A Brand Built Ford Tough

Built Ford Tough: three monosyllables that epitomize the strength of America.  It has quite a ring to it, doesn’t it?  I’d wager it’s no mistake that this world famous slogan is so brief, strong, and snappy, and that every one of the words begins and ends with consonant sounds.  There’s a lot in the power of well-written ad copy, and the lesson certainly wasn’t lost on Ford.

But of course, branding for business goes far beyond a company’s slogan.  What else makes Ford such a tight knit brand?  Let’s take a look at some qualities of the Ford brand that work in the company’s favor.  We’ll also check out one problem the Ford brand is facing, and what they’re doing to take back control.

Ford & The Bailouts

Ford has made billions of dollars in profits because they work so hard to promote the American work ethic.  In 2008, the Federal government granted two of the “Big Three” auto manufacturers (General Motors and Chrysler) bailout money.  Ford famously turned down the $17.4 billion in loans, reported the New York Times.  That year, Ford lost more than $8 billion.  Clearly, the corporation could have used a helping hand.

The Times predicted in that same article that the risky move could end up bringing Ford a reward.  As we now know in 2012, their risky business tactics did that very thing.  2010 profits for Ford were $6.6 billion (up from $2.7 billion in 2009).  It’d be a stretch to say that the refusal of bailout money and the subsequent profits were an example of Ford branding for business; however, the decision by Ford’s CEO certainly reflects the company’s uniform brand name.  The company’s values were upheld, and the money followed.

Ford, Social Media, and Television

The auto industry as a whole has really latched onto the idea of content marketing and social media.  If you need definitive proof, just check out this impressive Infographic from Mashable, which covers everything from Scribd to Facebook and everybody from Ford to Toyota.  The Infographic is just over a year and a half old, but even in February 2011 Ford had some impressive figures: 534,000 Facebook ‘Likes,’ and 46,000 Twitter followers.  Today, that’s nearly 1.6 million ‘Likes,’ and almost 147,000 Twitter followers.

You could say they’re growing!  The business tactics that have propelled Ford… forward… aren’t passive approaches to social media. Rather, Ford has become well known for their ability to actively reach out to consumers with content marketing.  Some of Ford’s most powerful efforts began with the – albeit corny – American Idol music videos, which would air along with the show.  In 2012, however, Ford stepped up its game, launching a television show of its own, Escape Routes.

Crystal Worthem, Ford’s brand content and alliances manager, told Forbes that during the show’s premier there were more than 16 million Twitter impressions alone!  Wow!  The show itself airs on NBC, and attracted 1.12 million viewers on the evening of its premier.

The Ford Problem: ‘Go Further’

Despite these wildly successful and impressive figures, the Ford brand has some problems.  The new “Go Further” campaign was created to share with consumers about new developments in business tactics and environmental efforts.  However, it’s worth noting that the campaign tries to shirk the Ford name and logo.

Matt VanDyke, Director of U.S. Market Communications, told The Wall Street Journal, “As soon as people see the badges [Ford’s logo] they jump to conclusions about the brand.”  Clearly, VanDyke and other analysts at Ford are well aware of the negative impressions some customers have received about the Ford brand, whether they’re caused by advertising, ownership, or some other reason.  Part of the strategy behind the ‘Go Further’ campaign is to help customers consider the product without the brand and logo.  The company even created a ‘Go Further’ commercial that makes no mention of the Ford Motor Company.  Innovative or a big mistake?

Since the ‘Go Further’ campaign is still only a few months old, it will be interesting to see how Ford utilizes it to address their brand issues.  Good branding for business isn’t just about projecting an image into the future; it’s also about regaining old ground that was lost in the past.  Ford knows this, and the business tactics they’re employing now show that they might just achieve success in attracting old customers once again.

What other aspects about Ford’s branding techniques stand out to you?

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Ben Richardson is a writer based in Nashville, TN. While he loves writing on a variety of subjects, he's our go-to on all things related to branding and the creative aspects of content marketing. Follow him on Twitter!

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