Ford’s Bronco relaunch demonstrates the power of nostalgia

Like Nintendo, Ford knows memories help sell

Ford is finally taking the wraps off the reborn Bronco next week. Literally. The company has teased the vehicle for months, showing a camouflaged SUV bouncing through rocky streams and charging over dusty hills. This week, the wraps come off and the sheet metal will finally be exposed.

The launch of the Bronco looks to be a masterclass in nostalgia. For the last few weeks, Ford has been feeding journalists with media assets — pictures, staged interviews and upcoming advertisements. I’ve yet to see the full vehicle because in the end, Ford is not relying on the Bronco itself to drive sales, but rather, is digging deep into the power of nostalgia to move the Bronco off lots.

Recalling the past can help companies develop a unified theme around a product or service. In this case with the Bronco, only recalling part of the past helps companies dial in messaging. With Ford, the company wants consumers in agreement: This is a tough vehicle and it’s always been a tough vehicle. Forget about OJ, these adverts say. Instead, look at how the Bronco was used by two burly men bounding over the rolling hills of a cattle ranch. Ford is digging deep into American lore to show the Bronco as a rugged conqueror of the frontier instead of a conqueror of parking lot flowerbeds.

The Bronco is an iconic American vehicle. It wasn’t the best-selling nor the best-performing vehicle in its class. It had reliability issues and was often underpowered and outclassed by competitors. And yet, like the Mustang, it was a hit for Ford. In 1966 Ford unveiled the Bronco as a competitor to the Jeep CJ-5 and International Harvester Scout. Ford took the Bronco racing and racked up wins in long-distance endurance races. Over its 31-year run, the Bronco remained true to itself as a two-door, sport utility vehicle.

The upcoming model is set to be different than the past. Ford is relaunching the Bronco as a family of vehicles with three models at launch. Little is known about the difference at this time, though the family appears to include a two-door off-roader, four-door version and an entry-level sport model.

Image Credits: Ford

The launch of the new Bronco is similar to how Ford launched the retro Mustang in 2005. At the time, the Mustang was coming off decades of stale designs and lagging sales. The Fox body Mustang of the 80s was boring at best (though the 5.0 engine is notable), and the swooping design of the ’90s model was uninspired. In 1999, Ford launched a sharp, modern take on the Mustang, and yet in a few years, it was time for something new.