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Ford Still Trying to Get Millennials to Like Them

Poor Ford.

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They’re trying so hard. They’re like the Cassandra of the car world, foretelling the future of less driving, more transportation options, a preference for car-lite urban living. They’ve been re-designing their Mustang to appeal to younger folks and stressing their move away from cars and toward “mobility opportunities” (like driving cars). And now they’re holding panels with hip marketing firms, trying to figure out how to crack that elusive youth market. You know, the one that doesn’t want to buy cars.

Salon was there yesterday and brings us this dispatch:

The invitation from Ford, which had put on the event, told us the goal: “use data, trends and expertise to show that Millennials aren’t just a bunch of PBR-drinking hipsters who spin vinyl and ride bikes.” We were trepidatious. …

Attendees were asked to tweet about the event using the hashtag “#fordtrends.”

Cars went little discussed, at first: The Ford Fiesta, around which the company had tried to build a “movement” by lending cars, for free, to “influencers” and asking them to document their experience online, was generally agreed upon to have been a success among millennial car buyers. But the event was intended generally to get a sense of how brands might attach themselves, lamprey-like, to millennials who lack purchasing power as yet. Said [David] Rabkin, of American Express: “We attract a ton of millennials but aren’t able to approve them for many of our products, so we need to work on a relationship. Who are they now vs. who will they be when they hit our sweet spot of people who spend a lot of money? But we do love their spend.”

If you can decode ad-speak and know what “we do love their spend” means, please let me know in the comments. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure it means they’re trying to suck blood from a stone, so actually, never mind.

The assembled marketing geniuses lamented the shiftlessness of Gen Y, their laziness about finding jobs amid a recession that erased 2.5 million jobs that it never put back, but took heart that they all have trust funds, so really, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be buying Ford Fiestas. They’re so fun and youthful! And even if they can’t buy those cute little buggies now, well, Ford will be there, aggressively marketing to them, when the millennials hit that “sweet spot” of earning power. They’ll be wrapping cars in tattoos! They’ll be reminding this tech generation that there are lots of little computers in cars! They’ll be totally hip to the whole mobile phone thing!

So, um, Ford? We hate to bust this bubble for you. Millennials aren’t buying your cars, and it’s not because they’re too lazy to afford them. It’s because they’re just not that into you. That whole cruising-around-Main-Street-in-your-hot-wheels thing? They’re sort of over that. Not that young folks have totally given you up – the addiction you’ve helped inculcate in our culture persists all too strongly – but young people just coming into their prime simply will not replace all the driving that was done by the older folks that are retiring now.

If you really want to keep up, maybe you should start manufacturing streetcars or bikes?

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