Ford Facts...The Naming Of The Edsel

In 1955, Ford's advertising agency Foote, Cone and Belding was charged with finding a suitable name for the soon to be released "E" car.

The agency had gathered no less than 18,000 suggestions ranging from "Resilient Bullet" to "Mongoose Civique" to the "Varsity Stroke." Unimpressed, Ford's Ernest Breech took delight in jokingly mispronouncing the ad agency's name as Foot, Corn And Bunion.

Meetings on the name selection were held everyday right after lunch in the new "E" divisions headquarters. The name suggestions were all printed in block letters, capitals only, six inches high, some white on black and some black on white

. For a half hour, the names would be silently appear on a screen in front of an assembly of Ford executives. When a name pleased a particular viewer, they would yell "stop" and a discussion of the name would ensue.

David Wallace, who ran the meetings, became frustrated after several half hour sessions went by without a single "stop" being heard from the executives. To test their reactions, he inserted a slide bearing the letters B-U-I-C-K. When even this failed to draw a reaction from his viewers, he concluded that the sessions were being used as an opportunity for an after lunch nap.

The work progressed and the 18,000 names were reduced to 6,000 and then to 400. Nearly a year after starting, an ultimate list, on a single sheet of paper, was submitted on November 8th. 1956 to the Ford Executive Committee.

Of the 16 names it contained, consumer interviews favored "Corsair." Runner-up status went to "Ranger" and "Pacer." When Wallace told the executive committee that tests indicated "Corsair" received the highest level of consumer acceptance, the committee was unimpressed. They were not excited about any of the proposals.

Ernest Breech, who chaired the meeting in Henry II's absence, looked slowly at every member of the committee and declared that if this was the best selection available, "Why don't we just call it the Edsel!"

Edsel was the name that many of the newspapers had suggested when they first heard about the new "E" division that was announced in the summer of 1955. It seemed to fit well. An old family name on a brand new product.

When the idea to name the car the "Edsel" was presented to the Ford family they were not pleased at all. Henry II replied in the strictest word that his fathers name should not even be considered. And, when Charlie Moore, vice-president of public relations presented the idea Eleanor Ford, she slammed the door in his face.

Mrs. Edsel Ford was always a lady, especially in her dealings with Ford employees. But she was extremely unhappy about the use of her dead husbands name and so were her children.

It took an incredible amount of persuasiveness to convince the Ford family to overcome their instincts that the name "Edsel" was all wrong for the "E" car. In fact, the truth was stretched by Ford executives by overstating the Executive Committee's enthusiasm and public acceptance of the name.

The decision to name the "E" car the "Edsel" was a classic example of the growing isolation of Detroit from mainstream America. People in Detroit knew who Edsel Ford was and what he stood for but to the rest of the country "Edsel" was nothing more than a funny name. In fact, when market researchers asked people on the street to give their "immediate associations" upon hearing the name Edsel the came back with answers such as "Schmedsel", "Pretzel" and "Weasel." Nearly 40% simply reacted with "What??"


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