“One of the coolest people I’ve ever known…”

This type of praise has been echoed many times. This time, it’s by Kenneth M. Czubay, vice-president for Sales and Marketing for Ford Motor Co., describing his boss, Alan Mulally, Ford’s chief executive officer.

The occasion was Ken Czubay’s appearance before a full house at the College of Charleston’s School of Business in the Beatty Center. The topic: ”The Ford Turnaround.”

Ford Motor Co., you may recall, was the only member of the Detroit Big Three that refused to even consider bankruptcy. The company managed the feat by mortgaging most of its properties to the tune of $20 billion. After the company has acquired the $20 billion, what course of action was taken? “Without a change, Ford was heading to bankruptcy. Business as usual wasn’t enough to repair a struggling brand in the face of macroeconomic headwinds,” Czubay said.

He then enumerated some of the measures Ford took to complete the turnaround. It started with the product offerings. Czubay: “The company accelerated development of new products our customers want and value — to deliver profitable growth for all.” The company also set out “to serve all markets (worldwide); complete the family of products and to be best-in-class in design, quality, green, safety and smart (technologies).”

That was the plan. Then, the sales and marketing vice-president pointed out, the company at that time had 45 product platforms (think: chassis) worldwide — a huge expense to maintain and upgrade models. Next year, Ford will have 11 platforms globally.

Quality, Green, Safety and Smart became the foundation for major facets of marketing at Ford Motor Co. The marketing department communicated to Product Development “that all innovation should focus on these four pillars, and co-developed a collaborative benchmarking process to enable the request,” Czubay stressed.

He gave an example of gaining people’s attention. Fiesta was a sales hit in Europe. The question was: how to get U.S. attention to an import? The car was rated at 40 miles per gallon so, instead of the usual auto national advertising, “We put 100 Fiestas in the hands of 100 ‘agents’ and asked them to share their real, unfiltered, unedited experiences with the world.”

Results: “With our product as the entertainment, we truly found a way to ‘be’ what people are interested in and lots of them were: 31,000 pieces of original Fiesta content, 52,000 test drives, 17 million consumer engagements.”

Here is another example, as expressed by Czubay: “Reinventing the SUV was only half of the new Explorer launch.” He showed how Ford marketing handled the challenge:

Situation: “Reinventing the SUV wasn’t enough, Ford wanted to redefine the way we talk with consumers about our new products!”

Task: “Like nothing done before via Facebook, Ford answered consumer questions with text, photos and videos in real time.

Action: Ford enlisted actors, dancers, employees, engineers, musicians, athletes and an “answer man” to provide real time answers to all questions in various ways.

Results: Ford answered more than 1,200 consumer questions, made 459,000,000 impressions, counted 2.4 million views of 150 videos, achieved 240 percent incremental audience reach and created 143,000 advocates (on Facebook) now telling the Explorer story for Ford.

Impressive, indeed. These were just a few examples of Ford promotion efforts. In Czubay’s own words, here were the overall results:

“We moved the national and emotional drivers of favorable opinion in the right direction. With consistent emphasis on the four key brand attributes in our product development and communications since the third quarter of 2008, we have seen consistent progress.

“Favorable opinion has significantly improved since 2007 — a significant shift that directly impacts the bottom line.”

Yes, Ford Motor Co. is back to profitability; the huge debt is being paid off. It is no wonder why CEO Alan Mulally and his team, including Ken Czubay, receives such glowing credit.

One automotive writer wrote, “Ford is back!”

It never left! Dr. George G. Spaulding is a retired General Motors executive and distinguished executive-in-residence emeritus at the School of Business at the College of Charleston. He can be reached at 2 Wharfside St. 2A Charleston SC 29401.