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Archive for December 8th, 2005


The slogan used to go “Have you driven a Ford lately?”

Well… I have, unfortunately. I find myself behind the wheel of a Ford vehicle several times per year. Rentals, mostly. My opinion of Ford vehicles isn’t great. It isn’t great at all. As a matter of fact, unless Ford starts making better cars (or making cars better), I will never, ever buy a Ford, no matter how cheap. If someone gives me a Ford, I will immediately trade it in for another brand.

And I guess a lot of people feel the same way because despite a huge advertising budget and aggressive price cuts earlier this year, a lot of people aren’t buying Ford vehicles either.

So now, Ford is cutting 30,000 jobs.

Strangely, you won’t find that little bit of info on Ford’s website. Instead, you’ll read that Texans Love Ford Trucks. You’ll learn that Mustang pedal cars make kids happy. You’ll learn what conferences and trade shows Ford will be attending next. More importantly, you will finally find out who that girl in the Mercury commercials is.

If you really dig, you’ll also get to read a tiny little cryptic blurb about how Ford is all about inclusion and diversity, citing Volvo’s advertising in gay and lesbian markets.

Huh?

Oh yeah, in case you hadn’t heard, Ford has just agreed to pull all of its advertising from gay and lesbian magazines in response to a boycott launched by the American Family Association. The ads were specific to the Land Rover and Jaguar brands. (Thanks to Emergence Marketing for reporting this today.)

So… Let’s recap: 30,000 jobs are going to get sacked because sales are down. Meanwhile, Ford decides to pull out of lucrative markets because of pressure from a gay-bashing religious group.

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

How about this, Ford:

1) Start making better cars. Not more expensive cars, but better cars. Cars that don’t fall apart. Cars with comfortable seats. Cars with decent suspension. Cars that people will actually enjoy driving. It’s called design. The Japanese know about design. So do the Europeans. You can learn it too. (There is life beyond giant pickup trucks.)

Maybe once you make your cars cool, reliable and fun to drive, people will start buying them again.

Don’t believe me? Look at the Hummer brand. What could be more American in spirit than that giant military-like gasoline-guzzling tank on wheels? Even with gasoline prices hitting $3 per gallon and doomsday reports of impending fuel shortages, Hummer vehicles are selling like hotcakes.

Tell me design and passion don’t drive sales. Tell me the car market is all about pricepoints. Just try to make that argument stick.

Make better cars and your sales will increase. Period. End of story.

2) If a significant percentage of gay and lesbian drivers buy Land Rovers and Jaguars, don’t do something stupid to alienate them… Like pull your ads out of their magazines. What are you thinking?!

What’s next? Will a boycott from the KKK make you pull ads from magazines geared towards ethnic minorities? How about Jewish and Muslim publications? How about European markets while you’re at it? (Those pesky French people keep saying bad things about us after all. Long live the Freedom Fries, right?)

Why don’t you start targeting white, christian, straight red-blooded Americans exclusively?

Seriously, Ford. What’s up? It’s like the lights are on but nobody’s home. Do you need a quick lesson in leadership?

30,000 jobs down the toilet, and your next move is to send away a healthy chunk of what few customers you hadn’t yet chased away? Why?

Couldn’t you have told the American Family Association that Ford will advertise to anyone it wants to? Couldn’t you have told them that you will advertise in whatever publications you see fit? Couldn’t you have told them to just mind their own business?

Perhaps you could invite their leadership to start designing your cars. Perhaps you should begin to seek their approval before launching your next ad campaign. (Is it still okay to advertise during the Superbowl? Can you still advertise in magazines like Esquire, GQ or Cosmo?)

*sigh*

Ford, you’ve hit an all-time low this week. You really have.

Let me let you in on a little secret: The reason that Japanese auto makers are kicking your butt is because –

1) They make the best car possible for the money. You make the most easily manufacturable car for the money.

2) Their attention to detail is evident in their design. Your attention to detail is almost an oxymoron.

3) Japanese cars are fun to drive. Yours aren’t. (And no, the Mustang isn’t all that great.)

4) Japanese engines. Ford engines. End of story.

5) Japanese car makers will advertise and sell to whomever loves their cars, regardless of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.

I’m sorry to say this, Ford, but I’m not sure that you have much of a strategy anymore. Tell me, what are you about? What’s your purpose? Tell me why I should buy one of your products? Tell me why I should choose you over anyone else? (Besides the whole “buy American” thing.)

BMW’s X5 is made in America, just fifteen miles from my house. Japanese automakers are employing thousands right here in the US. Buying their cars is buying American.

Time for some leadership changes at Ford, methinks.

Related posts: Tom Peters’ “The View From Home

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Brand Strategist Jennifer Rice’s latest post on her What’s Your Brand Mantra blog brings us Mark Hurst‘s brilliant little primer on the difference between Customer Service and Customer Experience:

“Customer service is the job of front-line workers, servicing customer
requests for help – via an 800 number, e-mail, or a retail desk. It’s important
to invest in good customer service, but that’s just the tiniest sliver of the
customer experience.

Customer experience is the job of everyone in the company. My
customer experience was bad because the product, and the refund policy, are both
broken. Everyone from the CEO and CFO to the product designers and manufacturing facility contributed to this bad customer experience; and as a result, they’ve lost a customer and generated bad word of mouth. The good customer service I received didn’t – and couldn’t possibly – fix the overall experience.”

Go read the rest here and here.

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Here’s another reason why Tom Asacker is one of my favorite bloggers these days:

“I’ve never experienced so much noise and so little signal as I do in the present field of marketing. Marketing is a mess. Marketing is broken! Half of marketers are on autopilot creating award-winning, irrelevant media noise, web nonsense and events. The other half is paralyzed – measuring everything to death and covering their collective butts. Clarity: Marketing’s New Task.”

Click here to read his 2-page mini-manifesto.

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Leaders vs. Managers


Mike Bawden (who was kind enough to quote me on his blog yesterday) just wrote one of the simplest yet most astute observations about leadership that I have read in a long time.

Too many times business owners seem to be satisifed spending their careers as managers rather than leaders. When you see real leadership in action, you’re left in awe. Real leaders are active, engaged and motivating. They create an atmosphere that’s electric – both fun and productive.”

Well said.

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