Wednesday, June 24, 2009


My wife is getting a fleet car through work, so we've been looking to sell one of our other vehicles. The fleet car will be nice to have, even if it's not something we would have picked out ourselves.

Thinking it through, we understood that it's not mandatory we take the fleet car, but it just wouldn't make much sense to turn down a FREE car - free insurance, free gas, free tolls, free oil changes, free car washes...well, you get the point.

So, after about 14 seconds of deep consideration, I elected to say goodbye to my ivory pearl Infiniti G35 and hello to [crowd applauds excitedly] our brand new Ford Fusion!

[Crowd quickly quiets, soft whispers and groans continue]

Sexy, I know.

While I wasn't initially jazzed by the thought of parting with my sporty ride, I knew I would come to appreciate the financial benefit of freedom from car-related expenses. As you are likely aware, car costs can really add up - and getting rid of that steep monthly payment will be like finding cash in a paper bag on our doorstep every month (minus the sideways glances up and down the block as you spirit quickly back inside with the dough).

Still, there's been something about the Ford Fusion that hasn't exactly stirred up a whole lot of excitement in me. It's a brand new car, I keep telling myself. It's going to have a sunroof and play MP3 files and smell like heaven's foyer.

Why aren't I more excited about this?

I started noticing Ford Fusions on the road this week and thinking, "That's not so bad, is it?" And it really wasn't. In fact, sometimes I'd see a pretty sharp looking car and think, "I really like that car!" before realizing it was a Ford.

Funny how much something as small as a logo can influence our feeling about something.

And that's when it dawned on me. It's the brand, silly! The "Ford" name does not live in that part of my brain where I store all of the cool stuff, like "iPhone," "Banana Republic," and, "Infiniti."

Why is that? How did Ford end up in the anti-cool bin? Out of curiosity, and while I was waiting for the longest red light in the world to turn green, I began a thought exercise in which I mentally replaced the Ford logo - that hideous, outdated script font inside a blue oval - with an Infiniti logo.

BAM! Just like that, the "Infiniti" Fusion was one sweet-ass set of wheels.

I immediately wondered if the folks at Ford had figured this out yet - that they could probably increase sales among key American demographics (i.e. people who buy cars) simply by replacing their logo with a new symbol of some kind. Sure, there's brand equity in that logo...but with what demographic? And aren't those people too old to drive anyhow?

This is the power of branding, as they say. So much of the focus in marketing over the past 15 years has been on building strong brands so that people recognize you and know what you're all about. But what happens when people recognize you and associate you with "inferior, uncool product"?

I personally don't dislike the Ford brand - I just don't FEEL like driving any of their cars when I see that logo.

When I see a BMW, Audi, or Acura logo, on the other hand, my eyes turn green and I start salivating. Slap one of those logos on a rusty tractor and I'm sold...because the feeling I get when I see those brands makes me want to drive whatever it is they're putting on the road.

I recently read that one of the keys to companies turning around the American automaker market will be building better products that people want. But I'm in marketing, and the fact is there are a lot of people out there who don't know what they want until someone tells them. Product is only one of the 4 P's.

In my opinion, the recovery is going to require a major reprogramming of a few brand platforms until labels like Chevy and Ford no longer trigger a sensation of nausea. They need to become symbols of innovation, evolution, and rebirth.

From the ashes, a phoenix rises. A Phord Phoenix.

If I'm in charge of Ford, I start with the logo. Right now. That logo is toast. It's time for a 21st century look for a 21st century carmaker. I've been told that the 2010 Fusion is actually a decent machine, but too many people (like me) won't be able to see past that logo.

And come to think of it, the Ford name should probably go, too.

How about Fjord, instead? That has a nice European sound to it, no? The 2010 Fjord Fjusion is one sleek and sexy ride.


I would like to close this post with a wee bit of Brady wisdom for the brand executives at Ford.

As Peter and the other Brady kids once belted out, "When it's time to change you've got to rearrange...move your heart to what you're gonna be."

So what are you gonna be?


Coolerboy said...

So do you have your Ford Fusion yet? And if so, how do you like it?

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