I found this article in the Wall Street Journal called Ford's Latest Better Idea really interesting. Again you can read the article yourself (I don't like restating articles), but what I found fascinating is that the latest slogan "Drive One" was built with dealers at the marketing table.
Ford puts a lot of weight into their slogans as witnessed by the chart in the article which tracks them going back to 1979's "Quality is Job 1". Me, I think the slogan is brilliant as well as what I can guess their strategy is too, but in the end I don't think this will save Ford. Cars are expensive and people want to make sure the product is up to their par. Allow me to explain why I think the marketing strategy is brilliant but will fall short.
Back in my brokerage days we were competing with E*Trade, TD Waterhouse, Fidelity, and Scottrade. Scottrade was always a bit of a mystery to me because they spent big bucks and they couldn't be converting new accounts at the rate Harrisdirect was. It wasn't until we dug into their competitive advertising that we realized their strategy was to use their marketing to drive qualified traffic into their branch managers who did the follow up sales closing. The online advertising director was only concerned with driving quality traffic into the correct branch manager and that's it. I always thought that was pretty sweet. Now back to Ford...
Guessing by what I read in the Journal I'm thinking that Ford is borrowing from the Scottrade play book. I could just imagine those meetings with the dealers where the dealers said to the marketing team "just drive traffic into our dealerships and we'll take care of the rest".
Ford had two slogans from 1979 - 1998 and then from 2000 - 2008 they've used a whopping 6. If a marketing campaign doesn't drive awareness which in tune drives purchase interest than clearly there is a problem before a dealer (or website site) can sell a car. If those ads weren't doing their branding job than that would manifest itself in low dealer traffic and dealerships complaining that the marketing campaigns aren't working. Now enter "Drive One".
"Drive One" to me not only conjures up driving a car but more importantly coming in to the dealership to test drive one. This tactic drives traffic into the dealer's hands but in turn puts more pressure on them to close sales. Not saying they are not up to it, but really that's the point of having a physical location.
I think Ford's new campaign slogan is brilliant and if the strategy is to put pressure on the dealers to close sales than that's where it should be. Let the marketing build awareness and drive interest and the physical locations close the sale. Unfortunately for Ford the product is where their issues are and I wrote that back when I critiqued their Bold Moves website. If their car products are good the new slogan will work, if they continue to be below average it won't help them.