Blame it on technology to ruin a virtual presentation but also for allowing it to take place.
With two online connection glitches in between, Lew Echlin, Ford Motor Co. marketing manager, still managed to address a classroom of 400 marketing students at the University of North Texas on Oct. 25.
Echlin shared a few marketing strategies, which have helped Ford bring to the market its vehicles, including plans to engage customers and promote the new 2013 Ford Fusion.
The presentation was held virtually inside the University Union’s Lyceum and it was part of Ford’s Virtual Speakers Bureau, a pilot program designed to bring top executives and leaders from the company to educational institutions nationwide. The pilot presentation was held for the first time at UNT.
“With this bureau, we hope to bring the expertise from what the superior management at the Ford Company has to offer to the classroom here at UNT,” said Dr. Kenneth Thompson, a professor in the UNT Department of Marketing and Logistics, while addressing his students during the morning presentation.
Doug Gilmour, marketing development manager for Ford Motor Co. in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, talked about the marketing operations of the Texas division of the company and the sales of its popular trucks and other vehicles.
“To get someone of Lew’s stature to do a presentation like this right in our own back yard is a pretty big deal at Ford,” Gilmour said when presenting Echlin to the students.
Echlin received his master’s of business administration from the University of Michigan and has been with the company for 15 years. Echlin has been part of Ford’s most recent products, including the Ford Fiesta, the Focus, the F-150 and most recently the 2013 Fusion, Gilmour said.
Echlin, seen on a screen from his office at the company’s world headquarters in Detroit, began his presentation by announcing he was participating in his first kid concert with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra during the weekend.
He also added, “I’m not really this bald,” a comment that drew laughter from the students in attendance.
Echlin’s one-hour presentation included information about the Ford philosophy and its car appeal to consumers, including how the company now skips much of the “middle man” to engage directly with the costumer.
“We reduced the gap between us,” Echlin said.
Another portion of the presentation was the Ford Fiesta movement, a successful grassroots social media campaign launched in 2009 to promote the Fiesta vehicle. During the presentation of the video, the Internet connection failed at least twice but did not deter Echlin from continuing to engage students.
Jeffrey Sager, professor and chairman of the University of North Texas Marketing and Logistics Department, said the presentation was also part of the school’s Distinguished Speaker Series.
“We had the CEO from 7-Eleven for the first one,” Sager said. “This speaker was actually arranged by a Ford intern, who is a radio, television and film major. He was the one who contacted me.”
Michael Dobbins, 22, a UNT converged broadcast media student, interned during the summer at the Ford offices in Dallas.
Dobbins said he saw a similar presentation created by Ford held at St. Edwards University in Austin earlier this year.
“But it was on a much smaller scale,” Dobbins said. “I thought we could have a presentation at the Lyceum … I found the needed people at the marketing department and talked to Dr. Sager and made the connection.”
Dobbins, along with the marketing department at Ford, set up the presentation, which took five months to coordinate. Dobbins was so excited to be invited to view the presentation that he even missed his designated media law class, which took place around the same time.
“I have a good excuse,” Dobbins said. “And Dr. Sager was so thankful. I did not realize how much this meant to the marketing department and to the students.”
After the one-hour presentation, Echlin engaged students in a question-and-answer session.
Echlin told the Denton Record-Chronicle a week prior to his UNT presentation, some of the best marketing ideas come from that interaction with the students.
“It is also exposing our vehicle to a new car demographic, who are 18-35 years of age,” said Echlin, adding that the average age of a new car buyer is 55.
After viewing the presentation, Jackie Hong, a senior and business economics major at the University of North Texas, said that although it was tailored to the consumer in the education arena, she found it quite interesting.
“It gave us an insight into a corporation marketing strategies especially in the car industry,” she said.
Echlin said part of the strategy is to have the customer just be aware. Running an “always on” campaign is part of that strategy, as well as having a pre-launch to build momentum, he said.
“And you also have to keep it simple,” Echlin said.
The company’s latest campaign — “Random Acts of Fusion” — celebrating the company’s new 2013 Fusion Hybrid, features acts like American Idol’s Ryan Seacrest and comedian Joel McHale in documentaries via YouTube. Through the campaign, customers can pre-register for events and get to know a lot more about the vehicle scheduled to debut later in the fall.
In its more recent company financial filing, Ford announced it had record third-quarter earnings in 2012 with an operating profit of $2.2 billion and a net income of $1.6 billion. Ford was the only one of the “Big Three” American companies (which includes General Motors and Chrysler) not to receive a government bailout during the economic crisis in 2008.
KARINA RAMÍREZ can be reached at 940-566-6878. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.