Lincoln's newest dealership: Amazon.com
Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
Amazon.com shopping list:
Barry Manilow CD, check;
"Dear John," check;
Lincoln MKZ sedan, check.
Beginning Monday, Ford Motor Co. will begin selling its luxury Lincoln brand through the online retailer.
The MKZ sedan, MKX crossover and new Navigator will each have their own product pages on the popular Web site, and prospective customers can initiate a purchase with just a single click.
Doing so will connect them to a Lincoln page where they can select options and price their vehicle and connect with a live "Lincoln personal assistant" who will act as their go-between with a traditional bricks-and-mortar dealer to complete the transaction. Actual sales will be handled through the closest Lincoln dealership to the customer, based on the zip code they enter.
The aim is to connect with prospective customers in a new and different way that rises above the advertising static of the Web. But some marketing experts say the strategy is poorly thought out.
"This is patently absurd. The logic eludes me," said John Henke, president of Planning Perspective Inc. and a professor of marketing at Oakland University. "This isn't something you can buy on the Web. You're going to want to test drive, to sit in it. The personal interface on a high-priced product is extremely important. You need the reassurance that the salesperson can give you."
Moreover, since the customer ultimately has to go to a dealership to handle their trade-in and pick up their new vehicle, he sees little benefit to the new system.
Henke said this is just the latest in a series of recent marketing missteps by Ford. The automaker recently revamped its "Bold Moves" marketing campaign for its Blue Oval brand because dealers complained the unconventional ads did little to highlight the features of Ford's products.
"They are not sticking with the basics. That's part of why they're failing in the marketplace. They're starting to get some wonderful products out in the marketplace, but people don't know about them," he said. "They're grasping at straws. Their marketing people do not have a coherent strategy for bringing their products to market"
Idea appeals to demographic
But Scott Kelly, digital marketing manager for the Lincoln and Mercury brands, said the online purchasing system should appeal to Lincoln's target demographic, which he described as busy and used to shopping online. And he said the program could be expanded to other Ford products if it proves successful.
He said selling on Amazon is just one part of a broader online marketing blitz designed to promote Lincoln's new products.
Another novel component of the Lincoln strategy is a new Web site designed to help people achieve their dreams.
The site -- www.mydream.tv
-- also will go live Monday. Think of it as a giant online "how-to" book. It will give users the opportunity to select one of 50 "dreams" and get expert advice on how to make them a reality. Examples range from "Get My PGA Card" and "Scuba Dive a Ship Wreck" to "Adopt a Child" and "Run for Public Office."
"The intent of this site is to be a resource and an inspiration for people," Kelly said. "We also wanted to make a shift away from what we call intrusional marketing to invitational marketing."
Henke said it does makes sense to advertise online -- it is the selling he takes issue with.