Ford Escape Hybrid SUV–example of sham green marketing? (credit: Fordvehicles.com)
I periodically do blog posts about corporate advertising campaigns that are particularly smarmy, hypocritical and self-serving. Now, Ford Motor Company has entered my marketing Hall of Shame. The company has rolled out its new “green” Escape Hybrid SUV and it’s yelling from the rooftops how great it is. In the New York Times, April 7, 2004, (pages C12-13), it trumpets this ad text (please excuse the poor quality scan):
What kind of environmentally aware consumer believes that by driving their SUV into a previously remote or inaccessible backcountry site that they’re helping to preserve it?? The very act of driving to such locations helps to destroy–not preserve–them.
I haven’t been able to find this ad anywhere on the internet so I’ll quote the ad copy here (if anyone knows how I can locate an online version of this ad, please send me an e mail):
Introducing Earth’s first hybrid SUV. As the first and only gas/electric SUV, the Escape Hybrid compromises nothing…[It] deliver[s] engine performance that makes it the most fuel-efficient SUV ever…Which means that this SUV, by nature, is kinder and gentler on nature. Greener vehicles. Cleaner factories. It’s the right road for our company…
So let’s examine what’s problematic about this text. Who believes that the new hybrid SUV “compromises nothing?” If you do, I’m afraid you’re being quite gullible.
What can we say that’s positive about this new product? Well, it’s better than the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of the gas guzzling behemoths that constitute the bulk of Ford’s SUV/truck sales and profits.
But how many of these “green” SUVs will be sold compared to the gas guzzlers? 100? 1,000? What good is the Escape Hybrid’s being “the cleanest SUV ever” when the vast majority of Ford SUV sales will continue to be some of the most environmentally damaging (not to mention dangerous) vehicles on the road? What kind of “green” statement is the company really making? Ford wants to take credit for being “green” by selling a handful of environmentally “friendly” vehicles, while overlooking the fact that its other vehicles completely obliterate any environemental benefit provided by the new Escape Hybrid.
Anyone planning to buy this sucker will be helping to validate Ford’s self-serving “green” marketing campaign and sticking a undeserved feather into the company’s environmental cap. And whatever you do, if you buy it don’t follow the stupid advice of the ad slogan by taking to into the remote back country and helping to ruin previously unspoiled vistas.
In addition, Henry Clay Ford announced with great fanfare a few years ago that Ford was improving fuel efficiency for its SUVs by 25%, only to withdraw this statement shortly afterward. So where’s the much-vaunted Ford commitment to environmentalism? I guess it just went up in smoke. I don’t think this commitment is worth the paper the press release is printed on.
For more Ford smarminess and environmentally conscious marketing, visit its Environmental Initiatives site. Geoffrey Johnson of The Green Life has written a very sharp analysis of the Ford marketing campaign in his ‘Greenwashing’ Leaves a Stain of Distortion.