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Jan 29, 2009
Case Study

Games Drive Consumers to Try Out New Technology: 64% Opt-In Rate for Ford

SUMMARY: Ford created a technology for its vehicles that was explained through hands-on interaction. A marketing team created a series of games that revolved around the technology and used entertainment venues to let consumers play them. Tens of thousands of prospects opted-in to get more information about Ford products.

The product is SYNC (TM) – a voice-activated technology that allows vehicle owners to call friends and family and choose songs and podcasts to play while driving without having to fidget with cell phones or iPods. The technology allows you to plug in your cell phone and digital music device to the system and tell it what to do through voice commands. Say “Call Angie,” and it calls your friend. Say “Play ‘Holiday’ by Madonna,” and it plays the song.

Gabrielle Senatore, Experiential Marketing Manager and Mobile Tour Manger, Ford Motor Company, faced three significant issues in marketing this product last year:
-Ford’s heavy investment in the development of SYNC with partner Microsoft
-The mission: Add value to a consumer’s driving experience
-The technology: Something not easily explained through marketing messages

These issues told Senatore and her team that SYNC was something consumers had to experience to really “get it.”

“We really wanted to reach the consumers in an element they’re comfortable in,” says Senatore. “We wanted to make sure they understood and experienced the technology in a neutral territory.”


Senatore and her team devised an experiential tour that traveled to entertainment venues in 28 cities throughout the country. The exhibit involved three interactive games that gave consumers an opportunity to experience the technology.

Here are the nine steps they took:

Step #1. Conduct market research to select the best cities

Senatore and her team targeted tech-savvy consumers in metro areas with demographics that demonstrated this focus. The research identified metro areas in California, Texas, and the territory along the East Coast as prime targets, says Senatore.

Step #2. Decide appropriate venues

Senatore and her team wanted each venue to have one primary common aspect: fun. They wanted to introduce the technology to people in spots where they were enjoying themselves. Venues ultimately ranged from music festivals to amusement parks to air shows.

They selected the sites based on the following points:
-Which venues were available and interested in hosting the events?
-Which venues had data on attendee demographics that matched the tour’s target demographics?
-Which venues had the longest exposure time?

Regarding the latter, the team really wanted venues with activities that started as early as 10 a.m. and ended no earlier than 7 p.m. They required as much face time with consumers as possible.

What they found:
-Six Flags amusement parks were a very productive venue for the tour
-Blues and food festivals offered good traction

Step #3. Add value to the venue

The team made a point to add value to each venue the tour visited. When they went to the State Fair in Texas, for example, it was very hot. So, they offered branded bottles with cold water and branded hats to shade visitors from the sun. At the music festivals, they offered CDs of an up-and-coming artist.

Step #4. Market the tour

The team basically let their marketing ride on the coattails of the marketing for the venues the tour visited – with one exception. They used a car-giveaway sweepstakes to attract venue attendees.

The winner of the sweepstakes was chosen randomly at the end of the tour from among entrants who played the games at the Ford SYNC exhibit. The prize: a choice between a Mercury Mariner Hybrid or a Ford Escape Hybrid.

Step #5. Align the games with the technology

The tour exhibit involved two games that got players to interact with the technology and one that was a contest based on research.


This game often involved teams competing in a game-show format. It took place on a stage equipped with simulated SYNC technology. They competed for prizes.

The game worked like this:
-Players would shout out a music genre, such as rap, alternative, or country, and the technology would respond by choosing an anonymous song.
-Players then had to guess the artist and/or the title of the song.

“It was very contagious because people at other activities would see what’s going on and there would be people standing in line waiting to get up there with their team,” says Senatore.

Game 2. IN SYNC

Teams also competed in this game. Half of the participants sat in two cars with the built-in technology; half stood outside the cars.

Here’s how it worked:
-Players outside the cars received a charade topic they had to act out.
-Players inside the cars guessed what the players outside the cars were acting out by using SYNC to make their verbal guesses.
-Whichever team guessed first won a prize.


This game involved a large banner featuring an overblown SYNC logo. Each letter of the logo contained hundreds of musical notes. Players guessed how many musical notes were in the logo. Winners received a small prize that would be mailed to them, so they didn’t have to wait around to find out if they had won.

The team chose this game because past research indicated that there was a segment of people who wouldn’t register for the sweepstakes. But those people would fill out a ‘count challenge’ registration form.

This game resulted in:
- Another stream of leads from people who wouldn’t fill out the sweepstakes form.
-People registering multiple times so they could take more guesses.
-People hanging around the exhibit and engaging the technology for a longer period of time.

TIP: Relating game names to popular culture was strategic. “SYNC That Tune,” for example, came from the 1950’s game show “Name That Tune,” which helped players quickly understand what the game was about.

Step #6. Hire enthusiastic product experts as game hosts

Hiring eager product experts as game hosts was a key, Senatore says. They engaged the consumers and made it fun while interjecting messages on the features and benefits of SYNC that didn’t sound like a sales pitch.

Step #7. Set up measurable goals

Senatore’s team set up measurable goals:
-How many attendees interacted with the games?
-How many attendees opted-in for more information from Ford?
-How many ended up at a dealership because of it?

Step #8. Create a way to easily measure results

To measure the number of game participants, the team required each player to register their name and contact information to enter the sweepstakes.

To measure how many opted-in for mailed brochures, special Web offers, or calls from a dealer, the team allowed players to opt-in two ways:

A. Checking boxes on the registration forms
B. Bar-coded wrist bands

All players got bar-coded wrist bands, so that they could play each game without having to complete new forms each time. The bar codes contained each player’s name and contact information.

Players could opt-in by placing their wrist bands under scanners set up in kiosks throughout the exhibit. Each kiosk had a sign saying: “Would You Like to Learn More about SYNC? Just Hold Your Wrist Band under the Scanner.”

This tactic allowed the team to register electronically each individual’s name and find out who opted in to receive additional materials. Those who requested more information were immediately sent an email thanking them for their interest in Ford products. Those who requested a brochure were immediately entered into Ford’s fulfillment system. Those who requested a dealer to contact them were fast-tracked.


Senatore and her team measured the number of unique game plays and opt-ins to determine the tour’s success. Overall, more than 67,000 people played the SYNC games.

“We were more concerned about name recognition or brand recognition with SYNC,” she says. “And actually having them understand what SYNC was.”

In addition to getting thousands of consumers to interact with the technology, almost two out of three players (64%) opted-in for more information.

“I’m very pleased with what the tour has accomplished,” says Senatore. “There’s definitely been an awareness brought to consumers.”

Senator says the tour also has had a “positive effect” on dealership traffic and sales. “It met all of our expectations and then some.”

Useful links related to this article

Creative Samples from Ford Motor Company:

Xperience Communications – vendor Ford hired to produce the experiential SYNC tour:

Ford Motor Company:

See Also:

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