Ford's blue oval logo and pick-up truck slogan fuels sales of licensed products from Hot Wheels toys to girls’ T-shirts.
Ford's blue oval logo and pick-up truck slogan fuels sales of licensed products from Hot Wheels toys to girls’ T-shirts. - 
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David Brancaccio: What's in a name? When it comes to a famous one like "Ford," there could be more than a billion dollars involved. That's what marketers are making these days just selling that company's trademarks, on all kinds of merchandise.

Here's our senior business correspondent Bob Moon.


Bob Moon: This week, Ford's improving financial health allowed the carmaker to take back control of its famous blue oval logo -- which Ford had essentially pawned, as collateral for the big loan that helped it survive. Chairman Bill Ford sounded relieved.

Bill Ford: It really means that Ford is back.

He may not have been exaggerating. A report from Forbes says the blue oval logo has become the company's hottest property in a booming product-licensing business. Goods ranging from Hot Wheels toys to "Built Ford Tough" T-shirts for girls take in $1.5 billion a year.

And the value goes far beyond that. So says Pete Canalichio, a branding expert at The Blake Project.

Pete Canalichio: The impact could be quite high.

Take, for example, the new "Forza 4" video game, which licenses images of Ford's cars. An added boost comes when fans talk up their virtual Fords, in game replays they post to YouTube.

Canalichio: If you've got consumers playing a video game and getting jazzed up about automobiles that Ford is producing, kudos to Ford, they're connecting with their consumer in such a powerful way.

That doesn't mean Ford is taking every opportunity that comes along. It's steering clear of tie-ins with alcohol and gun makers.

I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.

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