As Ford expands efforts to electrify their fleet, the automaker is betting on better branding to take on Toyota’s hybrid hegemony.
Simplifying the Science
As Ford Motor Company prepares the next generation of hybrid vehicles for roll out across the country, the automaker is taking another pass at the branding it has long used to differentiate their hybrid lineup from the pack.
As Automotive News reported, the new branding strategy focuses on replacing the current “subtle signals and technospeak” with descriptions focused more on the performance and capabilities of the hybrids.
The automaker’s flagship brands, Lincoln and Ford, are each tackling the branding dilemma in slightly different ways.
On Ford’s part, brand names and identifying badges are getting a shakeup. Automotive News reports that the Energi brand, long used to describe Ford’s hybrid offerings such as the newly-cancelled Fusion line, is being retired. Replacing the current hybrid offerings is the upcoming 2020 Escape, which will feature replacement branding as well. The Escape’s plug-in variant will be dropping the iconic green leaf badge for a more straightforward design. The green and blue image will remain for the hybrid version as well as that of the 2020 Explorer.
Lincoln, on the other hand, is going with a more descriptive, flashy naming scheme to differentiate hybrid offerings. The automaker is adding the “Grand Touring” tagline to their the plug-in hybrid versions of the Aviator and Corsair crossovers, alongside blue-tinted logos. Lincoln hopes the focus on the hybrids’ capabilities will help clarify that the cars are no slouch when it comes to performance.
Highlighting Hybrid Potential
Mark Grueber, consumer marketing manager for Ford, discussed with Automotive News that transparency and clarity are a big part of the new branding. “We’re focused on delivering the attributes they care about and marketing it in a way that speaks to their priorities instead of making it more like a science project.”
A big part of that clarity is ensuring consumers know that the current lineup of hybrids are free from the constraints of the past and can take on the same challenges that traditional gas-guzzling variants tackle. “Hybrid technology has improved so much that you no longer need to make trade-offs in terms of a vehicle’s cargo or capability,” Grueber told Automotive News. “Some of the initial hybrids were just about fuel economy, and that’s it. Unlike the past, these new vehicles give customers more of the attributes they love.”
Lincoln’s rebranding with the Grand Touring moniker follows this idea closely, putting the focus back on how capable the carmaker’s hybrids are. Robert Parker, Lincoln’s marketing manager, told Automotive News that they want to “dispel the image of hybrids as weak fuel-sippers.”
Lincoln is backing those words up with real numbers. Automotive News noted that the Aviator Grand Touring will contain Lincoln’s highest-output powertrain, even more powerful than the non-hybrid version. With the Aviator Grand Touring’s electric motor paired with a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine, it will be able to generate 450 hp and 600 pound-feet of torque, a noticeable increase over the gasoline-only version’s ratings of 400 hp and 400 pound-feet of torque.
Emphasizing the true strengths of the latest hybrid vehicles is very important to countering customer concerns. Joy Falotico, Lincoln’s president, told Automotive News that drivers are still wary of the “hybrid tax” of the past, saying that customer research found that would-be buyers were fearful of giving up power if they chose hybrid powertrains. “We took that very seriously.”
One concern the change hopes to address is that so much emphasis on the hybrid technology in past branding may have harmed more than it helped. “I think we got a little bit too academic and a little bit too clever in some of those early iterations, and I think our peers did as well,” Parker told Automotive News. “Consumers just want a shorthand. They want to know what it is and why it matters.”
Parker hopes that this simplified approach will help welcome would-be customers to the hybrid lineups. “You can’t be warm, human and personally crafted if you need a decoder ring in your showrooms to explain what the technology is.”
Big Bucks in Electrification
With how much Ford is investing in expanding and electrifying their lineup, it’s no surprise they want to clear up this confusion now. Currently in second place, Ford is making a big push to pass Toyota’s lead in the United States hybrid market.
As Automotive News reported, executives at the automotive giant have said every utility that is either redesigned or added to its portfolio will come with an electrified option, whether it’s a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or fully electric.
With plans for 40 hybrid or fully electric vehicles coming to Ford’s lineup by 2022 and $11 billion invested in electrification, Ford is making one hell of a Hail Mary to take over the growing electric arena.
You don’t have to wait to get a taste of this electrifying future: come down to Colley Ford today and check out our hybrid lineup!