Ad Rants 1.

Ford’s Unlearn Everything

The majority of times I encounter new adverts it’s in the cinema and I have to start by saying this new Ford image video is absolutely gorgeously shot. It piggybacks beautifully on the idea of unlearning behaviours, looking at the world with fresh eyes and an open mind – a sentiment that’s very much en vogue within society so much so that we have even invented unschooling for the sake of bringing this adventurous spirit of exploration and curiosity into education.

However, and it is a humungous however for anyone who believes branding is not so much about telling but showing, you simply can’t tell your (past and future) customers to just forgot what they’ve thought about you so far and start having a brand new association to your logo and cars just like that. You especially can’t do that if you are such a household name and millions of people have been bombarded with the previous positioning through countless years.

Can it be effective? Sure, operating with an already familiar concept and encouraging people to “let go of their limiting beliefs” creates and emotional connection, making the transition easier. I’d even say it makes some sense, looking at the new power range of models Ford has launched recently and their efforts to become a force to reckon with digitally. To step into a new era where digital services are as important as the car itself, a brand certainly needs to revive itself. But as I said, telling is never as strong as showing and this is what I miss here: we are told to unlearn but doesn’t get a clear image of what we should learn instead. We are told to replace our old concepts but not given a reason to believe other than “hey, we are much cooler than you thought and anyways, unlearning is just such a rad concept”. While I get the whole message is around opening our minds to possibilities, without a few tangible guiding breadcrumbs this re-branding for me falls punctured tyre flat.

How would I approach it? Part of their Unlearn video manifesto, they say:

“Unlearn is not about forgetting the past; it’s about re-imagining possibilities to make progress in all aspects of our lives.

But Unlearn doesn’t stop with vehicles. By looking into the future with mobility at the top of our agenda, we’re building a more connected and sustainable transport future.
Why not see what happens when you let go of what you know?”

If I may dissect it, the main point they are making is that they constantly innovate and build better products, backed up by a century of know-how.* Strategically, demonstrating this innovation and truly surprising the customers would be the way to go really. Start with a huge PR stunt, like building functional Transformers robots out of oldtimers and letting them fight it out somewhere central with a huge audience. Create a space for your customers to actually explore technology and the fascinating things the future may hold for mobility. New power range? Run your very own race with all the bells and whistles and celebrities. Invite customers (or even better, stunt drivers) to tweak and race themselves. And then use all the fantastic footage from all these fun spectaculars as you TV and print campaign elements. But you know what, really, do anything, but simply tell people to forget your previous branding and get on board with the next.

But you know what, really, do anything, but simply tell people to forget your previous branding and get on board with the next.

*I’m not sure this is a super groundbreaking claim, because a) how else would you innovate, b) every other company claims the same *sigh*