DETROIT -- Ford-brand marketers face an interesting challenge. After spending millions of dollars over the last several years promoting a lineup of fuel-efficient small- and mid-sized cars and crossovers, two historic launches loom on Ford's near-term horizon: the next-generation F-series pickup and the 50th anniversary Mustang pony car.
The F-150 and Mustang -- reminders of an era when Ford was known primarily as a maker of gas-guzzling pickups, SUVs and muscle cars -- are scheduled for redesigns in 2015.
Said Toby Barlow, chief creative officer of Team Detroit, Ford's ad agency: "We've spent the last five years telling people we're not just a truck and Mustang company. Now we have a lot of truck and Mustang news. We'll have to balance it with news about C-Max and Fusion and Escape."
"The perception has definitely changed" with all the vehicles made under CEO Alan Mulally's One Ford plan, which has simplified Ford's global platform lineup and made Ford's vehicles sold around the world more similar.
"We're going to have a great truck and an exciting Mustang. We need to talk about them, but we need to make sure we don't eclipse the serious progress we've made in these other categories," Barlow said.
Ford has put its EcoBoost gasoline engines at the center of its recent advertising, including a current campaign called the EcoBoost Challenge that features the Fusion and Escape.
The company also has used the fuel-economy theme to make inroads in the Toyota Prius' dominance in the hybrid vehicle market with the Ford C-Max, which arrived last year.
"The thing that excites me about those cars is that they're making inroads in markets where people haven't thought about Ford for 20 or 30 years," Barlow said.
At the Detroit auto show in January, Ford showed off its Atlas Concept pickup, saying the vehicle was designed to "showcase the design, capability, fuel efficiency and smart technologies that will define the future of pickup trucks."
Ford has said it will expand the reach of the next-generation Mustang, selling it in markets where it was not sold in the past, such as Europe.
Ford has not revealed any details about the car, but analysts say Ford must do a balancing act with the Mustang, keeping the traditional American muscle-car virtues while adapting it to global tastes.
Such changes could include independent rear suspension. With the exception of a few specialty versions, Mustangs have always ridden on solid rear axles.