Unbound Edition. Meaningful conversations about brand, from Davis Brand Capital.

Built for the Road Ahead?

Recently Car and Driver posted an April Fools Day blog entry claiming Ford was bringing back the Escort – and I bought it hook line and sinker. Why did I fall for the gag? Because an increasingly out-of-touch and all-too desperate Detroit has been so enamored with its familiar formula of nostalgic branding that the absurdity of an Escort reintroduction didn’t seem outside the realm of possibility.

After all, Ford is bringing back the Taurus by merely slapping the nameplate on the existing Ford Five-Hundred. No joke. I guess the company figures “why not, the nostalgia strategy worked for the retro-styled Mustang.” Nameplates from other manufacturers, such as Dodge’s Charger and the to-be-released Challenger, and Chevy’s upcoming all-new Camaro, are just a few other examples of Detroit’s obsession with nostalgia.

Crispin Porter & Bogusky’s coercing of VW to re-release the Rabbit made sense. Rabbit is a cute, kitschy name that’s perfectly in brand and spot on for VW’s core group of slightly quirky loyalists – regardless of the fact that the original cars had a reputation for poor quality and catching fire.

But for the most part, I can think of a few words to describe the “move” of dusting off nostalgia brands, but “bold” isn’t one of them. Ford and its Detroit brethren are merely buying time with these strategies, trying to stay afloat with comparatively outdated technologies and trying to remind us why their brands used to be great.

Consider Chevrolet’s current nostalgia ad featuring a variety of celebrities singing about their beloved ol’ Chevys. It’s a nice emotional spot, but it does nothing but remind us the American auto industry is stuck in the past.

Wake up Detroit! Toyota and others will continue to rob your share of the market by looking to the future rather than harkening back to the glory days. Get busy building something that actually is “for the road ahead.” And create some compelling brands we can really believe in. Because deep inside my heart, this former Ford loyalist dreads the thought of buying a Camry.


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