Posted by: David Kiley on May 25, 2006
Okay. I’ve now read the second story this week about the Ford war rooms the automaker has set up in Dearborn for each of its product lines. The story in The Detroit News today about the truck war room is meant, I guess, to convey to dealers and Ford employees and enthusiasts that it’s not taking the threat from Toyota upcoming Tundra and GM’s new pickups lightly.
Like we thought they were lying down on the job where the all important F Series truck is concerned? For the uninitiated, Ford would be out of business without its leadership in trucks. And the F Series is a great truck.
But as I read some of the blather about the codes of behavior the truck team lives and works by to stay inside the heads of its truck buyers…well…let me just say…it sounds silly, like overkill and way besides the point.
According to the piece written by Bryce Hoffman, members of the Ford truck team can’t: use roller luggage except for golf bags; drink anything but black coffee; dress casual for meetings; eat raw fish; drink wine; jump, bounce or slide (what this means, I can’t imagine); eat sprinkles on their ice cream; wear a pink shirt; ride the Tram at Detroit Metro Airport. Offenders have to put dollar bills in a can in the truck war room, which later goes to charity.
At the risk of offending my friends at Ford, with whom I am spending more time with since I relocated to Michigan, this sounds asinine. Rolling luggage is the greatest invention since the knee replacement. Raw fish? Let me tell you about the masculine guys I know who eat really well-prepared sushi. I’m comfortable enough with my own station in life to ear a pink shirt if I want to. And some pro ballplayers recently used pink bats in support of breast cancer and heart disease among women. Some of the smartest marketing people I know do not dress up in suits and ties any more for work. Dammit! I like chocolate jimmies on my ice cream. And I wouldn’t drink a cup of black Maxwell House from a truck-stop at gunpoint. Pabst Blue Ribbon in your war room? It’s crap. Discerning truck buyers drink beer that matters. Beer with drinking. And I won’t even discuss the no wine rule.
I like Ford trucks. If I was buying a full-size pickup, a Ford is what I would buy.
Maybe, Im taking this too seriously. But what I sniff here is that there are people in Dearborn in the fight of their lives who are substituting furniture and silliness for genuine brand insight. Ford’s brands are tanking. Maybe this is immersion into brand imagery will help some of the people in Dearborn trying to chart a course for Ford, Mercury, Lincoln, etc. I hope so. But given some of the recent efforts, like the Bold Moves campaign (is this a slogan for Ford or Milk of Magnesia?) for Ford, I have my doubts.
Besides…with all those things the truck team is not supposed to do, it makes me think that Ford sees its truck customers as a bunch of over-testosteroned, simple-minded, judgemental, insecure louts. And that, my friends, doesn’t read well in the brand brief. I shudder to think what the ads that come out of all of this will be. Better yet, what I am really looking forward to are the ads that I hope the public will create and circulate on the Net based on the “Don’t Do This” list. They should be a hoot.