Ford’s Car Swap

Another Marketing Campaign So Close, But So Far, From Perfection

By Igor Holas


Ford is introducing a new marketing and incentive campaign under the MTV-inspired “Swap your Ride” campaign: This follows what was quite an incentive-lacking summer for Ford and dreary sales results for August.

In a summer when even the infallible Toyota and Honda joined the usual suspects of Chrysler, GM, Nissan and Hyundai in deep discounts and aggressive value-focused promotion, Ford stuck to their steady and relatively modest “Year End Clearance” program. In this program, the sweetest deals were $2007 off and 0% financing on trucks, well below competing offers from other automakers. Not surprisingly, then, Ford posted a 14% decline in August sales.

Ford has a major image problem on their hands: almost half of the US consumer base will not consider Ford for their next vehicles; regardless of whether Ford actually offers a vehicle in the competitive group they are considering. Ford is trying to remedy the situation by careful use of rental fleets for their newly redesigned models, trying to trick potential buyers into getting behind the wheel of a new Ford, with the hope that they’ll enjoy the experience.

However, it has been suggested that the only efficacious way Ford can turn around the shunning of the Ford brand among consumers is by replicating tactics Mark Fields successfully tested in Brazil; namely, paying consumers to test drive the new Ford vehicles. I was excited because I thought the “Swap your Ride” campaign was this kind of maverick new program, but unfortunately it is not.

The marketing campaign of “Swap your ride” is well done – JWT Team Detroit (Ford’s ad agency) recruited owners of competition to Ford’s core products and gave them the respective Ford product for a week to drive, all under the guise of market research. Filming the recruits’ reactions, JWT got a valuable treasure trove of raw, unrehearsed reactions of real people. The TV ads are well shot and remind me of the (unfortunately short-lived) Fusion Challenge and Ford Challenge ads.

Unfortunately, for regular schmucks like you and me, the actual “Swap Your Ride” is nowhere near as exciting; the campaign simply offers $1000 cash-on-the-hood for most vehicles, nothing else. I was very hopeful that Ford had finally summoned up the guts to recruit new buyers through truly competitive discounts (rebates only for those trading in core competing products), offering 24-hour (or longer) test drives, or simply paying consumers for taking a test drive.

Unfortunately, it seems Ford’s current marketing department is not bold enough for such a daring act. For now, we all have to be satisfied with some bold ads, coupled with a more or less average incentive program.

I know Mulally is hunting for a new global marketing and sales chief, and I can only hope that the new global unit and its new head will be audacious enough to truly explore and subsequently exploit the frontiers of modern marketing.

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Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at

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  1. So will Mark Fields report to this new global head of marketing? Or is he outta here?

  2. Clever campaign, but you’re right, the final result is just a half-baked rebate plan. Some more strategic incentives like conquest cash or another way of making it more palatable for Honda and Toyota buyers to trade them in for Fords would have been much more interesting/original.

  3. Yeah I saw the commercials and they’re good, really good. But the offer to the public is pretty lame.

  4. Ford neeeds to do something different thant what they’ve been doing because the sales numbers just keep going south on them. Whne you have sales of the Mustang and the F-150 both dropping, that’s an alarm bell for Ford.

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