Nov 8, 2013 | Dearborn, Mich.
Selling The Ford Mustang – 1960s Style
- The ability to easily personalize Ford Mustang helped it appeal to a broad audience from its first days on sale in April 1964
- Recognizing that there was a Mustang for almost everyone, Ford crafted ads that were similarly personalized to different customers
- Mustang ads promoted the community of Mustangers while at the same time reminding viewers of their ability to stay individual within the larger group
Advertising has come a long way in the last five decades, something clearly demonstrated by taking a look back at print ads from the early years of Ford Mustang.
For advertising executives, selling the first-generation Mustang wasn’t a terribly difficult job. With its combination of compact size, sporty style, performance, affordability and myriad customization options, Mustang was ideally suited to the mid-1960s.
Mustang was originally conceived as an affordable, sporty car that would appeal to young baby boomers looking for a ride that was distinct from the big sedans their parents drove. As development progressed and then production launched in early 1964, it soon became apparent that young adults weren’t the only drivers in search of something new.
Music, culture and fashion were turned upside down relative to the buttoned-down 1950s and it seemed everyone wanted to break free. More than 400,000 Mustangs were purchased in the first year of sales – 22,000 orders on the first day. It seemed everyone was talking about Mustang.
Still, great word of mouth can always use a helping hand from a good ad. A peek through the Ford Motor Company archive in Dearborn turned up dozens of print ads from magazines and newspapers featuring slogans, and themes that seem like they could have been plucked directly from an episode of AMC's popular Mad Men series.
Having been spawned in an era when the gender equality movement was just taking root, many of those ads clearly reflect the era in which they were created. In many ways these marketing concepts were just being invented nearly five decades ago.
“From its first days on sale, Mustang was touted as ‘The Car Designed to be Designed By You’ thanks to its enormous range of available equipment and color options,” said John Clor, Mustang author and historian. “With so many ways for a customer to personalize a Mustang, it was possible that no two cars would be exactly alike.”
Similarly, the range of ads was crafted to attract different customers to the pony car variant that best fit and enhanced their lifestyle. No one was neglected in the Mustang marketing campaign.
One ad featured the tagline “The Sweetheart of the Supermarket Set” which was designed to appeal to the thrifty young mom with a fuel-efficient six-cylinder Mustang with a manual transmission. “Why see a marriage counselor?” promoted the SelectShift™ automatic transmission to middle-aged couples sharing a pony.
Even Desmond, the stereotypical 98-pound weakling was being drawn into Mustang community with the 289-cubic-inch V8 engine.
One interesting component of many of the ads is that they promoted the idea of drivers being part of the ever growing community of Mustangers while at the same time, remaining individuals by customizing their cars. In this way, people that are inherently social beings can be part of the group without feeling like sheep.
Between the ads, the fast growing community and the car itself, Mustang has been one of the greatest automotive success stories of all time. Nearly 50 years later, more than 8.7 million Mustangs have been sold and many of those early 1960s models remain on the road and loved by their owners.
Click here for the original sales brochure for the 1965 Ford Mustang.