Was Ford right to keep the Fiesta name for its new-generation car?

Ford%20Fiesta%20carWith over 10 million units sold in its 32-year history, the Fiesta has been one of Ford’s most successful brands. But the eighth incarnationof the small car, due in showrooms later this year, came very close to arriving in the market under a new name, consigning the Fiesta brand to history, along with its siblings, Granada and Sierra.

Ford UK marketing director Mark Ovenden explains that the company agonised over the decision as to whether to keep the Fiesta name. The 2008 “new generation” is, after all, a totally new car, not merely a face-lifted version of what has gone before.

“The new car did so stunningly well in what are known as ‘badgeless’ research clinics that it was an option we had to explore,” Ovenden reveals.

In the end, the decision to retain the Fiesta brand was taken. Ovenden explains that following the last refresh of Fiesta in 2006, the car increased its market share in terms of younger people. He says/ “When we did the refresh, we set out to see how far we could take the Fiesta brand, and I think we’ve proved to ourselves that, providing we get the product right, the name itself is no barrier.”

Lacking street credibility

Chris Wood, chairman of branding agency Corporate Edge, sympathises with Ford’s dilemma. He says: “Fiesta does carry some slightly naff connotations. Today’s younger market might think of it as the kind of car brand belonging to the generation of people who went on holiday to Majorca and sang Una Paloma Blanca, but it does have the advantage of the instant communication of a known brand.” Wood concludes: “I would have been torn.”

Fiesta has been a mass-market success for over three decades. Ford’s year-to-date UK market share is 15.1%, with Fiesta accounting for 4.2% of that, but Fiesta’s share to retail buyers – as distinct from fleet – is higher. Its main competitor is Vauxhall’s Corsa, which is the UK’s best-selling small car overall, although Fiesta has more retail buyers.

The autumn relaunch will be backed by a hefty advertising campaign. And marketing of this new generation Fiesta will be critical: the brand may have many positive attributes – reliable, sensible and rational – but is seen as lacking in style. Ovenden agrees that the objective of the marketing campaign is to add “style and aspiration” to Fiesta.

The television commercial for the car is being created by Ogilvy, with advertising due to break in September. The work, contrary to industry rumour, will predominantly feature shots of the car. “Advertising has to be emotional,” says Ovenden of the forthcoming campaign. “And our job is to emotionalise cars.”

Krow founder John Quarrey, who handles Fiat’s pan-European advertising business, feels Ford was right to hold on to the Fiesta name. He says: “It is entirely possible that Ford will be able to engage a younger audience. The Fiesta brand has got an amazing provenance, and the job now is to use marketing to make it relevant.”

Looks count

Yet, even with Ford’s mighty marketing budget, what will matter most in launching the all-new Fiesta is looks and handling. The Fiesta concept car, unveiled last year and code-named Verve, looks sleek, funky and stylish. While the actual production model may be slightly less sexy, it will tick many of the boxes for what Ford sees as a growth market for the brand – young women – without alienating its core market of Fiesta loyalists.

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