Ford Pioneers YouTube Strategy to Drive Sales, Brand Consideration in Thailand

Ford Thailand needed to think ahead of the curve to compete with the Japanese automakers dominating the market. As car-buying Thais now spend more time on YouTube than they do watching TV, the brand partnered with the video platform to drive brand awareness and consideration, among other key metrics.

GOALS

  • Be considered by consumers among the top five auto brands in Thailand
  • Increase brand affinity among Thai male millennials

APPROACH

  • Conducted comprehensive study of Thai auto consumer behavior on YouTube
  • Launched 15 mastheads on YouTube in 2016 to drive brand awareness and promote Ford Ranger model
  • Created series of made-for-YouTube videos and leveraged TrueView to amplify campaign message

RESULTS

  • +23% increase in car sales
  • +12% increase in market share
  • +100% increase in brand consideration
  • 2X increase in YouTube channel subscribers

Ford Thailand faced an uphill battle in 2016. The Thai auto industry is extremely competitive, and for an automaker outside of the established top five, becoming one of the four to five brands that the average Thai car buyer considers is a tall order.

But 2016 was an especially challenging year for almost every auto brand, even those at the top. Economic slowdown and political uncertainty weighed down consumer confidence, hurting promotions and auto sales in a big way.

Adding to these issues was the fact that Thai media consumption had changed so drastically that automakers could no longer depend on traditional methods of reaching car buyers. With increasing smartphone penetration and more affordable mobile data plans, today’s Thai consumers watch less TV and consume more content online, expecting everything on demand.

Personal internet usage grew 100% over the past three years from 61%. Smartphone usage also increased to 98% from 65% during the same period.1

As a result, one of the most important purchasing pathways for new car buyers was also changing: Visits to dealerships had become less frequent, with auto buyers making only 2.4 visits on average before deciding on a purchase.

Analyzing car-buying behavior in Thailand

When competitors in Thailand were still skeptical about the potential of digital media, Ford had an unwavering belief that going digital would be the future of marketing. When YouTube launched in Thailand in 2014, Ford became the first automaker to launch a channel on the platform and invest in video ads.

By 2016, against the backdrop of changing consumer behavior and political and economic uncertainty, Ford Thailand sensed even more of an opportunity. But to build significant brand consideration in a market in which Japanese automakers were firmly established as the familiar and trusted choice, Ford needed to understand how to connect with its target audience.

To better understand the new media habits, Ford Thailand conducted a comprehensive study of Thai auto consumer behavior, which unearthed several key insights:

1) A whopping 87% of new car purchasers watched online video and admitted that video content influenced their buying decisions. Also, even though a car buyer would have at least four to five brands in mind before making the big purchase, only 1.5 test drives were being made.

2) The #1 trigger for both first-time and repeat car buyers was promotion. Thais love a good deal, and that’s reflected in how they love to score deals on everything they consume: clothes, food, beverages, and many other types of goods and services.

3) YouTube had become the video platform of choice for online-savvy Thais with 81% going to YouTube first by default. More than 62% of this group spent more time on YouTube than they spent watching TV.

Deploying YouTube Mastheads for big impact

Armed with these insights, Ford invested in YouTube Mastheads. In the first three quarters of 2016, a total of 15 YouTube Mastheads were deployed. The mix of brand and promotional messaging for the Ford Ranger model homed in on Thais’ love of a good deal, garnering a total of 11M views.

An additional 50,000 users subscribed to Ford’s YouTube channel, at a cost per thousand (CPM) rate that was 7X lower than the average digital CPM across similar platforms. Coupled with a year’s worth of promotion-driven campaigns, Ford was able to drive 2.5M unique users to its official YouTube channel to showcase the full campaign video.

Along with the hero video, Ford created a series of made-for-YouTube videos that showcased the Ford Ranger’s ability to handle Thailand’s rough and bumpy roads. While Mastheads boosted reach and unique views with high-impact exposure, Ford served TrueView ads to sustain momentum and maintain steady view traffic.

Ford’s digital investment drives results

By the end of the year, Ford Thailand achieved its goal of becoming the leader in the digital space. The brand doubled its number of YouTube subscribers, reaching 114,000 users—almost 3X more than the industry leader at the time.

Having achieved its initial objective of engaging a mobile-first audience, Ford’s brand consideration jumped three places in Thailand—from sixth in 2015 to third in 2016. The brand’s market share also grew by an impressive 12.4% in an industry that shrank by almost 4%. Car sales grew by a staggering 23%, making Ford the only top-ten brand to grow by double digits (the top five experienced negative growth).

As the first auto partner to work with YouTube in Thailand, Ford continues to reap the rewards of being a digital pioneer of the market. “The partnership helped us build strong brand consideration with consumers. Our volume and market share actually grew and outperformed both our competitors and the contracted industry. To continue to grow our brand, we need a strong partner like YouTube,” concluded Khun Yukonthorn, managing director of Ford Thailand.

Sources

  1. TNS, The Drive to Decide, 2016 report.
Jackie Wang

Industry Head for Automotive, Google Thailand

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