Ford brings the fun to buyers with new experiential parties

Ford Motor Co. recently teamed with House Party to promote its products in a way that lets consumers truly experience the Ford brand - an experiential marketing party called The Big Drive.

In the news
Ford Motor Co. recently teamed with House Party to promote its products in a way that lets consumers truly experience the Ford brand - an experiential marketing party called The Big Drive. House Party selected a group of recent Ford buyers that applied online to be party hosts. The company helped to organize 1,100 parties held during an airing of ABC's Oprah's Big Give.

Ford wanted to give people who hadn't recently been in a Ford vehicle an opportunity to experience the cars.

"It gets Ford back on their consideration list, which is very positive," explained Said Deep, spokesman for Ford.

Ford and House Party encouraged party hosts to talk with guests about their Ford vehicles. They also gave hosts guidelines on how to attract local media coverage.

In the coming weeks, Ford will present 10 of the parties with a vehicle to give to one deserving person. One party host will win $25,000 and two Ford vehicles based on submissions outlining how the prizes will impact their communities.

Why does it matter?
Adding to the growing field of experiential marketing, the parties allow corporations to use consumers as brand advocates.

"It's all about word-of-mouth, and it's all about recommendations," said Harvey Hoffenberg, president of Propulsion LLC, which does a lot of experiential marketing.

Kitty Kolding, CEO of House Party, says the parties allow consumers to interact with the brand longer than they would by watching a commercial or reading an advertisement. Parties lose effectiveness if product representatives are present, she added.

Distributing surveys to partygoers and tracking Web site hits helps measure the events' success, Kolding said.

Five facts:
1 A recent survey conducted by the Advertising Research Foundation showed that when consumers attend brand-sponsored events, their interest in buying a product might rise as much as 14%.

2 Each House Party event, which involves about 1,000 parties nationwide, tends to attract more than 1 million visitors to the event Web site, the firm said.

3 A 2008 Jack Morton Worldwide survey found that 70% of the 277 marketers surveyed believe experiential marketing is very important to their organization, and 71% say experiential marketing will become more important in the coming year.

4 Additionally, 98% of participants in the Jack Morton survey agreed that "brand experiences that deliver on brand promises are central to building commitment and loyalty."

5 Ford estimates that 10,000 to 15,000 at-home test drives of its vehicles took place throughout the country during The Big Drive event on April 6.

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