NYT's Vlasic Hearts Ford Marketing Chief Jim Farley

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
nyt s vlasic hearts ford marketing chief jim farley

When The New York Times hired Detroit News writer Bill Vlasic, they acquired one of Motown's most enthusiastic cheerleaders. To be fair, Vlasic has raised his game. Today's tribute to Ford Marketing Maven Jim Farley is an epic hagiography that all but nominates the RI high school grad for sainthood. The lead paints Farley as a tortured (as in deeply caring) soul: "Yet as he sat in an empty conference room before his keynote speech, Mr. Farley was introspective. 'How am I doing? You know, I can’t answer that question, how am I doing,' he said. 'It’s too complicated.'" Not for Vlasic it isn't. Farley's doing great! "A mop of tousled brown hair and a boyish smile lend a disarming youthfulness to a 45-year-old executive who has already put together an enviable track record during his 17 years with Toyota. Despite that unassuming demeanor, Mr. Farley is zealous, driven to resurrect Ford’s image in the American marketplace." Vlasic puts one barb in his love letter: the then-Toyota exec's reaction to GM's criticism of Scion. “I couldn’t care less about Detroit,” he said in 2003. “My prediction is that they will follow us.” Pysch! It's a set-up for Farley's Road to Damascus moment. "'What do I want to be?' he recalled thinking. 'What do I want my legacy to be? Do I want to spend two weeks in Japan debating the price of a new Lexus, or do I want to make a real difference?'" And, lest we forget, real money. But hey, I'm cynical. After reading this four-page puff piece, you would be/will be too.

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4 of 5 comments
  • RobertSD RobertSD on Apr 20, 2008

    The reason ads like that work is because Toyota is assumed by vast portions of the population to be superior in every way. Ford isn't telling people anything they don't already assume when they say their quality is now in a dead heat with Toyota. Ford's brand would be good to ride Toyota's coat tails of perception until their own image can stand next to it on its own perception. What was Farley supposed to say at the time? We're worried about this new competitor? No. Of course he would brush it off. What would he say to the Tundra's commercials comparing it to an F-150 now that he's at Ford? Probably something like: a truck's engine doesn't make its frame durable The story might be a little over the top, but Farley is a great asset to Ford, and he will be one of the primary drivers - almost as important as its product, in many ways - that will help make Ford relevant again.

  • Healinginfluence Healinginfluence on Apr 20, 2008

    This NYTimes article disappointed me. Troubled organizations often look for someone to lead them to the promised land and these leaders are applauded like they have some magic. What they need are cars that people want to buy. I am very tired of US car companies saying their cars are as good as those made by Toyota. Who else markets this way? The usual way is to say buy our product because it is better than the competition. I don't have the impression that Ford and GM even try to be better than the Japanese companies. It takes time for people to believe the quality is there. The article made me think that Ford is deluded and in deeper trouble than I thought.

  • Peoplewatching04 Peoplewatching04 on Apr 21, 2008

    I agree with 'healinginfluence.' Since when has any company risen to the top by being "as good as" their competition? Last time I checked, companies need a competitive advantage to survive, and being "as good as" Toyota or Honda isn't a competitive advantage. It's not a reason for someone to switch from an Accord to a Fusion.

  • Blowfish Blowfish on Apr 21, 2008

    Is not easy as Mr. Farley is sitting at the opposite end. Perhaps he could try this line" The operation was a success but the patient didnt make it" Can fool some people some of the times but not all the people all the time. Especially when your wabbits are running low in your magical top hat.