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How Not to Market the Ford Flex

Business Week has an interesting article about Ford’s new marketing czar, Jim Farley. Ford has effectively been having an identity crisis the past few years, struggling to sell cars while it has a reputation for selling trucks and SUVs. The solution so far doesn’t seem especially brilliant, but it’s certainly not bad. Initial ideas include getting dealer input and feedback on marketing campaigns and having strict control over the branding of each model.

Who knows if this will help Ford after their recent $8.7 billion (with a b) loss, though I’m pretty sure marketing alone isn’t going to cut it. Especially if this is what they come up with for their new seven-passenger crossover/SUV, the Flex:

The Flex is supposed to be a hip urban vehicle that Ford hopes will attract people for its design aesthetic rather than utility. At Farley’s urging, the team honed the Flex brand mission from a page, to a paragraph, and then to one sentence: “For people in search of stimulation.”

[Flex product manager Usha] Raghavachari’s brand book instructs dealers and ad makers that the Flex will never be shown with picnicking families, beach volleyball games, or dogs. No mentions of cup holders. “We can’t have this turn into a dog-drool minivan, but it might if we don’t exercise discipline,” says [CEO of Team Detroit, Ford’s ad agency, George] Rogers. All photography of the Flex was shot at night to drive home the nocturnally hip, ready-to-go-clubbing image Ford is aiming for.

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