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Edsel

‘Part of the market research process [for the Ford Edsel] had been to find a suitable name for the new car. This should have been a good idea. After all, the highly popular Ford Thunderbird car, which had been launched in 1954, had gained its evocative name as a result of market research findings. This time, research teams were sent out to New York, Chicago and Michigan, where members of the public were asked what they thought of certain names and to come up with their own suggestions. There was also a competition among employees to come up with the best name, and the company even contacted the popular poet Marianne Moore. Her brief was to find a name which would signify a “visceral feeling of elegance, fleetness, advanced features and design”. Her rather eccentric suggestions included Mongoose Civique, Resilient Bullet, Utopian Turtletop and the Varsity Stroke.

‘Altogether, the company now had a pool of 10,000 names to choose from. Too many, according to company chairman, Ernest Breech, as he scanned through the names during a meeting of the Ford Executive Committee in November 1956. “Why don’t we just call it Edsel?” he asked, exasperated. Henry Ford II, the grandson of Henry Ford, agreed. Edsel was the name of his father and the Ford founder’s only son.

‘Not everyone held the same opinion, though. The PR director, C Gayle Warnock, knew that Edsel was not the right name. It had been an early suggestion, and had not been liked by those members of the public who had taken part in the market research (in word-association tests, it had been associated with “weasel” and “pretzel”—hardly the best associations for a dynamic new car). Warnock had preferred other names on the list, such as Pacer, Ranger, Corsair or Citation. When the decision was made, Warnock made his feelings perfectly clear [by] declaring: “We have just lost 200,000 sales”.

‘… the car’s front-end bonnet and grille commanded the most attention. “The front end design was the most prominent feature,” confirms Phil Skinner, a respected Edsel historian. “If you consider other cars from the mid-1950s, they all looked somewhat alike. Basically it was two headlights and a horizontal grille. By having the big impact ring in the middle—what we now call a horse collar—it really set the Edsel apart.”

‘Although some members of the automotive press commended this distinctive look, most were unappreciative. One reviewer famously remarked that it looked “like an Oldsmobile sucking a lemon”, while another thought the front-end grille was less like a horse collar and more like a toilet seat. (The customer comments later proved to be even worse with some saying that the grille looked like a “vagina with teeth”.)’

- Matt Haig, Brand Failures

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
offensive_mango
Jul. 2nd, 2008 12:03 pm (UTC)
Utopian Turtletop
Varsity Stroke

Ahh, w@nking methods of the 1950s, there, marvellous.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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