Now we have seen everything. One of the world’s most storied companies is out of trademarks – that little blue oval decal that reads “Ford.”
According to reports, their supplier cannot provide the correct number of blue decals, such as the ones Ford puts on the back of its F-150 trucks. And of course that trademark is very important, especially on a pickup where the brand is smiling at you from outside the tailgate, while the brand in the center of the steering wheel is usually staring you straight in the face.
Just a few weeks ago, Ford filed nearly two dozen metaverse-related trademarks. But now the problem isn’t trademarks; the problem is making them. Everyone knows why the brand is so important. It’s the finishing touch. It is the piece de resistance. It is the period at the end of the sentence. It’s the target. It is the tower of Pisa. It’s the smile on the Mona Lisa. (…Apologies, Cole Porter.) We all know the value of the trademark.
We all know the talk about the value a brand adds to luxury brands. We’ve all heard people say, “I’m not just paying for the name.” But keep going, that’s exactly what people will do. They pay for the name. That hallmark. Boy, that’s crucial! That’s why companies argue about trademarks.
I’ve seen a lot over the years. I have seen countless products taken off the market because of their trademark. Trademark Infringement. Confusion. Disappointment. Fake. I’ve seen it all.
I’ve also seen products fly off the shelves where one of my clients has a strong trademark and comes up with the perfect line extension to jump into a whole new product category and leverage his prized trademark to transfer all that goodwill from one successful product to new success.
But ever since I first read about this Ford dilemma, I’ve been racking my head for days trying to figure out if I’ve ever seen a product go off the market because of a trademark shortage. No shortage of goods, nor raw materials. We are not talking about shipping delays. We are not talking about distribution problems, strikes or natural disasters. We are talking about a shortage of brands.
You can pay anywhere from $34,000 to over $96,000 for an F-150. Nothing on the trademark decal will affect acceleration, performance, towing capacity, sound systems, fuel economy or safety.
NAPA Auto Parts says the average car has more than 30,000 parts. The F-150 comes with six engine options, seven trim levels, and so many options that some estimates say there are over 20 million possible configurations.
If you’ve ever had the chance to see vehicles assembled in real life, such as at the legendary Rouge factory where they make the F-150 just outside Detroit, you’ll find that this wondrous process involves an orchestra of hydraulic elevators lift and lower the chassis during assembly, assembled by workers with hydraulically suspended tools. It wouldn’t surprise anyone these days if a chip shortage brought the process to a halt.
But that emblem, that nameplate, that trademark, has to be there. According to reports, Ford has been thinking about alternatives such as laser etching or modifying the trucks when the badges become available. No doubt some people would have bought the car without the Ford decal on it. Many or maybe most would just wait. With all the issues in the supply chain, we’ve really come to the end of the road with this. As Henry Ford said, “You can’t build a reputation based on what you’re going to do.” No trademark, no truck.