Magazine article Marketing

BRAND HEALTH CHECK: Ford - How Can Ford Fend off Soaring Rival Vauxhall?

Magazine article Marketing

BRAND HEALTH CHECK: Ford - How Can Ford Fend off Soaring Rival Vauxhall?

Article excerpt

While Ford remains the UK's bestselling marque, many in the industry doubt it will stay there long, and say a lack of cohesive brand identity is the problem.

Ford is a company in trouble. This week Peter Fleet, Ford of Britain's marketing director, shifted sideways into a non-marketing role after just two years in the post. But while his move suggests the company may be willing to undertake some much-needed change, critics remain unconvinced.

The problem with Ford, they say, is that it is blind to its fundamental problems.

Shortly after Fleet became marketing director, he admitted that Ford concentrated its media spend on one product at a time, rather than adopting what he saw as a 'scattergun approach' (Marketing, April 25 2002).

But it is arguably this reluctance to invest long-term in the wider marque that is at the root of Ford's problems.

What, indeed, does the Ford brand stand for? Its strapline, 'Engineered to last', could apply to any modern car company. Critics say that Ford has little identity beyond that of a well-known mass-volume car manufacturer.

As a result, Ford's advertising, principally created by Ogilvy & Mather, tends to feel inconsistent.

Last year, a TV ad for the Mondeo model featured cartoon characters Tom and Jerry; another, for the Fiesta, featured an office worker pretending to be ill by dotting lipstick on his face so he could skive off work and drive around in his car.

Although produced to sell particular models, the executions were worlds apart in style - and neither conveyed the Ford brand.

Last year, the car manufacturer failed to capitalise on its centenary - UK sales dropped 5.46% - while its nearest rival, Vauxhall, also celebrated its centenary, saw sales increase 2.45% and is widely expected to become the market leader by year's end.

Marketing asked former Ogilvy Group chief executive Paul Simons, now chief executive of strategic agency Passion & Partners, and former Ford and Toyota marketer Mike Moran, now worldwide director of marketing and strategy of Thames Water, how Ford could return to growth.

UK market share (%)

                    2003      2002      2001      2000
Ford                14.7      15.6      16.4      16.9
Vauxhall            12.7      12.4      12.6      13.4
Renault              7.3       7.6       7.4       7.3
Peugeot              7.2       8.2       8.4       8.5
Volkswagen           6.9       7.0       7.0       7.0

Source: Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders

Paul Simons

The obvious question is whether, from a brand point of view, Ford is suffering from being a jack of all trades and master of none.

Ford lacks a skewer running through its brands that has resonance with the consumer. …

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