Ford Rebrands Dealers as SUV ‘Outfitters’

Ford Motor Co. will launch an estimated $50 million image campaign rebranding its dealerships as “Outfitters” for Ford SUVs.
Ford’s SUV sales are healthy–up 11 percent for the first six months of 1999 vs. the same period last year–but the SUV category is increasingly cluttered. Among the new entries are the Nissan Xterra and Cadillac’s Escalade. A new Chevrolet Suburban will launch in the fall. Rather than add to the cacophony of messages about individual SUVs, Ford is hoping that the “Outfitters” campaign will get consumers to think of Ford’s SUVs as a single, branded concept.
Ford will continue advertising individual models, but the “Outfitters” image umbrella will increase the total SUV budget for the fourth quarter and next year, sources said. Ford spent about $95 million on the Expedition and the Explorer in 1998.
TV spots from J. Walter Thompson, Detroit, will show the Explorer and Expedition, as well as the new Excursion, in a range of settings–from extreme winter sports to a grandfather and child fishing by a quiet stream–to illustrate the breadth of the SUV lineup, said a source. The tagline is, “Boundaries not included.” Print ads will follow in outdoor titles. JWT declined comment, as did Ford.
The “Built Ford tough” tagline, which had been used for both trucks and SUVs, will now be reserved for pickups, a source said. Northern Exposure’s John Corbett, Ford’s “storyteller,” has also been shelved.
The campaign is at least in part the brainchild of a product person, not a marketer: Ford Truck Vehicle Center vp Gurminder Bedi, a source said.