Ford's Latest Better Idea

"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
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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 road.
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.
Ted
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