Most everyone knows something about “The Edsel” and it’s failure. What most don’t know is that the failure wasn’t one of mere design but also of marketing. The first rule of marketing is: “Find a market and then design a product to fill that market’s needs”. The designers of The Edsel thought that they already had a market for the new car they had come up with. Their error was grave. It cost, Ford something to the tune of 250 million dollars in 1950s money.
Let’s go back to the first rule of marketing and reverse it like The Edsel’s designers did. Let’s supposed that you’ve created a product that straightens hair. Well you’d have designed a wonderful product. The problem is, it won’t sell in The Orient where you’re trying to market it. You didn’t follow the first rule of marketing. You’d have been better off to make a product that curls hair.
Sometimes, products just have bad luck. Marketers can’t really help that, but once again, make sure your market absolutely needs this product and all market indicators say so before you carry on. If you don’t, it can cost you or a company a lot of money. Here is an example of really bad luck. It is also an old Joke but it fits the bill. A man opened the first Japanese Steak House in the U.S. As you know, the Benny Hannah chain is the most famous of Japanese Steak houses and a great place to eat. It’s been copied over and over across the U.S. and other countries. Let’s go back to the man who opened the first Japanese steak house, long before Benny Hannah, in the U.S. He opened on December 6th 1941. Really bad luck huh?
The Edel’s marketers did not listen to the polls and surveys they had to work with. They decided that they knew better than the market and went forward with the design such as a front grill that looked like a Vagina because they wanted to appeal to women. It also did not help the product that it did not have it’s own assembly line. The “Bean Counters” at Ford decided to use a spare Mercury assembly line. The Mercury Employees did not like this as they viewed The Edsel as competition. Therefore they didn’t exactly do the best job they could.
When The Edsel hit the show room floors after months of marketing as something never done before unfortunately many of it’s features did not work well. It came in 18 different styles which had made it’s manufacture more difficult. Rear locking doors that were child proof, self lubrication systems, push button transmission controls, seat belts, etc. All of this was revolutionary but the problem was, the public wasn’t ready for it. You couldn’t blow the horn on an Edsel without shifting gears because the push button transmission was placed around the horn. Folks, just didn’t care for that. Finally, the pricing was not done well. It was almost the same price as the established “Mercury” brand and only slightly more than an everyday Ford. The marketing department, the manufacturers, and the “Bean Counters” had just not communicated well. It took three years to figure that out. The Edsel was discontinued.
Today, in 2019 a fully restored Edsel with bring about 15 thousand dollars. A convertible model fully restored can bring as much as 50 thousand dollars. I have no doubt that many are still sitting in garages or warehouses around America just waiting for restoration. It just wouldn’t be worth it. The Vehicle is/was a flop. It’s designers didn’t listen to the market of the time.
118,000 Edsel’s were built based on futuristic thinking, but bad luck (Recession), bad planning (using Mercury factories), bad designs (Transmission buttons on Steering wheel), and bad ears (not listening to the polls/surveys) resulted the demise of the model. Always, give the market what it asks for and not what you think it should have. That is, if, you wish to make money.