Marketing Report: May 8, 2006

May 7, 2006

 Fields wants "cult of personality" dead at FordThe "Way Forward" at Ford Motor Company does not entail a return to top-down management or "a cult of personality" that the automaker has experienced in the past,Americas CEO Mark Fields declared Wednesday. Addressing a luncheon session of the Detroit Jewish Federation Forum in Birmingham, Mich., Fields also ruled out a scenario whereby the company "packs its tent and steals away into the night," a reference to speculation on bankruptcy filings that has emerged in the media and financial analyst reports about Ford and GM since supplier Delphi's Chapter 11 action began last October.Fields noted that the "Way Forward" reorganization and downsizing strategy has passed the 100-day mark and is making progress. "Like a flywheel, once it starts moving, it makes rapid gains," he said. Fields, 45, said the "way back" for Ford in sales and market share "will produce, as part of our coming bold moves, bold new products that invite consumers to consider more Ford cars and trucks - like the Ford Fusion, F-150, and Ford Mustang."A turnaround expert who led the recovery of Ford's Mazda brand and restored profitability to its Premier Automotive Group of luxury brands, Fields declared he has "never heard or felt one iota of discrimination in my seventeen years at Ford. I read about all the anti-Semitism that Ford had been associated with in the past, before I joined the company, but I'm struck by how inclusive this company is." -Mac GordonFord under siege in North America Funkmaster Flexes for Ford's Fusion

He started spinning records at 16, but it didn't take long for Aston Taylor's influence to spread beyond his nativeBrooklyn. Today, as Funkmaster Flex, the son of a Jamaican immigrant reigns supreme in the hip-hop scene. And Ford is leaning on Flex to help it sell Fusions-and to lend the company some of his spare street cred. Ride with Flex today inside TheCarConnection:Funkmaster Flexes for Ford's Fusion Ford Wants Reality Show about Concept CarsFord Motor Co. told dealers Thursday that it's planning to participate in a TV reality show in which participants work on developing a concept car with Ford designers. The automaker is shopping the idea to networks.Ford is capitalizing on a trend of not only reality TV, but also a practice becoming more common where advertisers offer to produce a program that is as much brand advertising as entertainment content and assume most of the production costs. The Fairway Gourmet, which runs on PBS, will in its second season be produced by the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau, and all the golf courses in next season's series of program will be in Hawaii. Unilever put together two specials built around its AXE Shower body wash: The Gamekillers on MTV and Exposing the Order of the Serpentine on SpikeTV. Going back further, Bob Vila's Home Again series was produced by Sears and ad agency Ogilvy & Mather, and featured Sears Craftsman tools.Ford is one of two principal sponsors of the Fox network's American Idol reality show, but it didn't go as far as to develop the show in the first place with Ford as the centerpiece of the program as is the case with this project.-Jim Burt Nissan Dealers Still Getting REDINissan's initiative to bring a fresh image to its dealerships - to correspond with the brand's resurgence - is coming along, report Nissan North America officials. Nationally, about half of Nissan's 1100 dealerships have decided to participate in the NREDI (Nissan Retail Environment Design Initiative) program; more than 300 of those facilities are complete, while another 250 are in the design stage. NREDI began in 2001, when brand-strategy and design experts at Lippincott Mercer were hired to help develop Nissan's global brand image. One of the main aims of the program was to give the dealership the same brand identity that was being projected through marketing and promotions. But it calls for a whole new layout for dealerships, not just cosmetic details. Under the new plan, the sales, service, and parts departments are fully integrated, with parts and service no longer out in back. Many dealers have opted to build new stores; an example is Cool Springs Nissan, an NREDI-completed dealership that will be less than two miles from Nissan's new national headquarters in Tennessee. Windows and open floor space are an important part of this initiative - customers can now see the service check-in area from the showroom, and the parts department is directly adjacent to the showroom. The program remains optional for dealers, with some money available from NNA, though most of the bill is footed by the dealerships themselves. Nissan says that NREDI dealerships are showing evidence that the formula works, though: in 2004, NREDI-completed dealerships showed an average 57 percent sales growth, versus 33 percent nationwide for the entire sales force. -Bengt Halvorson  Prison Break TV Show Gets Toyota Tie-InThe Prison Break TV show on Fox is getting a mobile-phone companion - and Toyota will be the sponsor of the so-called "mobisodes," which will also feature the brand prominently. The Wall Street Journal reports that the hit series will be spun off in short mobile-broadcast episodes that will also link to a new Web site dedicated to the program. Toyota will get a presence across all platforms with the deal, which will continue through the program's season finale in May. The two-minute mobile episodes, run under the title Prison Break: Proof of Innocence, will be prefaced by a ten-second Yaris commercial. The Journal estimates the deal will be worth $10 million for the network; Toyota in exchange gets access to a strong following of 18-34 year old male customers who have tuned in strongly to the show. The mobisodes will be free to some Sprint customers and will be rebroadcast at two weeks after their initial distribution.   
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