"Over the years, Ford Motor Co. made quality 'Job One' and asked
if you've driven one lately. More recently, it has run through
less memorable advertising slogans, proclaiming 'No Boundaries'
and 'Bold Moves.' Now, as a critical part of Chief Executive
Alan Mulally's turnaround campaign, Ford is gearing up a
marketing push that will take a new approach to attacking an age-
old problem for Detroit -- the steady defection of once-loyal
customers to foreign auto makers like Toyota Motor Corp. and
Honda Motor Co..."
Wall Street Journal article: http://snipr.com/DriveOne
The problem here is that these large scale marketing campaigns
are dinosaurs. Big national companies still use them because
they are tangible things that can be used to "prove" to stockholders
that they are "working on gaining back market share" But, what
is left unsaid in these articles are what the market research firms
have been quietly telling these companies for years - with these
large ticket items, word-of-mouth is the key.
Today we have a society where someone contemplating a car
buy in the lot can whip out a cell phone and in 5 minutes be
talking to a friend or business associate located 4000 miles away
about their experiences, they can hop on the web at home and
read postings from all over the country from people who have
bought the same car they are looking to buy. Word of mouth
today spreads so rapidly and so far that now, every thing that
any of Ford or it's dealers do affects the product impression.
30 years ago, a chowderhead dealer in Little Rock AK could
screw over a Ford customer, and the worst that might happen is
word would get around in Little Rock.
Today, the same thing happens and within a week every potential
Ford buyer in the country can have access to the story with a few
clicks of the mouse.
The upshot is that the national car advertisements that drone on
and on, on the television, have no affect on sales, because for
just about all buyers, they are not as important as reading about
the actual things going on at the dealer level, where the metal meets
The article does point out that the Ford national corporation and
the dealer network are often the case of the right hand not knowing
what the left hand is doing, and that they need to align advertising.
But the real issue goes much deeper than this - the dealers are going
to have to give up a lot of autonomy, and Ford is going to have to
take a much stronger hand with it's dealers, in responding to customer
complaints, and keeping an eye on what it's dealers are up to.
And, Ford corporation is also going to have to become more patient.
The article makes much about how Ford is doing fantastic since within
the last couple years their quality has gone way up. However, what
the standard is in the industry, is to have a much higher quality level.
In other words, up until a few years, Ford has been doing abysmal
in quality and just recently has now managed to raise their quality
so much that now they are equivalent with the rest of the pack.
It's going to take years now of maintaining that high "normal" quality
level before word will start getting around.
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