by Art Chantry ( email@example.com)
the edsel was not a bad car. i know it’s now a standard joke for ‘loser’. all you have top do is refer to the edsel in any capacity of ‘failure’ and you win your case. it was disaster. but, in fact, it was good car.
the real problem with the edsel was not it’s engineering or design or market placement. the engine were used for a long time afterward (dumped into other custom projects) because they were such good efficient engines. it was chock full of innovative new design features never before seen from detroit. it was one well-built car. it drove really well, too. it even looked really cool and strange – that’s why people avidly collect them today.
this thing i show you is an actual period ad brochure (it’s 11×15, folds out into a 22×15 size full color marketing piece.) it’s full color, fully illustrated and breaks own all the models and styles and features. it’s pretty stunning and classy. nice stuff (albeit a little ironic in it’s long-term prophetic references.)
the price tag was pricey but affordable. it was a luxury auto aimed at the ‘middle to high’ end of the market. imagine the american class/economic system broken into four basic groups low/middle/upper middle/high. that’s pretty much the way we all think of ourselves – fitting into those four groups. of course the just plain old poor and ‘poverty’ levels are ignored (lumped into ‘low’). the 1% rich are (of course) so stratospheric that it’s like comparing apples and oranges (or amateurs with pros). it’s just not accurate. so, we’ll ignore that group, too.
taking these four crude categories, the edsel was created and designed to fill that upper-middle niche. it was the car for successful joes who were moving up from middle to the next wrung of that corporate ladder. it was a status car – for showing off your success around the neighborhood. there were lots of cars for that – the chryslers, the cadillacs, the lincolns. the edsel was lower-level affordable luxury car. again: pricey, but not impossible.
no, the big problem with the edsel was two-fold: 1) it had an ugly, ugly name. after much debate, the heads of ford named the car after henry ford’s son, ‘edsel ford.’ he was beloved in the company and (i think) ran the company for a spell time. lousy businessman, good guy, as i remember. but, he had one ugly-ass first name. try to imagine if this car was called ‘the starfire’. it would have done much much better. sure, they had models with cooler names in their ‘line’, like the ‘top of the line’ Citation, then the next in line Corsair, followed by the Pacer, the Ranger and finally the station wagons. but, it always had that word “edsel” in front – the ‘edsel citation’. the ‘edsel corsair’. plop!
the second big problem: 2) that nose. it looked like an open vagina. like a huge lamprey suckfish eel coming to suck your guts out of your body. frankly, it’s so ugly that it’s terrifying to really contemplate for too long. the rest of the car is clumsy looking (like an average car with lotsa extra chrome glued on). but, try to imagine what the thing would look like if it didn’t have the big suction cup mouth lunging at you? actually, without that gaping wound in t
ront, the car ain’t bad. looks like a chrysler. but, that suck-tion cup! OMG!
so, that’s what killed it. people laughed at it. sales were awful and they discontinued it quick. it took four years (the final year they even desperately removed the the suckfish mouth). but it was too late. it became synonymous with marketing disaster.
a friend of a friend told a story (yeah, one of those). he was in the advertising business and was showing his book (portfolio) around the agencies in new york, looking for work. he had a few minutes to kill between appointments and decided to just go sit in central park and enjoy the fine day. as he was just sitting there, kicking back in the sun, a vagrant (aka BUM) came out of the bushes and approached him. the ad guy just though, “oh-oh…”
the bum pointed at his portfolio case and asked, “you in the biz?”
the ad guy said, simply, “yeah”. then tried to ignore the bum.
the bum then asked, “where’d you show today?”
the ad guy politely named some big time ad agency. the bum then asked, ‘does phil ______ still work there?”
the ad guy was taken by surprise. the bum sat down.
“yeah, i used to work in the ad biz, too. i know all those guys.” then he went on to talk about the biggest advertising names in the industry, telling funny little stories about each guy. basically, upon later investigation, all his stories checked out as 100% true. even the bum’s name that he gave as his own checked out.
the ad guy was stumbling by this point, he really didn’t know what to say.
then the bum said, “yeah, i was doing great. until that ONE account dropped in my lap. you’re looking at the guy who did had the edsel account!”
AC:looks a lot like the giger alien spaceship as they entered it on that windswept alien planet…ol’ henry ford became filthy rich beyond even billy gates’ wildest dreams. isn’t that supposed to mean that he earned it like god chose him to? wwrs (what would republicans say)? or better yet, wwsds (what would social darwinists say)?…everybody knows that rich people can do whatever they want. it’s why god chose them to be rich. what’s a few broken eggs, when you got the biggest omelette in the world, eh?
Peter Drucker:Everyone knows about the Ford Edsel as the biggest new-car failure in automotive history. What very few people seem to know, however, is that the Edsel’s failure was the foundation for much of the company’s later success. Ford planned the Edsel, the most carefully designed car to that point in American automotive history, to give the company a full product line with which to compete with General Motors. When it bombed, despite all the planning, market research, and design that had gone into it, Ford realized that something was happening in the automobile market that ran counter to the basic assumptions on which GM and everyone else had been designing and marketing cars. No longer was the market segmented primarily on income groups; the new principle of segmentation was what we now call “lifestyles.” Ford’s response was the Mustang, a car that gave the company a distinct personality and reestablished it as an industry leader….
…Here is how Matt Haig describes it in Brand Failures:
As Sheila Mello points out, between 1960 (when the Edsel was phased out) and 1964 (when the Mustang was launched) Ford, along with most of the car industry, had shifted its focus towards what the consumer actually wanted. ‘The success of the Mustang demonstrates that Ford Motor Company did learn from the Edsel experience,’ she writes. ‘The key difference between the ill-fated development of the Edsel and the roaring success of the 24 Brand failures Mustang was the shift from a product-centric focus to a customer-centric one.’ Read More:http://timkastelle.org/blog/2011/11/learning-from-failure/