Ford Reviews For New Brand Strategy

Posted by: David Kiley on September 14, 2007

drivenford

The decision has been made at Ford that “Bold Moves” as a brand strategy/ad tagline is dead. It’s just a question of when the funeral takes place.

CEO Alan Mulally has been vocal about his plans to focus the company globally around the Ford brand. Indeed, he is trying to find buyers for the company’s prestige brands—Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo. Lincoln figures to stay around in the U.S. And Mercury is still up in the air, though it doesn’t appear to have any future product plan.

To find a new brand strategy, Mulally is not waiting to hire a chief marketing officer. There is a review going on right now among WPP agencies—JWT, Ogilvy and Mather, and Berlin Cameron United. Whichever strategy wins out, Ford’s WPP shop in Detroit, Team Detroit, will deliver it.

Ford had a shootout for the launch of its 2008 Focus, which resulted in Team Detroit retaining the assignment. That shows the company’s evolving “The Best Idea Wins” philosophy going forward. In the past, JWT/Detroit had a lock on the Ford account. At least now, the company is drawing on all WPP agencies.

Mulally saw pitches this week from the three agencies. But, I’m told, didn’t communicate great enthusiasm for any of them to be developed further. That’s promising. The last thing Ford needs is to knee-jerk to a new brand strategy. Indeed, one wonders if its a good idea to settle on a big strategy intended to be deployed around the world at all before Ford has named a CMO.

There is no hard deadline for settling on a new brand idea. In fact, Ford executives are taking care to make sure the next idea is THE idea. Prior to “Bold Moves,” Ford had an awful run of advertising ideas, changing ad strategies and lines four times in five years. Incoming sales and marketing executives were empowered to make such changes willy nilly to the detriment of the brand.

But Mulally said last month at a press dinner that he is not waiting for a CMO to be named to get a new brand strategy underway. He also said that his vote for a new strategy would be a rekindling of “Have You Driven a Ford Lately?” Apparently, he has been sufficiently talked out of that idea. But you never know. Without a new strategy in place, anything is possible. Indeed, some dealer groups, unhappy with Ford’s retail strategy, have taken to using the old ad line in their marketing.

They aren’t waiting for a new CMO either.

Reader Comments

jake

September 19, 2007 9:07 AM

Frankly, I've thought for years that "have you driven a Ford lately?" would be a good idea. Of course, that's in the absence of any better ideas I've seen or heard about. Also, ditch the Flex name and use Fairlane for the new large Crossover.

ray L

September 19, 2007 10:04 AM

"Bold Moves" was stupid. You cannot name yourself bold, others have to it. Reminds me of when Monica on Friends left a VM for Richard that she was "breezy" and the gang told her that by saying she was breezy, she negated her being breezy.

Fusion and the Taraus are much improved cars, you have the product you just need the advertising.

RYAN

September 23, 2007 6:42 PM

"Moving Forward" is exactly what Toyota's doing so asking, "Have you driven a Ford lately" is very appropriate for Ford's situation. They need to draw customers back and one way is to formulate a solid brand strategy.

Jeff

September 24, 2007 11:17 AM

It seems to me that the market today is competing with foreign cares that are cost effective and gas conservative... It seems that what a lot of people are looking for, the Fusion is a definite asset to ford, Ford needs to gear its tagline more towards what people want, bold moves, big loss, have I drivin a ford lately, why would I want to?

Bart

October 15, 2007 8:51 PM

"Have you driven a Ford lately?". Just a 6 year old Focus wagon...I was impressed. As I was with a new Escape hybrid at a dealer last year.
That old tag line still asks the right question by putting Ford on the line.

Noz

October 16, 2007 6:47 PM

"Have I driven a Ford Lately?" Nice tag line from olden times, but I see no reason to bother to even try to find a surviving Ford Store. With some huge dealers quitting, and no one buying them out, your situation is grim. And why not? What has Ford done for me lately that HONDA has not done far better--not to mention for far longer? Apparently I am in some kind of majority in this thinking as demon-strated by the distinct lack of interest in anything Ford of late. Here on the Left Coast especially. Mediocre reliability, low resale, all kinds of poor quality issues showing right away and also over time. Who needs this?

Jag was a very bad move, it is a dog, has a long history of this. And Land Rover is far worse. Just about the least reliable vehicle on the planet. The Volvo has very little going for it other than mystique, and that does not get one far down the road. Best to sell it back to Socialist Sweden.

BOTTOM LINE: Build decent cars and trucks and offer them at a fair price, back them up with excellent service and a minimum of recalls, greatly simplify and introduce some fundamental honesty in the usual hectic/threatening/ humiliating car buying process "and they will come". Eventually. (But not me. I had to add this because I do not believe in corporate yet family-owned leopards changing their spots.) Ford, you have been failing for many years now, you just did not realize it. Recovery will not be overnight. You have poisoned your well with both bad and sad lines of products, lousy service, shoddy dealers and practices, far too many recalls, and well-deserved bad PR that is killing off what is left of the company.

Rockin Scotty

November 7, 2007 2:36 PM

How about this for a Tag Line "Not Quite Toyota and Oh Shit, where did Hyundai come from all of sudden?" They need a car to Challenge the BMW..a true sports sedan...simple as that.

Richard Bond LONDON ENGLAND

November 8, 2007 4:22 AM

Why FORD believed that Jaguar had any potential to challenge BMW/Daimler/Audi remains a mystery. If Britain had joined the euro zone Jaguar costs would have been controllable when the margins are microscopic. BMW price everything in euros even the MINI made in Oxford. Jaguar should be shipped out to China or Germany. Any other options will fail. Land-Rover is probably facing the same squeeze. Auto making is now the preserve of the big poker players. For that reason Ford and Chrysler should merge.

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