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Hot Wheels

When Ford’s zippy Fiesta hits American streets this year, to the casual observer it will look like a fun, affordable ride. With a sticker price of less than $15,000, some models come with a message center and trip computer on the dashboard, a floor console with a USB port and other amenities designed to appeal to hip, urban drivers and even some segments of the boomer crowd. They’re pretty easy on the gas, too.

But to brand marketers in the know, these colorful little subcompacts epitomize a new era at Ford. Since the company was founded in 1903, it has been known for safety, reliability and innovation. But a sexy set of wheels? Other than, perhaps, the T-bird in the ’50s and the Mustang a decade later, not so much. With gas-guzzlers like the Ford Explorer and its hefty Ford trucks, the brand over the years had lost relevance with today’s influential Gen Y and millennial car buyers. The Fiesta, however, with high-tech touches usually reserved for higher-end luxury autos, offers the connectivity that appeals to modern consumers and is being launched at the epicenter of the evolving experiential marketing model—which combines online and offline.

Ford marketers capitalized on the car’s features and the social media trend to generate awareness for the car in an experiential and digital campaign dubbed the Fiesta Movement. Even competitors call it nothing short of genius.

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