Today’s Clydesdales

By: Sandy Swanson

A few years ago my friend Norman, a contractor, traded in his burgundy-colored van for a white cargo van. As I drove around town, I would see a white van and think it was him. I would see van after van after van, and it was never him. I kept thinking, “Who are all these people in white cargo vans driving around Columbus?” It is now a counting game. I can drive between my home and office, a span of less than a mile, and see 10-15 of these white vans daily. Plumbers, contractors, glass installers, painters—all doing their work with the help of a reliable vehicle to take them to each work site.

Norman’s van is a Ford Econoline – a vehicle I characterize as the workhorse, a Clydesdale of our day. I did a little research and learned a few interesting facts about this van. This model has been the best-selling full-sized van for 32 years. Secondly, they have not called it Econoline since 2001, replacing it with the “E-Series” model name. Finally, in 2013, Ford will be building a new full-size van, called the Transit, to replace the current Ford E-Series due to new gas mileage rules.*

This got me thinking about brand loyalty. I have never owned a commercial van, but somehow the Econoline name is etched in my memory, though Ford has not branded it that way for more than a decade. If it has such strong brand identity with me, it’s not hard to imagine why it has been such a best seller for the service industry. Who wouldn’t kill for such brand recognition?

We all need tools to do our jobs. For some, it’s a customized piece of software. Perhaps it is a paintbrush or a ladder. Maybe it is a laptop, airplane ticket, or a cargo van to transport equipment. Sometimes, the tools become generic, but we also develop loyalty to certain brands and products. One person prefers Marriott over Hyatt. Another uses Craftsman over Stanley Tools. And clearly, for those in the service industry, the Ford Econoline still commands allegiance. Let that be a lesson to all of us.

The next time you are out on the road, count how many plain, white Ford Econoline vans you see. I think you will be surprised. The color enthusiast in me sees a blank canvas that deserves a logo or splash of color, but there is an elegant simplicity in this unassuming, but reliable workhorse.

What do your products and services offer to build that kind of brand loyalty? Please share with us.

* Ford Econoline Van Reaches the End of the Line, John Voelcker, December 8, 2011

©OrangeBoy, Inc. 2012

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One thought on “Today’s Clydesdales

  1. Pingback: The Root of the Problem | OrangeBoy, Inc.

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