Given everything that has been going on, recent news that Ford turned the corner on North American market was quite remarkable.
Ford, as American as Coca Cola and apple pie, has done a number of things right:
– it stuck out while competitors rightfully took the easy way out of bankruptcy (early on, it was the first auto manufacturer to pay high wages for its assembly workers)
– it believed in the intrinsic value of its brand and the resilient consumer market (not without government incentives).
That’s said. Three cheers for Ford, because it’s been a tough fight (Michigan unemployment is at 15%).
The tougher it built its F-series trucks, the longer it takes for people to return to the showroom.
Inadvertently, it creates its own self-victimizing cycle (especially if its customers are not into the latest and greatest).
No more planned obsolescence. Not in this globally connected environment, where a Tata is sold for less than $3000.
Or a Hyundai carries a 100,000 miles warranty.
Yet, somehow, the flag is still flown high at Ford, if not in Detroit, than else where around the world, where people can’t wait to own a Ford (symbol of American prowess). Perhaps the best way to experience this is when you are an expat,
living in China or Vietnam, and can’t wait to get inside of an A/C building, or be driven in a Ford when it’s pouring out.
These days, Made- in- the- USA is hard to find, but Made-in-somewhere-else quite ubiquitous.
I still remember the feel, popping up sound, and sizzling taste of my Coca Cola in Subic Bay (my first sales reward). There has not been anything quite like it. (Chicago has been known to copy CocaCola font for its CD). Incidentally, CNBC will broadcast a series of report on Coca Cola the brand.
Perhaps the eye-catching sight of Ford’s Smart will slowly erase the negative imprints of those rolled-over Explorers ( its tires controversy).
Last week I believe once again in the power of brand: its consistency which assures consumers in uncertain time. Forward enough so we don’t feel left behind, yet (emotionally) connected so we can find our anchor. When faced with an array of choices, one tends to cling onto “the security blanket”: the nearest rock in the stream, an immediately recognized face at Chamber mixers. In social connection, trust is our personal brand. No wonder Ford chose a Ford’s descendant to be its spoke person, to show continuity which began with the Model T. It’s been a smart move that paid off.