Ford Seeks to ‘Reinstill Trust’ With Consumers

Ford Motor Co., beset by economic woes that followed last year’s tire blowout and truck roll-over controversies, will launch a campaign later this quarter that attempts to restore its battered image.

“We have a brand reputation issue that we have to overcome,” said Jan Klug, Ford vice president of global marketing.

“The Explorer/Firestone debacle cost us dearly in terms of consideration,” she added. “Brand consideration really took a hit. We really need to do more than just sell vehicles. We need to reinstill the trust in the nameplate, which is our primary brand.”

The campaign will focus on the company’s familiar blue oval logo, which Ford dropped from its corporate advertising in 2000 in favor of a script version of its full name. (The blue oval remained the logo for the Ford division.)

Company CEO Bill Ford Jr. spoke of the need to re-emphasize the blue oval as the auto maker’s symbol when he an nounced revitalization plans recently.

“The blue oval is one of the most valuable and most widely recognized brand icons in the world,” Ford said in a news conference earlier this month. “We need to get it shining brightly again, because the oval is our core high-volume nameplate. It’s also our identity.”

Ford and the agency that is devising the campaign, J. Walter Thompson in Detroit, have not yet decided what creative content would be used to best gain back consumers’ trust, according to Klug.

Despite the automaker’s problems—it said earlier this month that it would close several plants, discontinue four nameplates and lay off thousands of workers—the marketing budget was not deemed a wise place to cut.

“In many ways, you might be mortgaging your future” by cutting back advertising, Klug said. “Unless you don’t have anything to say. And we do have product news.”

Ford’s Land Rover is launching a new Range Rover vehicle in the fall. Other vehicles include a re designed Expedition sport utility vehicle and a redesigned Lincoln Navigator, both set for 2003.