December 27, 2005
Ford’s Mercury brand is targeting women. In a way, it makes sense: Mercurys are dressed-up cars and fancier than the Fords on which they are based. But they look the same as Fords. They have about the same depreciation. A Ford grille runs horizontally and a Mercury grille runs vertically. Up-spec a Ford to Mercury equipment and it would cost the same.
The ad campaign may increase short-term sales but I still say: make Mercurys different. Make the brand an American Alfa Romeo, where the cars are sportier and more powerful. If it’s a premium brand, treat it as such within the organization (as it once did), not “just another” Ford division.
Without differentiation—one of the tenets of branding—this campaign is going to be like any other “aimed at women” car campaigns, because the products are the same.
What happens when Ford tries to go the premium route by increasing standard equipment? It’s a long-held Ford marketing method: start the new range off with basic models, and up-spec them each model year. Ford, too, is aiming to be Volkswagen, if the badging on the cars and the overall styling are anything to go by. The result: the differentiation could be lost.
And if women make 80 per cent of car-buying decisions, which is Mercury’s claim, then wouldn’t everyone wish to target women? Why doesn’t Ford or Lincoln?
To its credit, the company says Mercury is targeting a youthful, stylish psychographic, rather than a gender—but that youthfulness means web surﬁng. These are the consumers who have rejected the Saab 9-2X because they know it’s a Subaru in drag. Will they know Mercurys are Fords with falsies? They sure can see through a lot more than automakers, or anyone, give them credit for. In fact, is their known ad-cynicism being addressed?
I say give women sportier, butch Mercurys—every ounce of research I’ve done suggests they like cars that are sexy to them, and that means shapes that aren’t curvy, but nicely chunky. I know that means expensive sheetmetal differences. But globally, Ford develops more cars than it offers in the United States. I’d love to see the Ford Focus Mk II (C307) offered Stateside. If it wears Mercury (not Merkur) badges, then why not complement the existing range? Make it a little different—or different enough to show customers you’re serious about Mercury being a brand of its own. permalink
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