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Ford uses 100th birthday as chance to polish image

By Laura Clark Geist
Automotive News / April 14, 2003

DETROIT - Before Ford Motor Co. blows out 100 candles on its cake June 16, it will invite consumers across the country to celebrate its centennial through local marketing events, advertising and merchandise.

After two and a half years of bad publicity mainly stemming from its massive recall of Firestone tires on its Explorer SUV and disappointing financial results, Ford will try to reinvigorate its image during several consumer marketing events.

The company began a major centennial advertising campaign, which includes TV, print, outdoor and the Internet, on April 5.

During April and May, Ford and its top executives will conduct a 100-city tour to celebrate its centennial with its dealers.

The company's biggest event - the five-day "The Road is Ours: 100th Anniversary Celebration" will be at Ford's 52-acre headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., June 12-16.

"From the consumer standpoint, we'd like to reinstill that sense of pride that people have in the company," says Jan Valentic, Ford vice president of global marketing. "It's not just looking at the past but also anticipating where we need to be in the future."

'The Road is Ours'

The five-day May event is expected to draw thousands of consumers, employees, retirees and classic-car owners. John Nens, Ford centennial operations team marketing manager, says all eight of the company's brands will put on an "auto show-type display" with current and concept models. There also will be entertainment.

For instance, an actor dressed up as Blue the dog from Nickelodeon's "Blue's Clues" TV show will be walking around the Ford Division display. Ford Division has a marketing agreement with Nickelodeon to use "Blue's Clues" to promote vehicle safety to children. Also entertaining will be country star Toby Keith, who performs in Ford's "Built Ford Tough" truck advertising campaign.

Event goers can tour the 24,000-square-foot "Countdown to Kitty Hawk" exhibit celebrating the birth of aviation. Ford is a sponsor of the exhibit, which will appear in six other U.S. cities. At another part of the site, Model Ts will carry attendees through a historical display featuring famous Ford vehicles.

Ticket prices range from $24.95 for the public to $19.95 for employees and retirees. Children 12 and younger are free.

City tour

Mostly Ford Division dealers will be involved in the city tour, which will feature the most popular Ford vehicles plus offerings from local classic-car clubs. Valentic says all of Ford's top brass, including Chairman Bill Ford, will be assigned to visit a city.

"It's trying to bring the centennial into a grass-roots feeling and build some local pride with dealers or other people connected to Ford," says Valentic, who also will participate in the tour.

Tour events will be in different locations - from dealerships to plants to community centers - depending on the city. Ford Division dealers can purchase centennial banners, posters and signs for celebrations in their stores. Dealers representing other Ford Motor Co. brands also may order materials and hold celebrations.

Valentic would not divulge what the company expects to pay for the 100-city tour and "The Road is Ours" celebration, but University of Detroit Mercy marketing professor Mike Bernacchi estimates the company will spend between $1.5 million and $5.4 million on the consumer events.

Ford also is selling licensed centennial merchandise online, in dealerships and in retail stores such as Target and Wal-Mart. Everything from clothing to die-cast miniatures of popular Fords from the past and present are being offered, says Barbara Teasdale, manager of partnerships and licensing programs for Ford's Centennial Operations.

Teasdale says sales for centennial merchandise are going well, and the company is expecting an increase in sales of licensed goods this year.

(Photo)Ford Motor is trying to invigorate its image during several marketing events, including a major centennial advertising campaign.

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My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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