Perception and Listening in Marketing with Ford Motors

 Perception and Listening in Marketing

Perception: a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.

I sat in a seminar and an afternoon session last week put on by a company called Brandwatch and their Now You Know (#NYK) Conference, and the topic in this breakout session was called “Evaluating Consumer’s Propensity for American Made Products”. The focus was on the Ford Motor Company. The gist of the session was to determine if people in this country buy Ford, or any brand because their products are made in the USA. We all generally “know” that Ford cars and trucks are made in the USA by US workers in US factories, right? Isn’t that why so many people buy Ford vehicles?

ford marketing campaigns american made

We saw videos of people, mostly men, in focus groups being asked why they buy Ford products, and invariably the answer was because their trucks and cars are made in America by American workers. After all, Ford is an entrenched American car and truck company. But interestingly, the data suggests otherwise. Yes, it’s true we love to buy American, and American made Ford trucks, but how do we know if a car or truck or even a widget is in fact made in the USA? Actually, according to FTC guidelines, to say you are “Made in the USA”:

“Made in the USA” means that “all or virtually all” the product has been made in America.

ford truck marketing strategy


That certainly leaves some room for making that claim.

With vehicles, a made in the USA claim to be on the Fortune Magazine list of “Most American Vehicles” means that a vehicle must be made of at least 75% U.S. parts among other things.

All that said, per Fortune Magazine the most American Car in the United States is in fact…the Toyota Camry. Followed closely by the Toyota Sienna. So, perception and reality can diverge.

In fact, the all-American Ford F-150 Truck dropped off the list completely in 2015 for NOT being American made. So, why is it that people are still buying Ford trucks and cars because they believe them to be American made? A quick check of their website and I couldn’t find one single instance of the phrases “American Made” or “Made in the USA”. In fact, on their company page, there is not even one instance of the words America or American. Not one. So, again, why do people want to buy supposed American made Ford vehicles? Marketing and perception, that’s why.

The Laws of Perception in Marketing

the law of perception marketing


There’s no crime at all, in creating a perception that dances around reality. In the marketing world, perception in marketing has four distinct stages while a consumer is processing information about a product or brand; Sensation is when a person’s senses are initially exposed to the external stimulus of a product. Like the overload you get when walking into a Starbucks store. Attention is the next the phase, which is when mental processing gives in to an external stimulus from a product or brand. The third is Interpretation; when we assign meaning to the sensory stimulus of a product or brand. Last, and most important to you as a brand or marketer is Retention; the storage of information into our short and long-term memory. If we go back to our story about the perception of Ford as an American made brand, it’s easy to see with imagery, commercials and videos of American workers assembling cars and trucks in American factories, strolling through American cornfields, splashing through water, or the familiar and easy voice of Toby Keith as can be seen in the video commercial below:

But that’s not always enough anymore. The marketing scene is extremely noisy, and consumers are constantly bombarded with similar messaging across an endless stream of channels. You might even have to create a perception of being bigger than you really are. To battle through this noise and create a perception, you also must stand out in the crowd. But how do you do that?

Perception in marketing


 Is changing perception enough for your brand?

In today’s world, speed is everything as is being nimble and adaptable. But you can test different strategies, and the ones that work should be at least partially repeatable in all your campaigns. It also doesn’t hurt to be unique. Unique in your angle, unique in your message, just don’t be afraid to set yourself apart without sacrificing your primary brand message. But is it enough to create or even change the perception of your brand and/or your products?

Absolutely, and unequivocally no. It’s a great start to be sure, but you absolutely cannot relax once a customer makes a purchase. You need to continue to foster these perceptions to create that emotional connection, but you also need to delight and create brand loyalty which Ford and Starbucks do very well. They foster superior customer service which in and of itself creates a perception of caring. Maybe not 100% of the time, as no business does, but they approach that elusive proportion.

social listening companies


What is the perception of your brand, and how do you find out?

Lastly, you need to monitor your perception with your fans. Listen to what they have to say. Will they recommend it to friends and family? Why or Why Not? What are people saying about your brand or products? You can do this by going to websites, discussion boards, and of course social media channels and searching for your brand and products. You can also ask. But you need to be allotting time every day to simply LISTEN. Only then can you discover what your customer’s perception of your business is, and only after that can you determine how you will need to either change that perception or further cement that perception when it’s working.

It’s very hard and very time consuming to determine what that perception of your business is. That’s where companies like ours, iWeSocial, and others can help but taking the work out of listening. We listen for you across the entire web, give you all the data and conversations, develop insights and next steps, but it’s still up to you to create that perception and go through the steps we have listed here, and use the examples of those successful businesses like Ford and Starbucks who have mastered the art of perception.

If you need help with determining the perception of your brand across the web, want to know next steps, or need extra help to listen what’s being said about your brand and products, contact us at or call us at 720.880.5492. Your customers are talking, are you listening?

Author Eric Graham, Digital Marketing Manager- iWeSocial