Tuesday, January 23, 2007

New (old) Mercury logo?


There is a rumor floating around about Mercury getting a new logo.
When you think of it, that is way cheaper than a new model.

The "new" logo would be a repeat of the really old one, used decades ago. Kind of what Chrysler has been doing for the past few years.
Not a bad idea, but I think Mercury needs much more than a new logo.
They need cars people want to actually buy. Buy without heavy discounts, so the company can actually generate more money.

They need the new logo on Euro Fords...

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree, Vince. Forget the logo, and bring over the Mondeo sedan and 5 door, to start!
tC

Jac said...

Logo Schmogo
This logo will do for Mercury what it did for Oldsmobile. Bury it.

Last gasp of a dying brand.

Jac

Anonymous said...

I disagree with some of the comments above.

Mercury's problem is related MORE to image than it is in product -- granted, Mercury needs a coherant design strategy, more distinctive vehicles, better advertising (though I love Jill Wagner and this she is beautiful, couldn't we come up with a better tagline than "New Doors Open"?), and some bespoke products that don't look like they are just rebadged Fords --- all of this is true.

BUT, overall, the IMAGE of the brand is what keeps it from most people's shopping lists. What I mean by that is that many see it as an old person's brand or just the "in-between-Ford-&-Lincoln brand".

Granted, one could argue that you need product FIRST and the Image will follow, but certainly things can be done all at once. Mercury needs an image/PR/Advertising/Marketing push to set it apart from what it was. A new logo would add to that.

Besides, what the hell does the logo mean? It isn't historical (its been around since the early/mid-80s) and it isn't particular "suited" to the brand since the emblem doens't coincide with an particular image.

So why not start fresh?

For those who are comparing it to Oldsmobile, please keep this in mind.

Oldsmobile was a much more "established" brand than Mercury currently is. Mercury really doesn't stand for much and doesn't have any real nameplates associated with it (in their current lineup) that hark back to the "glory-days" of the brand. They just don't. The most memorable nameplate was the Cougar and that was killed a few years back. After that the most recognized was the Sable and that was killed too.

So while Olds died a slow death b/c they replaced known and established nameplates like Cutlass, Cutlass Supreme, Ninety-Eight, Eighty-Eight, etc with names like Intrigue, Alero, etc --- the same CAN'T be said of Mercury, it just never really had the lineage (Cougar aside). Olds lost its customers who didn't understand the new direction -- Mercury doesn't even really have a direction; its very much like Saturn in that GM killed what little image they had, kept what worked (the showroom experience) and basically re-invented the brand. You could do the same with Mercury -- reinvent the brand, but retain the more upscale "Lincoln-Mercury customer experience).

Anonymous said...

Mercury is not a dying brand because Mercury is already dead.

Ford should bury this corpse already!

Didding with the Mercury logo is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Anonymous said...

remember, Quacker, Mercury is not a car manufacturer - just 1/2 of of a car distribution division. There's nothing to bury except half of all those Lincoln dealerships.

Anonymous said...

"Mercury's problem is related MORE to image than it is in product"

Really? So...where will the new product channel come from? Where will Ford find the needed capital to provide marketing support to re-position and prop up this dying brand? Also what space does Mercury occupy in the car landscape?

More importantly, what does a "Mercury" mean to the average car buyer anyway?

Ford is better off building on the Lincoln brand and jettisoning Mercury which is a drag on Lincoln. They need to define Lincoln as a luxury brand and build supporting products that reflect this. Mercury dilutes and weakens the Lincoln brand the longer it breathes.

Seems like you need to re-think your marketing 101 theory about rescuing a brand that is contracting and dying on the vine.

David

Anonymous said...

I think that Mercury could certainly use an image/PR makeover.

A new emblem would help that certainly.

Consider that the Milan and Montego are both decent vehicles and good dealer-customer experience. Granted, neither is exactly gonna win a styling award, but certainly they are handsome vehicles. But both of their sales combined just barely make it close to 100,000 vehicles sales a year -- and that's sad.

Now consider that the Sable -- as dreary as it was stylistically -- sold over 100,000 units a year alone. That's horrible, as now it takes two Mercury products covering two segments to equal the number of sales of an old 10 year old product.

Obviously the Milan and Montego are better cars than the Sable, but either they aren't getting the word out or the brand's image needs to change. Certainly both products deserve more than to make a blip on the radar considering the product they replaced.

I think that a new logo could help this and might drive more sales for Lincoln-Mercury franchises.

Anonymous said...

QUOTE="Really? So...where will the new product channel come from? Where will Ford find the needed capital to provide marketing support to re-position and prop up this dying brand? Also what space does Mercury occupy in the car landscape?

More importantly, what does a "Mercury" mean to the average car buyer anyway?

Ford is better off building on the Lincoln brand and jettisoning Mercury which is a drag on Lincoln. They need to define Lincoln as a luxury brand and build supporting products that reflect this. Mercury dilutes and weakens the Lincoln brand the longer it breathes.

Seems like you need to re-think your marketing 101 theory about rescuing a brand that is contracting and dying on the vine.

David"

********************************

David, you just answered your own question and supported the very thing you yourself quoted.

The sales channel already exists -- its called "Lincoln-Mercury" and the capital isn't a huge investment. Every other company out there with multiple brands seems to change enough about a product that is based on common components to make a profit, yet Ford fails to do this. The G6/Malibu/Aura all share everything with each other under the metal, yet all have a unique look inside and out. Sure, they share head-units and seat frames, etc, but for the great majority of the buying public (i.e. non-car guys like us), this doesn't even matter.

As for your question, "What does Mercury mean anyway", the answer is "not very much" -- and that's the problem and a lost opportunity.

Ford is in financial hardships and is not making good use of it's resources. The very fact that Alan Mullaly and Bill Ford have both said that the mantra moving forward is "One Ford" (with consolidating of platforms, operations, etc) illustrates this -- Ford is run like 5 fiefdoms rather than a single company.

As such, there are products produced around the world that can find a home here in North America, possibly under the Mercury brand.

Furthermore, if the SAVED money by consolidating things and making sound financial moves, then perhaps they'd have a bit more cash to make Mercury distinct.

Either way the system doesn't work as it is right now.

In addition to this, dropping Mercury is NOT an option. Every Mercury franchise is also a Lincoln franchise -- and the two have to work in concert moving forward. Up to now, Mercury has been the volume part of the equation; lowering the "entry-point" into Lincoln-Mercury showrooms so that younger customers or those looking for something a bit cheaper can have something to buy. So in years past we saw vehicles like the Tracer or Sable or Mystique that moved the price point lower to be more "accessable" to these customers. This makes a great deal of sense in lihgt of volume -- you can sell more $17,000 Mystiques and create larger growth for a Franchise to keep your salesmen happy with such a product than a lower volume/$35,000 Lincoln Continental.

Obviously, this will change and Mercury will become more of a niche product as Lincoln will have an increased number of products and hopefully increase volume. But that doesn't help in getting more folks who are looking for a "lower priced product" into showrooms. The Lincoln MKZ is the cheapest Lincoln right now -- a nice car -- but it starts at $30,000 while the Milan starts at $18,400. That's a lot of ground to give up and you are basically spotting sales to competitor. Not good.

As such, the cancellation of the Mercury brand will create legal pains for FoMoCo in that they will have violated their franchise agreements with these dealers, causing more headaches for the their already tight bottom line.

It just doesn't make financial sense to kill it, regardless of what anyone thinks about the brand.

Additionally, regardless of what you and I think, Mercury DOES have some strong suits that they are trying to play on. First off, they are profitable and they add between another 200,000 to 250,000 sales to Ford's bottom line. That might be insignificant compared to the Ford brand, but there are some foreign brands out there doing business in America who don't sell that many cars in a year. And while everyone is comparing Olds to Mercury, keepin in mind that Olds had just under 300,000 sales a year when GM decided to pull the plug. The idea was, if you kill Olds, you strengthen the other divisions -- especially Buick. But did other GM divisions benefit? Did Buick immediately gain 300,000 sales? The answer is NO, and some speculate that it actually hurt GM rather than helped (Plus, GM has spent north of $1 billion settling those law suites over killing Olds).

Also, consider logistics -- when Ford sets up a plant, they figure that they can get X amount of units for each brand's production at a plant. What would happen to the profitability of the Hermosillo, Mexico plant that produces the Fusion, Milan and MKZ if you all of a sudden killed 60,000 units off the top of the production schedule? That would mean they are NOT using up capacity and that each one of the products they build will suddenly cost more. Not good for the bottom line as well.

As for customers, Mercury attracts more women and minorities (in percentage, not total volume) than the other FoMoCo brands. To add to this, Mercury (and Lincoln for that matter) have been in the top 5 or 10 dealership and customer satisfaction indexes according to JD Power and Associates for a number of years. Granted, this doesn't save a brand, but certainly there are folks out there who take notice of this.

PLUS, it supports the idea that not matter how nice of a car the Ford brand builds, there are folks out there who will NEVER own a Ford simply b/c it's a Ford -- they want something different. This also plays out at companies like GM -- folks will never consider a Malibu, but will certainly take a "sporty" G6 or an "differnt" Saturn Aura (again it's image, not about reality since they share 70% of their parts, etc). Ford can capitalize on this as well.

Lastly, in regard to your parting commenet ("Seems like you need to re-think your marketing 101 theory about rescuing a brand that is contracting and dying on the vine."), I don't think some of the ideas above or in other posts are necessarily that far off the mark. Just looking at other brands (not only in Auto-dom, but also in general), much can be done with a "damaged brand" or something that lacks distinctiveness or uniqueness.

It wasn't all that long ago that brands like Apple, Volkswagen, Target, Audi, and others were considered either minor-players in a particular segment, not viable or not desirable (I'm not gonna argue the points of each, but am making a point).

From the automotive sense, both Audi and VW had sales in the toliet at the end of the 80s due to image/quality probblems. Everyone remembers the "accleration problems" on the Audi 5000 and nagging quality issues at VW. By the time the early 1990s came around, they were barely hanging on for dear life and many thought that VW and Audi would join Renault, Puegot, Fiat, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Sterling and MG as Euro brands who came to the US, failed and retreated back home.

Obviously this never happend and they both came back on with a vengence at the mid-to-late 1990s. Now they are seen as semi-sheik, command a higher price point and have a sophisticated connotation.

Or for that matter, you can look at Alfa Romeo that left in shame in 1992 and suffered thoughout Europe for years and years with world-wide sales dwindling to below 120K units a year (that's below Saab for God's sake) and yet now they're in demand and doing well (even talking about coming back). For even sister brand Fiat has had a revitaliztion of late that has seen shares rise and more folks talking about "affordable Italian design" -- and yet Fiat's shares were sinking faster than the Titanic and taking Lancia and Alfa Romeo along with it. Now they're doing better.

Or for that matter, even Ford's own Mazda -- Mazda didn't stand out at all in the North American market, and yet thanks to an infusion of style and $ they are an attractive alternative to the mainstream products and doing quite well. So well in fact that FoMoCo is looking to mimic their product planning for the entire company (check AutoNews.com from a few months back). But could they have pulled the plug? Sure, did they? No, which is why you could also say that brands like Mitsubishi and Suzuki still have some life in them and could rebound...

And if a brand that is "contracting and dying on the vine" were the sole basis for whether or not to save a brand or not, then the revival and capital infusion of monies into Saturn, Cadillac, Mitsubishi, Isuzu, Suzuki or even Lincoln (which you advocate saving) would be a none-starter. Lincoln sales have plummetted over the last decade with a reversal only just starting. If Ford had the same idea as yours, the brand wouldn't even be considered for new products and the plug would be pulled (afterall, one could argue that Ford now has Jaguar and Volvo to add to the luxo-end, why do we need Lincoln?). Or for that matter, the increase in sales at Saturn wouldn't be adding to GM's bottomline.

So I don't think this is as simple as, "Its dying so kill it". If anything, with a little money you can turn something that was once damaged into something worth promoting. Its just about direction and spending dollars wisely -- which FoMoCo has yet to do.

Just my opinion of course, I could be wrong.

-NADP

Anonymous said...

"I think that a new logo could help this and might drive more sales for Lincoln-Mercury franchises."

It is delusional to think that a declining brand can be salvaged by a new logo. Recent history is proof: Eagle, Geo, Isuzu, Oldsmobile, and soon Mercury..

Ray G.

Anonymous said...

QUOTE RAY G.: "It is delusional to think that a declining brand can be salvaged by a new logo."

The question really isn't about a logo -- a logo will not save a brand unto itself.

But if a brand is "recaste" or "rejuvinated" or the related, a new logo along with a better product, new styling and a better PR/Marketing campaign can change the image of a brand and drive up sales.

Everyone keeps looking at one portion of this -- the logo. The point isn't the logo, its if you take 5 or 6 steps (and a logo/pr/marketing/etc certainly involved in that), then you can plausibly stem the tide and add sales.

In addition, Mercury stands for nothing -- it's only a sales outlet at this point. It doesn't share much with it's glory days (the 50s/60s) and it doesn't have an image or historical tie to any of it's famous monikers. It's a brand in limbo.

But this means they can recaste and re-position the brand anyway they want -- much as Saturn has been recaste at GM or how Hyundai has been repositions as "not as cheap as you first thought" or Suzuki is no chasing an image that is saying, "We make motorcycles, too, so we must be cool". Brands can shift.

And since killing the brand isn't actually a viable alternative, it leaves Ford with the only (and plausible) choice but to invest in the brand -- just as soon as it fixes Ford and Lincoln of course (you gotta get those two brands straightend out first before you try and tackle Mercury).

But the larger point remains, it's not really about a logo (though it wouldn't hurt), it's about an image that must be replace or improved on. Improve the image, improve the product, improve the marketing, and you'll get a better following.

And if you don't believe that, look at Subaru -- no one really cared much for the brand 10 years ago and it was an also-ran in the autobusiness. Then all of a sudden they had the WRX and the entire brand started to look better. All of a sudden Subaru's were kinda cool and edgy -- just b/c of a single car. Surely that can happen for other brands as well.

But that's just me --- and all I'm doing is looking to other examples of what's come before in the autobusiness.

Anonymous said...

Gee, Vince, that's a nice little bit of inspiration you ripped off from another source without citing them. If you're going to be inspired by something you read, the least you could do is credit the folks who did the work to actually pose the question and get it answered so you could have your little blog-fest over here.

Jac said...

NADP you never answered David's question which was Quote= "More importantly, what does a "Mercury" mean to the average car buyer anyway?"

Why does Ford need a Lincoln-Mercury? and what is a Lincoln-Mercury? In other words, relevance.

The car business is all about perception and image. Lincoln was to represent 'supposed luxury'. Remember those words "supposed luxury". Instead what did Ford do?
Married it to Mercury.

Consequently, and logically Lincoln becomes diluted in the mind of the customer who thinks Lincoln should mean luxury but when the Lincoln buyer visits Lincoln he sees a Mercury mixed in with a ?

Lincoln-Mercury is false psuedo luxury-low cost entry level brand. Or is it?

Marketing is part science and voodoo. The science is the apple of logic which stimulates the luxury car buyers brain's buy-in that their brand means exclusivity and the voodoo is making them believers of that brand by creating desirable cars built around that image.

The Lincoln-Mercury brand does neither.

Name one luxury car brand that is wedded to an 'entry-level' brand? What? I don't see one.

The bottom line: It's too easy and safe to remain in the status quo especially when it's convenient to try and fix what is already long past repair.

The gutsy move is to re-build Linclon into a true luxury brand and dump all the other so-called legacy luxo brands like Jag.

The next would be to infuse Ford with product that people want and will buy by not diluting it with Mercury.

It doesn't matter what you or I think the market place is deciding everyday to leave Mercury behind. A year from now it wouldn't really matter. Mercury's future was long fated because it could never stand alone and Lincoln has suffered because of it.

Jac

Anonymous said...

Lincoln now has the MKZ (Zephyr was a better name IMO) and there could be other Lincoln-branded cars to keep dealers happy with a range of vehicles as diverse as it is now.

Ultimately every Ford Motor Co. dealer could sell Ford cars and trucks along with Lincolns--no need for a second network of dealers with volume as low as it is for Lincoln/Mercury.

Mercury is a pure cost--a brand few people would miss if it disappeared. Every Mercury is nothing more than a re-badged Ford anyway.

A broadened Lincoln car line makes more sense for a company that must downsize.

Anonymous said...

the marauder have the same logo