Without consultation, plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.
In the 1950s, the Ford Motor Company had high hopes for the new model car they developed.
They hired the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Marianne Moore to suggest a name for the car. She created a dazzling list that included: “The Intelligent Whale,” “The Mongoose Civique,” the “Andante con Moto,” “The Pastelogram,” and “The Utopian Turtletop.” In the end, however, Ernest Breech, chairing a meeting in the absence of the company president, Henry Ford II, decided to name the car after his boss’s father.
Unfortunately, Henry Ford II’s dad was Edsel, which sounded funny to the public. Later, when Ford’s David Wallace sent market analysts to ask people on the street what “immediate associations” they made with “Edsel,” they responded with: “Schmedsel,” “Pretzel,” “Weasel,” – and most disturbing of all, 40% responded with: “What?”
Ford insiders, who knew and admired Edsel Ford, thought the name was perfect. PR director, C. Gayle Warnock, however, disagreed. When he learned of the name of the new car he left a one-sentence memo on his boss’s desk: “We have just lost 200,000 sales.”
The ad campaign, costing $250 million (in the 1950s), raised consumer expectations to a high pitch with their “car of the decade.” In October, 1957, CBS replaced The Ed Sullivan Show with a live broadcast of The Edsel Show. Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Louie Armstrong, Rosemary Clooney, and Bob Hope were among the guest stars. During rehearsal, when Rosemary Clooney practiced walking up to her purple Edsel and opening the door, the door handle fell off.
When the car was unveiled to the public, they hated it. “Edsel” sounded like a silly name for a car. Ford’s marketing campaign called their new car unusually graceful, but the public though it was ugly. One man described the garish “horse collar” grill as looking “like a Mercury sucking on a lemon.”
The U.S. was in a recession and the public wanted smaller, fuel-efficient cars. The Edsel was more expensive than comparable cars and, among gas guzzlers, was exceptionally thirsty.
High confidence and success are almost always attended by a disinterest in listening to the opinions of others. To be attentive to the spiritual counsel of others doesn’t mean we necessarily agree with their advice. It simply means we consider the viewpoints of everyone seriously, because everyone has something to teach us.
In the end, it’s more important for us to grow wise from the counsel of others, than to think we’re brilliant in our own eyes.
If you ever find yourself struggling with this concept, ask the makers of the Edsel for their reflections.
(text copyright by Marty Kaarre)