For Bill Ford, the heart-stopping moment came when he was forced to put the Ford Motor Company’s iconic blue oval logo up as collateral. Otherwise, a consortium of banks would not have signed off on the $23 billion loan that would save the company from bankruptcy.
If we needed a reminder of the power of a brand’s identity, the astonishing equity in Ford’s logo is a darn good one.
Some of that strength is in the logo’s elegance, a simple cursive stamp that suggests Henry Ford signed every car he made. Its currency is all the more amazing given that Ford dropped the logo for a long stretch after World War II, replacing it with nearly generic block lettering up until 1978.
Ford dissed its oval a second time in 1999, when then-CEO Jacques Nasser sought to project a more upscale impression. The first thing Bill Ford did when he became CEO in 2001 was to restore it. “For me, it’s a very emotional symbol,” he told Bloomberg Businessweek. “It’s not just another corporate logo.”
Owners of every great brand undoubtedly feel the same way about their logo. They know it’s not just about a lovely bit of marketing art; it’s about everything it represents — quality, commitment, value, innovation, accountability, customer service … sometimes even fun.
Happily, Ford Motor has now met its obligations and re-claimed its logo. More important, the company appears determined to live up to what it means. Ford’s $23 billion logo is an inspiration to brand marketers everywhere, and a fitting prelude to our annual “brand identity” issue.