By Jeff Gilbert

DEARBORN — (WWJ) Ford says a four-year effort to improve its brand image is paying off.

“Our consideration as a brand for Ford has gone up almost 35 percent as a brand in the U.S,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s vice president of marketing, sales and service. “And it’s gone up all over the U.S., not just in the traditional strength in the Midwest.”

While Ford has not yet passed Japanese rivals Toyota and Honda, it has reached a level of consideration from customers that it’s not had before.

“Our favorable opinion has never been in a better place,” said Ford marketing communications manager Matt Van Dyke.

In 2008, Van Dyke says, Ford realized that its products were better, but it wasn’t getting credit from customers.

“We had really a serious gap,” he said. “Toyota and Honda were dominating the landscape at that time. At Ford, we knew we had to improve our perception in areas that mattered most to customers.”

So, Ford launched its “Drive One” campaign, which has featured Ford workers and Ford owners talking about the strengths of the brand’s products. Ford also made considerable use of social media to connect would-be buyers with the company, and to introduce people to vehicles months before they were available.

We’re now in that pre-launch status for the new Escape and Fusion. Ford has put the Escape in a reality series called “Escape Routes” and has hinted at something interesting for the the Fusion.

They also ran a very controversial commercial that featured a lineup of their new vehicles, without any blue ovals or mention of the Ford brand.

“As soon as people see a blue oval or any other automotive brand, they jump to conclusions and pre-conceived ideas about what the company does and what it stands for,” said Van Dyke.

The ads ended with a plug for a website, Van Dyke says this helped them get the interest of customers who might have rejected any domestic brand.

“We still have an opportunity to close that gap on the coast.”

They couldn’t have run this ad five years ago, says Ford’s Jim Farley. But today, it’s easy for customers to see the ad and follow up online.

“Everyone knows if you want to find out, just do a search on ‘go further’ and you’ll be rewarded for your discovery,” he said.

The logo-less ad ran for a week, and was replaced with an ad that featured products that were clearly badged as Ford cars and trucks. Farley says this will be followed up with ad campaigns that specifically promote the Escape and Fusion.

Farley says they will continue to harness Ford’s workers, and owners to sing the brands praises.

“We’re not trying to invent a new reality for Ford,” he said. “It’s just, we’re kind of documenting the goodness in the company already.”

Connect With Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert


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