Sunday, November 24, 2019

Ford Making a Branding Mistake with Mustang Mach-E

A week ago, Ford unveiled its new 2021 Mustang Mach-E.

Mustang Mach-E (photo: Ford)

I think Ford is making a huge branding mistake naming its first all-electric, sport crossover SUV the Mustang Mach-E.

Also, I think this new all-electric vehicle from Ford's new EV architecture does warrant a silver bullet brand name, with the opportunity to lift the overall Ford brand, like what the Audi TT did for Audi or Miata did for Mazda. In fact, Audi created a new brand name called E-tron, which is in a similar all-electric SUV class as the Mustang Mach-E.

Yes, I get why Ford wants to make muscle cars attractive and relevant for more socially-responsible and eco-conscious Millennials. But eroding an iconic brand is blasphemous and not the way to go!

For 55 years, Mustang has consistently stood for Ford's 2-door pony car, representing power, acceleration, exhilaration, and your hair blowing in the wind. I can see Ford management's desire to leverage the speed and performance from the Mustang brand to its new high-performance electric SUV. But from a brand extension perspective, this is a "double jump". (Ok, I coined that term so you won't find that in marketing or branding books...yet.)

Here's what I mean. Ford is taking the "Mustang" brand into both the (1) electric vehicle space and (2) crossover SUV space.

  1. Electric Vehicle space: The Mustang brand could probably extend into the electric vehicle space with a branded technology name associated with it, as long as it was still a high-performance sporty vehicle. Similar to how Ford used EcoBoost for its turbocharged, direct-injection gasoline engines and there already is a Mustang EcoBoost Premium model. Or how Toyota adds an "h" to the model numbers of its Lexus hybrid versions of their vehicles, such as the Lexus RX450h. 
  2. Crossover SUV space: But using the same brand name across class sizes (e.g. compact car, sports car, truck, SUV) is extremely unusual as attributes for purchase consideration varies between auto buyers for different classes so it is very difficult for the same brand name to embody the brand benefits across classes. It is even harder when the brand is very well-known in one class size. In this case, the Mustang brand stands for sporty 2-door muscle car and I don't think extending it into SUV space is a good idea.   

I have long praised Ford for its brand architecture on its SUV model names, all starting with "E" and sounding like "ex", such as Explorer, Excursion, Escape, and Expedition. All these SUVs and words represented outdoor, active lifestyles. So one idea could be that Ford creates a new SUV brand with this "E"-lliteration =)

The "Mach-E" name may have been sufficient to add to a new model name like a branded technology or variant to indicate electric, high-performance, as "Mach 1" has been used on past high-performance Mustangs. So perhaps a new model name that starts with "E" to follow Ford's SUV alliteration and indicate it's an SUV, followed by Mach-E to indicate electric, high-performance. (E.g., E_____ Mach-E.)

I get Ford needs to out gun Tesla and its upcoming small Model Y compact SUV. But I don't think diluting the Mustang brand is the right path.


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