle for the driver. Available on: 2013 C-Max, 2014 Explorer, 2014 Escape, 2014 Flex, 2014 Focus and the 2014 Taurus.
  • Adapted Cruise Control: detects traffic slowing down and automatically slows down the vehicle to maintain the distance you’ve set.  When traffic clears, the vehicle resumes at the preset speed. Available on: 2013 Edge, 2014 Explorer and the 2014 Taurus.
  • Multi-contour Seats: helps reduce muscle-fatigue in the drivers legs and lower back by using a subtle rolling-pattern massage and seven air chambers in the seat back and seat bottom.  Available on: 2014 Taurus


Emotional Benefits:

We often talk about the Millennial desire to “do good” for the world.  As Millennials are natural multi-taskers, we often observe this behavior in correlation with purchasing decision.  More often than not, Millennials choose brands whose values align with their own.  This is why we see “idea” brands that stand for a cause consistently winning with this group.  For a brand like Ford, the opportunity is in the green movement.

  • Automatic Start-Stop System: helps conserve fuel and reduce emissions by turning the engine off when the vehicle comes to a complete stop and the brakes are applied. When the brakes are released, the engine instantly restarts.  Available on 2013 Fusion SE


Participatory Benefits:

Aside from functional and emotional benefits, Millennials demand to be active participants in the consumer journey.  Driven by advancements in digital and mobile technology, Millennials are demanding to be a part of the process. The type of participation Millennials want to engage in breaks into three types:

1. Millennials want to co-create the products and services that you sell.

2. Millennials want to co-create the customer journey or the customer experience.

3. Millennials want to co-create the marketing — which goes beyond social media.

Ford saw an opportunity with these active consumers becoming essentially brand ambassadors, which motivated the “Ford Fiesta Movement”.  Ford began by inviting fans to submit video applications to become “Fiesta Agents”.


After thousands of submissions and months of consumer submitted viral videos, Ford chose 100 Fiesta Agents to hit the road and tackle a ton of missions.  Ford armed their small army of brand ambassadors with a new Ford Fiesta as well as a tool kit with things like a GoPro and Hero3.  Over the next months, Fiesta Agents traveled the country sharing their missions and experiences on social media platforms. It wasn’t long before other brand fans embraced the movement offering social encouragement that fueled the Fiesta Movement campaign.

Ford disclosed that it has enjoyed the fastest retail-sales growth of any auto brand in the United States among the highly sought Millennials demographic over the last four years according to Forbes.  With an 80-percent increase in sales among shoppers ages 18 through 34 in the first half of this year compared with the first half of 2009, according to R.L. Polk registration data cited by the company (industry overall increased by only 35 percent), Ford credits much of their success with Millennials to the Fiesta Movement.

We can learn a lesson by looking at the different ways Ford has taken advantage of emerging opportunities.  Iconic brands with an older core audience often invest resources in a very traditional method of measuring ROI.  While this may be a proven process in the past, Brands that understand the significance of emerging opportunities and invest in that potential return are the brands that win with Millennials.  Consider this new framework of thinking of ROI. 


The base of the pyramid (75%) includes all core opportunities and proven successful campaigns.  These are the things your brand is doing today.  The middle of the pyramid (20%) is designated for emerging opportunities. These are important for acquiring new customers and further engaging core customers—things your brand looks to do in the near future. Finally, the top of the pyramid (5%) is reserved for your brand’s “blue ocean” ideas.  These are ideas that some might deem “unpredictable” or “erratic”.  These top of the pyramid ideas are game changers if executed properly.  The problem with “blue ocean” ideas is that can it seem like a gamble.  With this schema of ROI, the top of the pyramid cannot be measured by a traditional ROI approach.  Brands need to understand that rolling the dice on that five percent investment in a “blue ocean” opportunity is what will keep you relevant with today’s consumers.  You have to ask yourself: Can we afford to risk it? Or the real question: Can we afford NOT to?

For Ford, much of its investment is the core opportunities that have made it an iconic brand for decades.  However, you see Ford investing in innovation and technology to stay relevant.  Finally, you see Ford rolling the dice on “blue ocean” ideas like the Fiesta Movement with much less attention to traditional ROI.  Ford proves that the pay-off on “blue ocean” ideas is well worth the risk.


Photo Credit: Ford Fiesta Movement via Flickr

About Jeff Fromm

Although not a Millennial as defined by his age, Jeff Fromm is the Millennial Marketing Guy. Jeff is President of FutureCast, a marketing consultancy that specializes in Millennial trends, and is a contributing writer at...See Jeff's full bio.