Ford’s ‘Pony Girl’ Brand Appeals to Tween Crowd

Hoping to harness that unbridled passion that young girls have for all things horsey, Ford will soon launch “Pony Girl for Mustang,” an automotive-inspired, lifestyle-driven licensing program aimed at tween and teenage girls. It’s the brand’s first play for the cohort.
The Beanstalk Group, New York, is Ford’s licensing agency, and its program went from 0 to 60 after research by trend tracker The Zandl Group indicated that the Mustang is the most desired car among girls ages 8 to 16. The program will break products down into roughly two tiers: One aimed at tweens (8-12) and the other at older girls (13-16). Apparel, accessories, home decor, stationery, jewelry, cosmetics and back-to-school partners are the main categories being explored.
A colorful style guide pairs Mustang’s iconic galloping pony silhouette with other girly icons, such as butterflies, flowers and stars. Aspirational taglines including “Untamed Heart,” “Run Free,” “A Pony is Forever” and “Let Loose” are offered for declarations on T-shirts and such in playful, vintage-inspired fonts. Depending on the category, products will hit the market in either late 2009 or early 2010.
Ford and Beanstalk will meet with mass retailers and chain specialty stores about distribution at this June’s Licensing Show. “Mustang is a mass market brand—it’s sort of the affordable muscle car,” said John Nens, director of global brand licensing for Ford Motor Co., adding that 9 million Mustangs have sold since 1964. “Licensing is all about reflecting the brand and this one is about value.” Nens said his age-appropriate daughters consulted on Pony Girl’s color scheme.

Those 1964 Mustangs pitched at the original baby boomers celebrate their 45th birthday this month. The classic car imagery tends to skew toward older males, while the tweens are twitterpated with more modern machines. Nens said that spoiled Sharpay of High School Musical drives a pink monogrammed Mustang. The V6 convertible, which sells for around $23,000, is considered the brand’s starter set of wheels.
Of course, with the woes the auto industry is facing, developing a tween licensing program is a way to add a much-needed revenue stream and forge brand loyalties at a tender age.
“[Licensing is] a way for young girls to get a piece of a Mustang before they’re old enough to obtain a driver’s license,” said Rachel Terrace, director, brand management at Beanstalk.
Ford has more than 350 licensees and an automotive program that generates $1.5 billion in retail sales annually. In addition to Mustang, Beanstalk has developed programs for Ford Trucks—the blue oval logo, Ford Vintage Vehicles, Ford Racing, Lincoln, Mercury and other brands.
“We haven’t asked for any government money,” Nens noted, “but it’s a challenge right now and licensing is a part of the marketing mix people don’t recognize. Mustang-licensed products communicates our brand values and promotes long-term viability.”
For that reason, Ford is keeping it aspirational and not promotional. There will be no dealer tie-ins, a la, inviting young women and their mothers in for test drives with visions of free Pony Girl T-shirts and fragrance bottles. “This is really about the essence of the brand,” Nens said. “And then, when they turn 18 or 20 years old, hopefully they’ll want to buy our car.”