When brands are built up effectively over time and used purposefully, they can have a tremendous impact on the company and deliver considerable financial gain, supplementing the primary revenue generation from the sale of their actual products. Ford, one of the biggest and most recognizable name brands in the country and world, is a shining example of this. The Ford brand is worth billions and the company is a leader in the process of licensing out the various elements of the brand. Their activity provides lessons for other companies both large and small in how they can leverage the equity they have built in their brand for financial gain and valuable exposure.

Yes, Ford is enormous and many companies do not have the same name recognition (and everything that goes with it) or find themselves in such a position as Ford does. They built up to their current position over time, creating slogans such as “Built Ford Tough” and establishing the “tough, long-lasting, strong” identity that they have been promoting for years. With that said, other companies can strategically build their name in the same way to represent something, an idea, a feeling, an emotion – marketing, advertising, and branding 101.

Branding Empire
According to a recent Forbes article, the company has 400 licenses at present and has granted roughly 18,000 product approvals during the past year, which is a sizeable increase from 3,000 from two years prior. 45 million pieces of merchandise that had the Ford brand were sold last year totaling $1.5 billion. This is a lot of money to say the least from an additional revenue stream.

What types of products does the brand show up in? Well the “Built Ford Tough” slogan was licensed to Forever 21, a young women’s clothing store for one, another is ford-branded Tervis Tumblers for Bed, Bath, & Beyond. But the big winners are those that replicate the products, the cars themselves. This is exemplified in licensing the sounds and look of the vehicles for video-games, like the 2013 Ford Focus ST for the Forza 4 game. Similarly, they have been traditionally doing this with toy versions of the cars and trucks, most popular being the remote-controlled vehicles. This makes a connection to the actual products they sell. Jim Farley, Ford’s global CMO, describes how interest from various “licensees” to use a company’s brand is one of the best ways to understand and measure the value and health of the brand.

Takeaway – Building the Brand
The lesson here is the value in investing in building the brand – making it a priority. For smaller companies this starts with beginning with creating a core message and making sure in all communications, the company details the name, what they do, and the core message/slogan/why they are different. From there, local companies can solidify themselves as the place for a certain product or the place to support a local area business.

Companies can lean on reputable marketing agencies and SEO companies in order strategically build the message between social platforms and have it stick with customers, the hardest part. Social media is perfect for this and several platforms can be leveraged alongside each other to support the campaign. Reach out to us via our contact page for more information on how this can be done on both the small and large scale.

Technology!  It’s exciting!  It’s eye opening!  It may be hurting your brand!  Technology is moving at…modern-day computer speeds; it’s getting faster with each passing moment.  Yesterday, I wrote upon Apple’s newest iPad and analyst forecasts of mobile devices killing the ‘PC star.’

In Apple’s case, advanced technology is modifying the brand, filling iPad revenue streams and drying paths stemming from PC sales.  For the Ford Motor Company, technology may have lost it revenue as well as reversed the brand a few rungs on the ladder of reputation.

Two years ago, Ford began producing vehicles with the MyFord Touch system (developed with Microsoft).  Great idea, Ford!  Align your brand with a bastion of technology.  Was the maneuver beneficial?  Not presently.  Ford’s customer ratings plunged along with brand reputation.  It’s time to check under the hood, Ford.

Of course, MyFord Touch was an ostensible implementation of progress.  A touch screen (where are our traditional buttons going?) replaces traditional knobs and buttons.  Wise men say only fools rush in…  From a New York Times article:

“I think they were too willing to rush something out because of the flashiness of it rather than the functionality,” said Michael Hiner, a former stock-car racing crew chief in Akron, Ohio, who bought Ford Edge Limited last year largely because he and his wife were intrigued by MyFord Touch.

Ford needed to rev up celebration of its nascent touch technology.  A major upgrade attempts to resolve issues related to fickle systems (crashing and rebooting), slow touch screens, and questionably-keen voice recognition systems.

What I personally celebrate about Ford’s endeavors to remedy the situation is their direct contact with customers.  Upgrades are being sent to customers (the new software is installed via a USB flash drive in about an hour). Are you amongst the 300,000 Ford customers awaiting a flash-drive upgrade in the mail this week?

The horn was initially blown on MyFord Touch last week by Consumer Reports (Ford is now parked at 10th place on the 2012 Automaker Report Card).  J.D. Power & Associates drove Ford further from its accolades; the former dropped the latter from 5 to 23 in its most recent quality survey.

Is your brand moving too fast?  We hear about the mishaps of the big brands but I’m sure a lot more brands are frustrated regarding the insurgence of technology and the anxiety to produce bigger, better, and faster.  Can your brand keep up?  If not, when do you say when?  When your consumers begin turning on you?  Isn’t it too late then (especially for a smaller brand)?  Ford has a long-standing name and is likely to brook this reputation storm.

Citibank got itself into similar trouble with smartphone applications recently.  Similarly, Citi is a big brand, likely to leverage its already standing reputation to move past the mishap.  SMB owners, whether related to online platforms or offline technology, are you chasing tech toward a reputational cliff?

Anthony, does this relate to SEO?  Yes, I think it does.  WebiMax’s Todd Bailey recently posted on Search Engine Guide about Google’s numerous updates.  Our search engine optimization industry warrants daily-to-hourly perusal in order to stay up-to-date with Panda updates (Kevin Gibbons), new SEO approaches, Google privacy changes, ( I could go on but it’s likely I’m missing industry news as I type – I gotta go)…


Thanks for reading.  Be sure to check back regularly at our SEO blog and contact us for further questions.

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For all of you SEO marketers who think that the mobile app Instagram is just another fun, silly recreational activity, think again. Like its social media predecessors, a la Twitter and Facebook, this popular photo-sharing service has recently proven its clout as an effective marketing tool with a great deal of promise and potential. The evidence comes from Ford’s use of the app to promote its Ford Fiesta throughout Europe this past fall, in a recent report by Mashable.

Ford, with the help of London-based marketing firm Blue Hive, hosted a six week contest on Instagram, titled “Fiestagram.” Each week, Ford would release a hashtag related to one of the Ford Fiesta’s features. What is interesting, however, is that Ford would choose words that were more open-ended, like #entry and #music, thus leaving the door open for many creative submissions from the contest’s participants.

After every round of submissions, Ford gave away multiple prizes to those who submitted the most stunning or striking photos. The prizes grew in value every week, with the sixth and final one being a Ford Fiesta. By the end of the competition, an astonishing 16,311 images total had been submitted to #fiestagram. By all accounts, this was a highly successful SEO marketing campaign, making excellent use of a social media outlet.

What exactly about this Ford-concocted formula made it a successful marketing endeavor? There are several reasons. First of all, Ford chose a unique yet highly popular social media site that offered an already-existing strong, supportive, and inclusive community. Members of the Instagram community maintain an almost nurturing environment, in which they proactively appreciate and promote each other’s images. Many encouraged each other to enter the competition. Thus they organically brought attention and greater participation to the contest.

Secondly, Ford took the time to understand the medium, and catered to it perfectly. Instagram is already a highly popular app throughout the world because it is really fun, intrinsically bringing out people’s desires to be creative, share their creative effort, and both give and receive support for them. On top of all that, the app is incredibly easy to use. Ford utilized the language of the community to make its promotion seem much more organic rather than forced, drawing users to it.

And the third reason for Ford’s success with #Fiestagram was its prize giveaways. Giving out multiples of increasingly valuable prizes every week not only kept participants excited and engaged, but drew many more into the contest. Of course, not every business has the financial clout to give away expensive prizes like iPads and cars, but even giving away samples of products can provide a huge boost to an SEO marketing campaign.

Ford’s #Fiestagram competition is an ideal example of how a company can successfully promote a product using social media. The more creative a business can make it, the better. With that in mind, take some time this weekend to consider how your business can best utilize any social media outlet to promote its newest product or service.