What is The Ford Difference?


What has haunted American car makers for decades continues in the form of Ford’s latest test drive campaign:  the failure to make a compelling case for their cars.

The theme “Drive the Ford Difference” is overused and undifferentiated. “Discover the Difference”, “Experience the Difference”, “Enjoy the Difference” are just a few of the iterations that come immediately to mind.

What is the difference?

The difference is what successful brands do. They find what makes the product different and then wrap it up in a  story that speaks to people.

What is the difference?

“The difference is in Ford Quality” – can there be a word that holds less value and meaning than the word “quality” right now? And then to mention it only in relation to your competitors? The “just as good as” implication may appeal to those already positively disposed to the Ford brand – to help them feel good about their decision – but will it do anything to convince the non-believers? I doubt it. Why would I change to something that might be just as good when I already have a brand that I know is good?

What is the difference?

The difference is “The most fuel-efficient mid-size sedans in America.” Let’s look at that claim. According to the small print, the 2010 Fusion is EPA-estimated 23 mpg city/34 mpg highway. According to their respective websites, the Honda Accord is 22/31 and the Toyota Camry is 22/33. In the most general comparison, the claim is accurate. Start comparing the specific models you actually want and the results will vary. A difference? Hardly.

What is the difference?

No wait, the difference is cash back. Cash back!? Never heard of that before. Ford wraps it in a “We’ll cover the first three payments” gimmick, but it’s still just cash back. And not different.

What is the difference?

“Hey…different is good.” (Delivered with a wink and smile by “Dirty Jobs” celeb Mike Rowe.)

That’s the best one of the largest marketers in the country can do? That’s the best case they can make for driving a Ford. Because being different is good? I’m going to spend tens of thousands of dollars because being different is good?

I wrote about the auto industry here back in November. Seeing this campaign makes the “merge-them-all” scenario seem less absurd than I originally thought. If the strongest automaker we have left can’t figure out why we should consider buying their cars it would seem that they need to reconsider the cars they are selling.

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