Every time I hear Jim Farley's take on the Ford brand, I marvel at how rare it is among automotive marketing people.
Farley is Ford Motor's chief of marketing and communications. In his view, the Ford brand's mission is to be populist, democratizing technology by bringing it to mainstream buyers at a reasonable price.
That may sound like common sense, but it's uncommon among marketing executives for midmarket brands such as Ford.
More often, marketers seem eager to shed a middle-market heritage and — here's the dreaded phrase — take a brand upscale.
The list of brands that have tried this recently includes Saturn, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Subaru. It hasn't worked terribly well. Volkswagen and Subaru backed away from the goal after finding their core buyers resistant, although VW seems to be taking a second run at it. Saturn and Hyundai have only just begun to experience what they're up against.
The allure of aiming upmarket is easy to understand. Perhaps your company makes solid, everyday vehicles. Perhaps you can cite data to prove that the quality of your vehicles is as good as that of premium brands. Perhaps your margins are being crunched by the weak dollar.
So why not throw some leather and an arena-worthy sound system into the cars? Surely you could harvest that extra $5,000 per car that the posh brands get.
Actually, you probably can't — at least not easily or quickly.