Ford's Magic Man of Marketing Finds Less is More

Whenever neighbors, friends, and those outside the auto industry ask me about the turnaround at Ford, I'm struck by how many say something along the lines of, "I know what Ford is all about." That may sound like a trite comment, but to me it says a lot about Ford's marketing. At a time when its tougher than ever to cut through the noise and make a brand stand out, Ford's marketing chief Jim Farley has been wildly successful. And with Farley, you might say it's a case of less being more.

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Whether it's the "We Speak Car" ads Ford been running for some time or the more recent, light and whimsical commercials for the Fiesta, the message gets across without bludgeoning you over the head.

Easier said than done in an industry where few campaigns stand-out.

But Farley's success goes well beyond the ads Ford is running.

It's all about trying new ideas for reaching buyers. The Fiesta Movementis a perfect example. Ford put twenty-somethings behind the wheel of a Fiesta and had them chronicle their thoughts on line.

Another example is Ford leveraging its Sync technology system. It's been wildly successful because Ford realized early on that buyers want to bring their phone into the car and stay connected. It's the simplicity of Sync that makes it so powerful. Farley and Ford knew that and made marketing Sync all about staying connected and not about the bells and whistles.


Recently, Ad Age awarded Ford the honor of Marketer of the Year. Farley and his team (and Farley will be the first to say Ford's marketing success is a team effort) deserved the honor for a host of reasons, including the fact they are willing to try new ways of getting the message out about the blue oval.

But more importantly, their message is on target.

When Ford did not ask for a government bailout, it wound up reaping a huge windfall of goodwill. Farley has estimated the value of that goodwill was worth $1 billion. To Ford's credit, the company made sure it didn't try to parlay that goodwill by marketing or "playing up" its ability to survive without federal money. It had to be tempting to try and ride the wave of goodwill with buyers. But Farley and Ford wisely reigned in that temptation. Another example where Farley realized that less often means more.

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