Assignment 3-Social Networks

Ford Fiesta Movement

The Ford Fiesta case presented a creative and effective way of utilizing social networking and viral marketing to create interest and demand for a product in a cost effective manner. Through the use of agents, Ford achieved 4.3 million YouTube views, 540,000 Flickr views, 2,100 Facebook fans, 5,300 Twitter followers, 27,000 blog posts, 2,300 media stories, 35,000 test drives, and 162,000 people looking at a Fiesta model at events. This resulted in pre-launch brand awareness of 38% among 16-24 year olds and 50,000 sales leads, 97% of which were from people who did not own a Ford model (Stephen, 2010). Relative to traditional advertising, this campaign was significantly cheaper and created equivalent brand awareness and interest, demonstrating the power of social networking and viral marketing. According to the case, the pre-launch brand awareness was equivalent to the brand awareness for other cars Ford sold in the US backed with traditional advertising (Stephen, 2010). Not only was brand awareness equivalent, but more importantly consumers were actively engaged in thinking and communicating with the product. For these reasons, the Ford Fiesta Movement can be considered a success.

 Is this campaign something that Ford would want to consider for other car lines?

Contributing to the success of the campaign was the fact that the target market for the car included individuals that actively used social networking. Social networking in itself was not responsible for Ford’s success; rather Ford’s target market for the Fiesta could be best reached via social networking. The target market for the Ford Fiesta was primarily “millennials,” young consumers in the 14-29 age bracket. This age group is among the most technologically savvy, the most involved in social networking, and the least likely to consume traditional media. This age group has become accustomed to user generated content and controls the marketing messages they are exposed to. Viral marketing works best for this age group and the Ford Fiesta Movement allowed Ford to convey the message that the car was fun and stylish by allowing consumers to take control of the brand and the message.

Ford can consider this campaign, or something similar, for other models if the target market utilizes social networking at an acceptable usage rate. A recent study provided some interesting statistics on social networking sites that compared the ages of users from 19 sites. According to the study, 44% of users across all 19 social networking sites are in the 35-54 age group, while only 27% are in the 18-34 age group. Additionally, 64% of Twitter users are older than 35, 61% of Facebook users are older than 35, the average social network user is 37 and the average Facebook user is 38 (Pingdom, 2010). These statistics suggest that older generations are active on social networking sites and that Ford could target these individuals with different car models aimed at different demographics.

What would you suggest the company consider next for this campaign?

 At the end of the campaign, there was still 6 months left before the car went on sale. The campaign created brand awareness, interest, and leads, but how much of this would be maintained for 6 months? Consumers could lose interest, forget about the brand, or gain interest in competing offers. To maintain the interest, the agent program should be extended perhaps on a smaller scale. New agents can be given an opportunity to participate to create additional interest in new channels and markets. 

How could Ford go about turning these leads into sales? Do these leads present any additional opportunities for marketing the Fiesta in the US?

Ford should actively engage these leads to maintain interest and convert them to sales. Ford could publish a Ford Fiesta newsletter providing information on the Ford Fiesta movement and updates on when the car will become available. Ford could extend the Ford Fiesta movement with new agents and have those agents complete missions and hold events in the various locations the leads are located. Additionally, Ford can offer its leads the opportunity to pre-order the car with a guaranteed delivery date to provide an incentive for pre-ordering. 

Sunsilk Gang of Girls

This case demonstrated the effective use of social networking independent of third party social networking sites. By building a company website with social networking elements, a company can better control the experience. Operating on Facebook requires the company to conform to the rules, regulations, and infrastructure controlled by Facebook. Engaging consumers in social networking activities on a company sponsored website allows the company to provide a deeper and richer experience.

The Sunsilk Gang of Girls website is very interactive, providing expert information, consumer networking, and interactive elements. Experts provide advice on hair care, products, and fashion; the “makeover machine” allows you to upload a picture and manipulate hair styles, makeup, and accessories, and forums allow members to share stories and offer advice. As consumers interact with the website, the experts, and the community members, they are deepening their relationship with the brand.

Reference Groups   

This case also demonstrates the importance of reference groups in marketing. Reference groups refer to relevant groups to which consumers compare themselves and base purchasing decisions on. Reference groups can be broken down into three categories (Perner, 2010):

1.       Aspirational reference groups-this reference group represents individuals that consumers would like to compare themselves to, for example celebrities and athletes.

2.       Associative reference groups-this reference group includes individuals who more realistically represent the consumers equals or near equals, such as family members, co-workers, organization members, etc.

3.       Dissociative reference groups-this reference group represents individuals that the consumer wishes not to relate to. Dissociative reference groups have the opposite effect on consumer behavior; members of a dissociative reference group will dissuade consumers from purchasing a product (Perner, 2010).

The utilization of reference groups in marketing is powerful for a few reasons. First, consumers are more likely to purchase a product or service based on a recommendation from a member of a reference group than from marketing communications. Second, people that have had a good experience with a product or brand are usually eager to recommend the product or brand to others. A survey conducted by the Internet and Mobile Association of India revealed that 93% of respondents expressed their willingness to recommend a product, service, or brand to others online (Chiranjeevi & Thalluri, 2009). The willingness to recommend brands and the influence reference groups have on consumers provides for a powerful marketing tool if implemented properly.

Sunsilk was able to utilize all three categories of reference groups to stimulate demand, as follows:

1.       Aspirational Groups-Sunsilk recruited Bollywood actress and former Miss World Priyanka Chopra as its brand ambassador. Indian women admire Priyanka giving her significant persuasive power. Additionally, Sunsilk launched and showcased its Miss India Pageant show, with participants in the pageant show representing aspirational reference groups.

2.       Associative Groups-Female consumers in India play a dominant role in the buying decision process and form the axle of the Indian household purchase system (Chiranjeevi & Thalluri, 2009). There is a growing literacy rate among young Indian women and an increasing tendency to use the internet. Sunsilk recognized that these young women could influence and promote the Sunsilk brand to each other; Sunsilk just had to facilitate this. To get this group of women together, Sunsilk launched and provided services such as the Makeover Machine, Astrological forecasts, expert advice, Gang of Girls TV, forums, and other interactive elements. Once these services attractive a large base of users, these users started discussing amongst themselves sharing advice and deepening their relationships with the brand.

3.       Dissociative Groups-With 761,674 members (Sunsilk, 2011) all discussing beauty and hair care, not having healthy hair or style puts you in a dissociative category. If a women joins the site, she is almost obligated to maintain her style and hair or risk being part of the dissociative group that doesn’t take these things seriously on a daily basis.

The effectiveness to which Sunsilk utilized reference groups is demonstrated by the fact that within 6 months of its launch, the website attracted more than 500,000 users and increased sales by 9.2% (Chiranjeevi & Thalluri, 2009).

Opinion Leaders

Opinion leaders are individuals who hold persuasive power regarding certain topics, and can influence followers to adopt their own viewpoints. There are two very important classifications of opinion leaders, liaisons and bridges (Chiranjeevi & Thalluri, 2009). Liaisons connect two or more cliques together without belonging to either clique. Liaisons can influence multiple cliques (small groups who interact frequently) at the same time and persuade both groups towards similar lines of thinking and connect the two groups. Sunsilk used celebrities and hair care and beauty experts as liaison opinion leaders. Priyanka Chopra, former Miss World, anchored the website. Dipannita Sharma, a renowned fashion model; Pearl, a DJ; Mehnaz, a vocalist; Sweta Subramaniam, a Bharatnatyam dancer were all used as liaison opinion leaders to connect groups and influence buying decisions (Chiranjeevi & Thalluri, 2009).

Bridges are opinion leaders that belong to one clique and connect that group with another clique. Active members on the Sunsilk Gang of Girls website represent bridges, connecting multiple separate cliques into one large group that can share information and deepen their relationship with the brand together.

Mercedes and Second Life

Second Life presents an intriguing marketing opportunity. The benefits of establishing a presence in a virtual world, at least theoretically, are numerous and include opportunities for market research, assessment of consumer behavior in real time, real time conversations with customers, the provision of interactive 3D content for consumers, the ability to promote the brand, and the ability to reach customers in a new way (Blarr, 2008). While these apparent advantages seem promising, an analysis of the sites statistics reveals some major problems.

Size and Relevant Markets

As of 2007, Second Life had a reported 7 million users (Aase, 2007). However, we can break this number down along multiple dimensions that demonstrate the relevant market to any one business is very small in relation to other social networking sites. For example:

·         The number of unique Second Life users is calculated by subtracting from 7 million reported users the number of users who have multiple accounts and the number of users who have registered but never logged in. This number is closer to 4 million, so the relevant total market size as of 2007 is 4 million users (Aase, 2007). Compare this to over 40 million users for Facebook in 2007 (Facebook, 2011).

·         Out of 4 million unique visitors, only 31.2% of users are US citizens. If your relevant market is located exclusively in the US, your relevant market size in Second Life is now only about 1.25 million users (Reuters, 2007).

·         Out of 4 million unique users, only about 10% have logged more than 40 hours into the game (Aase, 2007). The number of unique active users is therefore about 400,000. Contrast this with Facebook, where in 2007 approximately 50% of its 40 million users logged in at least once per day (Facebook, 2011).

This relatively low participation rate is the result of the hardware and software requirements and a steep learning curve. The hardware requirements are significant to get the game to run smoothly, software must be downloaded to the user’s computer, and learning the game requires a significant amount of time and effort. In contrast, Facebook requires modest hardware requirements, no downloadable software, and is easy to learn within minutes. The low participation rates have resulted in the “there’s nobody there problem” that Chris Anderson, the editor-in-chief of Wired, acknowledged (Anderson, 2007). In this article, Chris Anderson talks about his failed experience with Second Life and his inability to attract users, a problem he acknowledges is a reality for many companies. 

Growth and Company Defections

The expectations for Second Life in terms of growth were similar to the other social networking sites. Companies quickly established a presence on Second Life in preparation for this growth and enjoyed the positive media attention participation was generating. Then, the growth never happened. From 2007 to 2011, Second Life increased reported users from 7 million to 20 million, representing growth of only 186% over those 4 years (Life, 2011). Contrast this with Facebook who grew from 40 million users in 2007 to 500 million users in 2011 (Facebook, 2011). Because of this lack of growth, companies such as Mercedes, BMW, Dell, Best Buy, American Apparel, and Starwood Hotels have all left Second Life after a brief stint (Shaw, 2007). And even the figure of 20 million users is exaggerated because it doesn’t represent unique or active users as discussed above.

Psychological Implications

 In addition to the low participation rate and lack of growth, the value of marketing research comes into question as well. A study conducted in 2011 demonstrated that people often behave differently in a virtual world than they would in reality (Zhou, Jin, Vogel, Fang, & Chen, 2011). People tend to alter the physical appearance of their avatar and behave in ways that are generally more outgoing and less risk averse. In addition, people tend to be less thoughtful and more superficial in the virtual world which could skew marketing information gathered from the virtual world (Zhou, Jin, Vogel, Fang, & Chen, 2011).

Mercedes and Second Life

Mercedes, like many other companies, overestimated the growth potential and exposure of Second Life. Accordingly, they left Second Life after a little over a year. Limited participation from users that may or not be the company’s real life target market is likely the reason for the departure, as well as all of the reasons presented above. In 2007, it made sense to establish a presence in Second Life in anticipation of the potential growth, as well as the benefit from the publicity. Now that the growth has never materialized, it is much harder to conceive many business related benefits. However, there are a couple of benefits worth mentioning that appear to be more promising, as follows:

·         Second Life as a recruiting tool-Many companies are using Second Life as a recruiting tool, such as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and the Vancouver Police Department. Recruiting on Second Life eliminates geographical barriers and reduces the time and cost of interviewing for the hiring company (Spalding, 2007).

·         Second Life as an educational and training tool- Second Life provides a platform for relatively inexpensive training for situations that are hard to emulate in real life, such as emergency Reponses. In 2009, Children’s Memorial Hospital Chicago approached Centrax, a Chicago e-learning company and Second Life Solutions provider, to create an exact virtual replica of the hospital to provide a platform to train staff on various emergence and safety procedures (Linden, 2009). The results of the training were positive and the hospital plans to continue its use of Second Life for training purposes.


Aase, L. (2007). Facebook vs. Second Life: No Contest. Retrieved from Social Media University, Global:

Anderson, C. (2007). Why I gave up on Second Life. Retrieved from Wired:

Blarr, W. H. (2008). Second Life-Mercedes-Benz Enters the Metaverse. ecch.

Chiranjeevi, C., & Thalluri, P. V. (2009). Sunsilk Gang of Girls: Crafting a Brand Positioning with Reference Groups. ecch.

Facebook. (2011). Statistics. Retrieved from Facebook:

Life, S. (2011). Q1 2011 Linden Dollar Economy Metrics Up, Users and Usage Unchanged. Retrieved from Second Life:

Linden, A. (2009). Case Study: Children’s Memorial Hospital Chicago Uses Second Life to Conduct Emergency Training . Retrieved from Second Life:

Messinger, P. R. (2008). On the Relationship between My Avatar and Myself. Virtual Worlds Research.

Perner, L. (2010). Group Influences. Retrieved from USC Marshall:

Pingdom. (2010). Study: Ages of Social Netwok Users. Retrieved from

Reuters, A. (2007). Europe takes lead in Second Life users. Retrieved from Reuters:

Shaw, R. (2007). For business uses, Second Life is a fad and a crock. Retrieved from ZDNet:

Spalding, S. (2007). How To Recruit Using Second Life. Retrieved from How to Split an Atom:

Stephen, A. T. (2010). Ford Fiesta Movement. ecch.

Sunsilk. (2011). Home Page. Retrieved from Sunsilk Gang of Girls:

Wikipedia. (2011). Second Life. Retrieved from Wikipedia:

Zhou, Z., Jin, X.-L., Vogel, D. R., Fang, Y., & Chen, X. (2011). Individual motivations and demographic differences in social virtual world uses: An exploratory investigation in Second Life. International Journal of Information Management.