Brands in the News

Political Ad Review: Ford’s Built for America

7 Oct , 2020  

It is a chaotic time in the presidential race, so in this ad review I will shift my focus from the candidates to Ford’s new patriotic spot, Built for America. You can watch it here.

A Lot to Like

There is a lot to like in this new spot and campaign. It is beautiful. It is patriotic. The ad touches on the remarkable history of Ford. It celebrates our country. The ad states, “We met over a century ago, this company and this country. We’ve seen tough times, but we’ve learned that we’re better when we come together.”

In a time when the USA is fractured, this spot celebrates all that we can achieve when we are unified and working with a common purpose.

And Yet

As much as I want to like this new campaign, it is hard to know where to begin with the problems.

I suppose we should start with this very powerful line: “We are at our best…when we build for every single American.” One of the first rules of marketing is that in a competitive market you can’t be all things to all people. That approach just doesn’t work; people are different and want different things. Some people want a rugged truck, other people want a fast car and other folks want something practical and inexpensive. Trying to build for every single person in the country is just the wrong approach for Ford.

Then there is another small problem: where is the compelling benefit? The spot communicates that Ford is old, which is not a reason to buy from Ford. It is a family company and makes a lot of cars in the US, which is good but for many people I suspect not a compelling reason to buy. Ford creates pleasant commercials, too, and that is also not a reason to buy.

The spot also feels somewhat tone deaf. The US is wracked by dissension and disagreement. We can’t even agree on whether or not we should be wearing masks in public gatherings (for the record: we should). We are polarized to an extraordinary degree. Running an ad that celebrates all the great things we can do when we work together is simply ignoring the current situation. The spot leaves out a lot of visuals – there are no protests and no marches, just happy people all getting along.

Finally, what about the casual mention of electric cars? That feels tossed in, almost like someone in the review meeting said, “Wait! This spot doesn’t talk about electric cars. We need to mention that!”

Finding a Strategy

Ford is a struggling. Recent financials have been disappointing; in 2019 the company had over $155 billion in revenue but only made $47 million in net income. The company lost money in the 1H of 2020. The stock has been a clunker, losing more than half its value over the past five years.

To succeed, Ford needs to build customer advantage, built on distinctive benefits that consumer value and will pay for. There is more work to be done.



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