Why the Model T of 1908 is the First Social Media Brand

The Model T was unveiled on October 1, 1908 and it became the first social media brand. The Model T overnight changed American culture and because it did, it became the object of songs, poems, books, movies and plays. This created a dominant brand as does any contemporary product that becomes the object of social media branding.

To create a brand, a product and customers have to create a friendship. In the Model T’s case, the car became like a family member. This created incredible brand for the Model T. For the first time, a product became branded through customer created content. We have this feeling that social media brands are a new thing. In studying the era one of the most interesting facets of studying the Model T is that it became an almost human being. The Model T became a part of the family. The Model T of 1908 is similar to how Ford introduced the Ford Fiesta in 2009. Customer created content branded the car. This created a relationship between customer and brand.

One of the most successful social media campaigns has been Ford’s Fiesta Project. In the Fiesta Project, people took a Fiesta and made video around it, wrote posts and blogs, and created a lot of content that created a dominant brand. This happened in 1908. Some of the most popular songs, books, play, and movies revolved around the Model T. The Model T even had a name. “The Tin Lizzie” gave a human quality to the Model T. In 1914, one of the most popular songs in America was “The Little Ford Rambled Right Along”. There was even a Cars of 1908. “The Scandal of Little Lizzie Ford” depicts a demure T garaged with a rakish, low-slung sports car. Scandalous.

Simply put, the Model T changed the way Americans live in a way that no other product in our history has. Because this car was affordable to the average citizen, important support structure had to be built. Roads, parking lots, service stations, hotels, and a large part of the domestic hospitality industry were created as a result of the Model T. The car industry has developed the steel, rubber, and glass industry. The car business is the biggest customer of the upholstery business.

This structure has created jobs. It has created a middle class. When the Model T appeared in 1908, the per capita income of the US was $500 per person. To attract workers, Henry Ford offered a $5 wage, which was radical in that era. Because the auto industry was a “feeder”, and because Ford was an attractive contract to have, supportive businesses had to pay a wage that was comparable.

The automobile changed our dress, manners, social customs, vacation habits, the shape of our cities, consumer purchasing patterns, and created common tastes. Road construction spawned taxes. These taxes were the driver that allowed governments to create the publicly funded school system. One reason why America has been able to compete in the 20th century is the education level of our citizens.

The Model T influenced the way homes were built. In the building of a house, the front porch and parlor gave way to the building of a garage. Because the Model T was so affordable, the garage was built so that it could contain 2 cars. This also influenced the way in which couples courted one another. Before the Model T, couples courted one another in each other’s living room. The car created less supervision in dating.

Auto safety created a new industry. The development of traffic lights became a major industry. Traffic safety made millionaires out of a select group of entrepreneurs. Garret Morgan of Cleveland, a gifted African American inventor whose parents had been Kentucky slaves, followed up by patenting the modern four-way traffic light now used all over the world.

Dean Hambleton
dnhambleton@gmail.com