Not Ford. This year, Ford, which rose to it highest ever ranking of 5th in last year’s J.D Power and Associates U.S. consumer study, has descended to 23rd. Toyota meanwhile, has risen to 7th, recovering from the recalls that resulted in last year’s placing of 21st. The rapid rise and fall of rank is a reminder that, while new product offerings and product recalls might have effects in the short term, brand equity is what dictates the long term viability.
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This is not to say that there is not equity in Ford’s brand, just that 23rd is probably a fair representation of that brand as it stands now. Likewise, 7th place is probably a more fair representation of Toyota’s brand equity.

Ford does heavy advertising and positive automotive reviews but awareness is not its problem. The problem is the messaging itself. Most often it talks about table stakes such as solid MPG or innovative features – claims that every competitor in the market makes. If companies only say what everyone else in the market can say, then they have no opportunity to create differentiation and growth.

Ford had a great 2010 but its future messaging must talk more about its brand and less about the specs of its automobiles. Talking about nice interiors, horsepower, MPG’s, and durability provides the rationale consumers use to justify the purchase. But brand is what makes them believe they need it in the first place.