50 Years after the Edsel, marketers still often fail to understand the customer
My recent post about the lack of quality/service and dismissal of my complaint at the local BMW dealership seemed to draw a lot of attention. Unfortunately I think it’s easy even for us in the marketing profession to forget to listen to our customers. They are saying things to us all the time, not just when we ask them in surveys and focus groups, but also on the web (in discussion forums and blogs),to our call centers, and in emails.
That’s why this week Anderson Analytics will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Edsel. Our clients will be receiving postcards in order to help remind us all that when we stop listening to the customer, things can go terribly wrong.
In case you’ve forgotten, the Edsel was one of the most spectacular marketing failures of all time. Consumers were not receptive to the new car, despite Ford’s tremendous marketing efforts including an increased network of dealerships, creative teaser ads, and exclusive TV shows. Ford invested $400 million in the development of the Edsel, in the end, the company lost well over $350 million on the venture.
Some attribute the car’s failure to its unattractive styling. Edsel’s trademark “horse collar” grille was not in synch with the trending of consumer preference.
Part of its failure was due to confusing pricing segmentation. Consumers had a hard time understanding where the Edsel was positioned among Ford’s other models. Edsel was not priced, marketed, and perceived as a unique car; rather, it cannibalized Ford’s other offerings.
In addition, the changing economic condition and the shifting landscape of the automobile market at the time worked against the introduction of Edsel.
In the end it can all be attributed to Ford’s failure to listen to and understand the consumer.
Today there is little excuse not to listen to your customers. Online research has brought down costs and enabled faster turn around for both quantitative and qualitative research. RSS and Web/Screen scraping tools together with text and data mining allows us to process thousands of comments from the web or call center logs quickly and accurately.