Ford: Transforming market means transforming marketing

On a recent airport layover I picked up a copy of Business Week with picture of a Model T on the cover.  The cover story was about Ford’s efforts to revamp their company, their brand and their marketing department.

After reporting record quarterly losses and a 50% reduction of market share since 1995, the company identified its marketing operations as those that could revitalize the slumping auto giant.  So it hired a chief marketer away from Toyota – a creative and innovative leader among US car brands – and set on a new course.  Put simply, James Farley’s task is the epitome of the “easier said than done” mantra:  Infuse a market culture into the Ford Motor Company.

What did he do?

  • Restocked their creative agency, WPP, with fresh, accomplished brand gurus from around the globe
  • Invited 30 of their most influential sales dealers for a candid series of focus group meetings on everything from branding and slogans, to advertising and sales incentives
  • Reorganized his team with brand managers reporting directly to him – ensuring bureaucratic procedures don’t fracture the new brand messages

The result is a renewed faith among the iconic auto maker’s faithful.  Rising gas prices and decreased consumer confidence can be a death blow to a company that introduced the SUV and whose sales are decidedly pick-up truck-heavy.  But with a few fresh ideas and a new commitment to sound marketing tactics the future appears brighter than it has in years.

4 responses to “Ford: Transforming market means transforming marketing

  1. Seems to me that restocking the creative agency and reorganizing reporting structures is akin to putting lipstick on a pig, the end result is its still a pig.

    Meeting with the dealers is a reasonable start. However, Ford (and GM and Chrystler) needs to change the very nature of how they perceive the world. Their mindsets have them competing with a 1980’s approach in a new millenium.

    What’s required is to rewire their brains an focus on creating superior value for customers, rather than copying each other and flogging rebates.

    Ford is not a bad as GM – I predict GM is show down their North American operations within 15 years. Chrysler is a wild card. Perhaps they are going to make it. Time will tell.

  2. Fair point ryster. I wonder if we’re not seeing some of that rewiring in progress. As my dad used to say, people don’t change unless the hurt is bad enough. I think US car manufacturers are hurting pretty bad these days, but as you say, time will tell whether or not these changes are substantive or merely cosmetic.

  3. I just saw this update on Ford’s decision to use social media to create buzz around the new Fiesta. They’re giving out a few cars and asking the recipients to write about their experience. They’re cultivating a word of mouth campaign in the place where their target market likes to talk. For innovation’s sake, I hope this works well for them.

    http://blog.wired.com/cars/2009/04/how-the-fiesta.html

  4. Nice update Peder, how things have change for the car industry since you wrote this!

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