Since he was introduced in a viral campaign back in March, "Focus Doug" has shown his true colors (other than orange) as an egotistical and shamelessly self-promotional spokespuppet. But the only reason that Ford marketers still put up with this fuzzy little blowhard – and, indeed, keep giving him online-only video exposure on YouTube – is that he’s helping to sell the new, 2012 Focus compact cars he’s supposed to be touting instead of himself.
“Doug has gotten Focus before hundreds of thousands of people,” Robert Parker, a group marketing manager for Ford, told brandchannel. “It’s too early to tell how many sales have resulted, but on the awareness curve – people who were aware there is a new Focus pre-Doug, versus the number of people aware post-Doug – has gone way up.”
Clearly, fans are having fun with the tongue-in-cheek campaign, and while not directly responsible for Focus model sales growth, they've been trending upwards since Dougie hit the web. Focus enjoyed 13% of U.S. compact-car sales in June, according to Edmunds.com, and copped a healthy 13% of sales from Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen and Mazda competitors.
The Doug campaign — which has yet to tap into the Dougie craze, but give it time — has been “a great way for us to reach out to customers that we know are mostly Gen Y-ers who aren’t looking at advertising in the same way as the rest of the public, where they’re consuming much more of what’s online – and that isn’t even advertising,” Lew Echlin, Ford’s marketing manager for global cars and crossovers, added in an interview with brandchannel. “How do we reach these customers and build relationships with them without advertising? Doug was the answer.”
When the idea for the Doug campaign was reviewed internally last spring, “It made us incredibly uncomfortable, which is how we knew we were on to something,” Parker quipped. A series of videos ensued, and new skits have continued to appear featuring smart-alecky, sexist, narcissistic Doug and his “handler” buddy going on adventures and talking about all manner of silliness, slipping in references to Focus and its features.
Lately, Doug has gone solo (dropping his human wingman, John), which, of course, is the way he likes it. “You rule my world,” the puppet says in a recent video (below) aimed at “the ladies.” “A lot of ladies say they want to have ... at least a baby with me.”
To supposed female admirers, Doug says, “Be sure your profile picture is a picture of your face and not a food item.” There's nary a Ford logo, Focus door handle or fender in sight in the video, but there’s personality galore.
The challenge, as with any character-based effort (witness Old Spice's Old Old Spice Guy vs. New Old Spice Guy hunk-off) is how to keep it fresh and avoid fan fatigue. Given the wits scripting this campaign, it's likely to have legs for a good while yet — even if Doug doesn't.