Uncategorized Apr 03, 2024

It’s the 1950’s. The era of pointy boobs, Good Housekeeping, tv dinners, Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor.  Ford is one of the most successful car companies in the world, due to Henry Ford’s invention of the moving assembly line. In the fifties, Ford was riding the wave of the industrial revolution.

But then Ford decided to create a new car model that would fit between the Ford and Mercury brands, targeting the mid-priced automobile market. This ambitious project was named the Edsel, after Edsel Ford, the son of the company's founder.

Ford invested heavily in the development and marketing of the Edsel, allocating a substantial budget for design, production and promotion. The company aimed to make the Edsel a symbol of innovation and style, incorporating unique features and a distinctive design.

However, despite careful planning and substantial investment (US$250 million), the Edsel faced numerous challenges upon its launch in 1957. The car's unique design, including a distinctive vertical grille, did not resonate well with consumers, and the vehicle was widely criticized for its unconventional appearance. Additionally, mechanical issues and quality control problems plagued the Edsel, leading to poor reviews and customer dissatisfaction.

The marketing campaign for the Edsel also faced difficulties. The company hyped up the car's release with extensive advertising, but the public's response was underwhelming. The Edsel failed to meet sales expectations, and Ford's investment in the project turned out to be a financial disaster.

Within three years, Ford realised they had a lemon on their hands and discontinued the Edsel in 1960. It was the wrong car for the wrong market at the wrong time. It was also a prime example of being driven by personal ego, setting unrealistic expectations, and not doing extensive research amongst potential customers.

The Edsel's story serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of readiness and doing your homework. Embarking on a corporate partnerships strategy without prior preparation can also result in failure, even for an established non-profit. 

Non profits that fail at corporate partnerships often do so for the same reasons. Management and Board members, who have no substantive experience in actually securing corporate partnerships, set the (unrealistic) goal and expect a seasoned fundraiser, untrained in corporate negotiation, to achieve the goal in too short a time. Unprepared, not knowing what they tangibly have to offer or the value of their brand or assets, they approach the wrong person (within a corporate), using the wrong language (fundraising ask) at the wrong time (when they’re ready, rather than when the company is discussing and allocating budget).

My co-founder in BePartnerReady.com® is a veteran in corporate partnerships, having built over 50 partnerships in 29 years for corporates and trained thousands of non-profits. She’s developed this free Readiness Q&A so that you can identify whether your organisation is truly ready to embark on a corporate partnerships strategy. Give it a crack here.


Georgia McIntosh


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