DEARBORN - For advertising executives, selling the first-generation Ford Mustang wasn’t a terribly difficult job. More than 400,000 Mustangs were purchased in the first year of sales – 22,000 orders on day one. Still, great word-of-mouth can always use a helping hand from a good ad. A peek through Ford’s Dearborn archives reveals magazine and newspaper ads, slogans and themes that seem like they could have been plucked from an episode of AMC’s popular “Mad Men” series.
A good number of those ads would be considered politically incorrect or well-trod ground today, but many of these marketing concepts were just being invented 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 options. With so many ways for a customer to personalize a Mustang, it was possible that no two cars would be exactly alike.
The range of ads was crafted to demonstrate that there was a Mustang to fit and enhance almost any lifestyle. The value proposition of Mustang as an everyman’s car, as a glamorous roadster or high-performance sports car were just some of the different themes used. Here’s a look at how one of the most loved cars of all time was sold to the public.
Click here for the original sales brochure for the 1965 Ford Mustang.
Mustang was unveiled with great fanfare at the 1964 World’s Fair, but here we see a sort of soft introduction for the far-flung public. The car is sold based on the quality of the Ford brand rather than its own merits. Other than a bit of rhyming and alliteration and the brand slogan, "Ford-built means better built," there isn’t a tagline for the pony car just yet, although "it puts the tang in Mustang" does have an entertaining ring to it.
The first of three Mustang-specific print ads strikes the modern eye as a quaint "Buy the car and get the girl" idea, but it’s presented in such an over-the-top manner as to be tongue in cheek. In this example Bernard buys himself a Mustang and soon after wins San Francisco in a card game! We also see the odd moniker of "Mustanger" used to refer to all Mustang owners.
Like the classic 98-pound weakling from the Charles Atlas body-building ads in comic books, Mustanger Desmond is a weak man made strong in this ad. All Desmond has to do is buy his 289-cubic-inch V8-equipped hardtop! He even trades in his cat for an heiress.
The firWolfgang went from a struggling harpsichordist to fame and fortune all because he purchased a Mustang. His traveling companion does look a bit bored with the constant adulation though. The "Mustang! Mustang! Mustang!" slogan in the corner of the ad could use a bit of gussying up.
This is a perfect ad to appeal to the slightly older buyer. Mustang had a strong presence in the youth market, but that didn’t mean a man in his ‘50s couldn’t have some fun in a pony car.
"The Sweetheart of the Supermarket Set" slogan is one that would never make it in today’s politically correct world. This is an ad aimed at buyers looking for a car that’s economical and affordable, which Mustang was with the standard 200-cubic-inch inline-six while still providing a healthy dose of style. It’s was important to point out the relatively compact Mustang did have a large enough trunk to go shopping since many Americans were still used to absolutely enormous cars then.
What better way to get new customers dreaming of a Mustang than getting ‘em hooked early. Nearly 50 years later, Mustangs are still among the most popular automotive toys available.
Another buyer taking the Mustang pledge does so in what we today would call a "humblebrag." A fairly clever way to integrate a strong visual statement and the car’s many desirable features.
"Take the Mustang Pledge" is one of the few formalized slogans used over multiple ad campaigns. There’s great, rebellious imagery in this advertisement as well.
Here’s a great ad for the design-tweaked 1967 Mustang, complete with a rather aggressive, sporty tag line "Bred first... to be first," a clear jab at the new competition from across town. That 390-cubic-inch big-block V8 and disc brake combo was the hot option many performance buyers fell in love with.
This example of a period-appropriate ad that probably wouldn’t make it in today’s world. The husband wants the control of a manual and the wife is assumed to want the convenience of automatic shifting. "Selectshift" is a great way to present what we’d think of as the normal operation of any of today’s automatic transmission-equipped vehicles.
This variant of the "Mustang Pledge" theme builds off the staggering sales success of the car, with more than 1.5 million sales in the first three years. With so many Mustangs on the road, Ford highlighted the ample options list available that enabled drivers to be part of the huge and growing community of Mustangers while still remaining ostensibly unique.
Harkening back to the 1965 ads, we find buying a Mustang has transformed Sidney from a nerdy office drone to a guy with a life and bathing beauties literally hanging off his arms. "Only Mustang makes it happen" indeed. Mustang’s very affordable starting price and extensive options list is again highlighted to show that every Mustang can be as unique as its owner.
This full spread ad is like the swingin’ ‘60s all wrapped up in one package. The very muscular, redesigned ‘69 Mustang, a girl in a bikini and a couple in matching jumpsuits playing a guitar... just because. The tag line at the top corner is an excellent call to action, a little rebellious, a little sinister, all appealing to a potential customer.