Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Have you driven a piece of crap lately?
According to Ad Age, Ford, now the #3 automobile company in America after GM and Toyota, has just hired Jim Farley from Lexus as their new VP, Marketing and Communications. Farley will be "working with the company's worldwide-business-unit leaders and global-product-development organization" in areas that include brand development and product planning. He'll be "a significant voice" in product planning, marketing, public relations and communications." His budget will be in the neighborhood of $5.1 billion. You can read the whole kit and kaboodle here: http://adage.com/article?article_id=121137
By all accounts Farley has done a great job at Lexus. But his challenge at Ford is more formidable. Ford's problem, to my mind, isn't that they make ugly, sexless cars. Or their union/healthcare issues. Or that many of their commercials are horrendous. (Have you seen the Derek Jeter one for their "crossover," the Edge? It is to advertising what the Gowanus Canal is to clean water.)
No, Ford's problem is that they have lied to the car buying public for at least the length of my lifetime. From a corporate point of view, Ford was as duped by their chrome-clad-ness as they hoped consumers would be. They made cars that didn't work or were outright dangerous ostensibly masked by glitter. They created a dealer network that didn't serve their customers and had no appreciation whatsoever of the notion of lifetime value. They've been anti-fuel-economy, anti-environment--claiming that higher fleet mileage averages are impossible to achieve as are alternatives to internal combustion.
This is the challenge Farley faces. Good ads and good styling will not save Ford (or GM, or Chrysler, or anyone else.) Ford must find a way to rebuild the trust its squandered. That is job one.
Posted by George Tannenbaum at 7:05 AM