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Ford House museum targets younger consumers with iPhone application

The Edsel & Eleanor Ford House is looking to attract young visitors to its historic property with a video-heavy mobile application.

The Ford House application for the iPhone and iPod touch supplements the traditional guided tour experience with documentary-style videos relevant to the various attractions on the property. The application is available for free in Apple?s App Store, as well as via a mobile site that can be accessed on any Web-enabled phone at

?Ford House certainly wanted to reach out to a younger audience,? said Rob Pyles, creative director and cofounder of Audissey Media, Boston. ?When people between 18 and 35 think of visiting a historic mansion, they don?t always think of it as a hip or cool experience or one that can utilize their iPhones.

?At the same time, one of the fastest-growing segments for smartphone users is older audiences,? he said. ?Older people are showing up and think its cool they can take a tour using the iPod touch.

?Ironically, the older visitors are some of the people who are actually most excited about the app.?

The Ford House is an 85-acre property located in Grosse Pointe Shores, MI, that was originally occupied by Edsel Ford, former Ford president and son of Henry Ford.

Audissey designed the application and produced all the videos for the Ford House experience.

The application?s development received 75 percent of its funding from outside sources, including the National Parks Service and donations received through the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan Arts and Culture Challenge Grant program last fall.

The application launched on July 15.

Mobile tours
Visitors to the Ford House are informed about the Ford House application and offered rental iPod touches they can use upon admission to the house.

The homepage links to a number of introductory features, such as a video tutorial and a welcome message from Edsel Ford II that gives some of the history of the family and the house.

Here is a screen grab of the homepage:

Mobile users can click on the Explore On Your Own tab to bring up a set of options that let them dictate their own trajectory through the property.

Visitors can bring up an interactive map they can use to access videos based on their location. They can also see a list of all the House?s different sites, and select locations as they arrive at them.

Users can also go on a guided tour using the application.

The mobile tour will direct them through the estate and provide informative videos for different sites of interest, such as a lakeside lawn, a swimming pool that the Fords used recreationally and a rose garden.

Audissey and the Ford House declined to comment on the number of downloads the application has achieved since its launch, but did say that it was being used by consumers across a wide geographic range.

?The greatest concentration of downloads is from the Detroit area, but we?re seeing downloads from across the United States and internationally,? Mr. Pyles said. ?We know not all those people are going to the ford house, but using the application anyway.?

Mobile aids tourists
Travel and tourism organizations have leaned heavily on mobile applications recently.

For example, Wynn Las Vegas hotel and casino used an iPhone application to provide mobile users with photos and videos related to the hotel and casino (see story).

Additionally, companies such as National Geographic have used mobile applications as a way of bringing regions of the world to life with interactive content (see story).

The Ford House conceived the application as way to give visitors a more immersive experience as they explored the property.

?It?s an overwhelming property,? Mr. Pyles said. ?You lose the humanity of the family, and you forget they were normal people who lived and dreamed and died.

?I think the Ford house really wanted to humanize the family, and I think the application really does that,? he said. ?You can see videos that very few people have ever seen ? the family at very private, intimate moments, hanging out at the pool or ice skating on a frozen pond.

?I think there?s a very real, emotional bond created when you watch these videos.?

Final Take
Peter Finocchiaro, editorial assistant at Mobile Marketer, New York