Ford wants the new Fiesta to appeal to a younger, smarter, more brand-conscious buyer. It wants the model to become desirable rather than inevitable, for buyers to actively want a Fiesta rather than settling for one. Which is why last year senior Ford executives involved in the Fiesta project went shopping in Top Shop with a group of 20-something women.
They went to these lengths because Ford and its advertising agency, Ogilvy & Mather, were concerned that decisions about advertising the new car were going to be made by people who were mostly male and at least 45 years of age.
Without going out and finding the target customer, they were not going to know what resonated with her. She is, apparently, a 25-year-old physiotherapist whom Ford called Antonella; an Italian name was used because Italian women have the lifestyle most typical of Fiesta buyers.
It was no surprise to discover that these women are very brand-conscious, but the Ford team found that there was no consensus about what brands are the right ones. The women have strong individual beliefs about what brands are hot, but disagree a lot with each other.
Ford regards this as generally good news; as Roeland de Waart, Ford’s British chairman, puts it, “In the 1980s brands were ubiquitous. Everyone wanted Lacoste, for example. Now it is fragmented, with different brands appealing to different sub-groups.”
Maureen Graham, brand manager for the Fiesta and Ka and the only woman in the Ford group, was interested to discover that young women are more tech-savvy than she expected. “Twenty years ago you could safely have assumed that boys were more likely to be interested in gadgets than girls,” she said. “Now, with the generation that has grown up with mobile phones and MP3 players, that would be a dangerous stereotype.”
The interest in mobile phones — rated as the most important piece of technology in Antonella’s life — was a huge influence on the Fiesta’s interior, where the dashboard and centre console are deliberately designed to mimic the look of a high-end phone.
But how fashionable is the Fiesta brand among the Antonellas? Not as fashionable as Peugeot’s 207, as it turned out; it is still trading off the brilliance that was the 205. But if the Fiesta were to become a great-looking car, opinions could be changed. And when Ford showed images of the new Fiesta to the Antonellas without revealing what it was, it got an enthusiastic reception. This then cooled somewhat when the badge was revealed.
The conclusion is that Antonella could be persuaded to buy a Fiesta if the production version turned out to be as good looking as the prototype, but that she will have to spend some time explaining to her friends, “Oh no, it’s not that Fiesta; it’s the new one.”
That’s why Ford spent so much time agonising over changing the Fiesta name. In the end the conclusion was that ‘Fiesta’ had so much goodwill among current owners that it was not worth ditching it in order to appeal to Antonella; the car’s design would have to do the job. We’ll see if they were right when the new Fiesta goes on sale in September.