Lincoln aiming new brand advertising campaign at younger buyers
LAURA CLARK GEIST | Automotive News
Photo by Autoindex.org
DETROIT -- Lincoln is launching a brand advertising campaign aimed at younger buyers and introducing its Zephyr entry-level luxury sedan.
The new campaign is called "Reach Higher." It seeks to cast Lincoln as a contemporary luxury brand by focusing on the 2006 Zephyr, Mark LT pickup and Navigator SUV.
Lincoln's aging flagship, the Town Car, is intentionally absent from the brand ads.
"We want to change people's perceptions," Tom Grill, Lincoln Mercury's marketing communications manager, told Automotive News. "The campaign is the tipping point. We have an opportunity with a whole new group of buyers to tell them that Lincoln is relevant to them and their lives."
Grill would not disclose the cost of the campaign. Lincoln Mercury spent $330.1 million to advertise in U.S. media last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Lincoln is nearly doubling its overall ad budget this year, Grill said.
Lincoln needs a boost. In the first nine months of 2005, its sales were down 10.1 percent from the same period of 2004. Last year, Lincoln sold 139,016 vehicles in the United States -- just 60.0 percent of its sales in 1990.
Lincoln's product portfolio has languished in recent years behind those of its Japanese and European rivals, as well as Cadillac. Tom Libby, senior director of industry analysis for the Power Information Network, a division of J.D. Power and Associates, said Lincoln "is significantly behind in the area of competitive products."
"The core of luxury vehicles -- namely the crossover SUV and sports sedan -- is not there," said Libby, a former Lincoln Mercury sales executive. "They are going to have to appeal to owners of entry-level European and Japanese luxury cars."
Lance Paull, executive creative director of Y&R Advertising, Lincoln's national ad agency, said the "Reach Higher" tag line is aimed at consumers who are entering the luxury market.
"As someone is looking to get into a luxury product," such a person is "in a sense reaching higher," Paull said. "With our products improving and new offerings coming, we are also reaching higher."
Grill said the target customer for the Zephyr -- and the broader image campaign -- is 35 to 50 years old. The typical Town Car buyer is nearly 70.
Most Zephyr buyers will be conquest customers from brands other than Lincoln, Grill said. A significant number will move up from mass-market domestic brands, he predicted.
The campaign's TV commercials emphasize what Lincoln calls "the American entrepreneurial spirit." They compare the development of the Zephyr to the construction of such landmarks as the Empire State Building in New York, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Grill said TV commercials will make up 45 percent of the new campaign's budget. The commercials will appear during the World Series and such shows as ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and "Alias." Lincoln also is buying ad time on cable channels such as Home & Garden Television and Food Network.
The campaign also includes nontraditional advertising. Lincoln is placing ads in New York's subway system and on city sidewalks. The ads use special panels that make the Zephyr appear to be moving. As many as 400,000 people a day will see the "motion picture" ads, Lincoln said.
Lincoln is running "Reach Higher" print ads in such magazines as Men's Journal, Bon Appetit, Sports Illustrated, Architectural Digest, Wired and Gourmet. Zephyr print ads highlight the car's performance, interior and $29,995 starting price, which includes shipping.
As part of the campaign, Lincoln also has launched a redesigned Web site. Grill said that visitors will find Lincoln.com easier to use for features such as prices.
Grill said Lincoln is encouraging its dealers to delay regional TV spots for the Zephyr until after Jan. 1. But dealers in Northeast states, he said, are advertising a special lease payment for the sedan.