Is This Real Marketing or More Lip Stick on the Pig

Ford is announcing a big "marketing" splash during an upcoming American Idol, and I have to wonder if this is real marketing or just putting more lipstick on the pig.

Ford is saying it's a do or die campaign. They are hurting from several years of declining consumer interest. I must say that except for the new mustang, I haven't seen much coming out of Ford to make consumers sit up and take notice. I don't believe they offer a different experience from their competition.

They don't make me feel that by driving a Ford I'm part of something greater. Heaven forbid you tie your identity to a Ford. In the truck market, I see them as being good at landing fleet deals and maintaining the "because my grandpa drove one" customer base. Dodge has certainly outdone them in offering a sexier line of trucks.

Now they say they are going to position themselves with "active people who value family time." If we look at the marketing mantra to market not to who people are but to who they want to be, who doesn't see themselves as active people who value family time. Pull Joe Shmoe off the street an ask him if he likes to stay active, 9 out of 10 are going to say yes. Ask about valuing family time, you'll get 10 out of 10 because no one wants to look like a jerk and say differently.

Ford offers no segmentation in this, their ad people have caved to the boardroom execs who want to sell to everybody. They can't sell to everybody, and trying to is going to continue to degrade their market share. The only people who are going to respond to such a general, milk-toast message, are the people who are already buying Fords.

The rest of the stuff, Kelly Clarkson and event sponsorship, is just promotion of a weak message. Spending money on a good celebrity promoter, especially one with general appeal like Kelly Clarkson, can be great if you have a motivating message to go along with it. Ford doesn't. They have advertising without positioning. Media splash without substance.

It's always a shame to see the willingness to invest in marketing followed up by mere advertising without marketing. Ford is showing us once again why they continue to decline while foreign competitors are on the rise.

I do sincerely hope that the preview of the Ford campaign isn't telling the whole story and that somewhere in the mix is a solid position to build a market on.