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LINCOLN: Breathing New Life Into the Brand
Autonews

Image by Annie Leibovitz

With each product launch over the past few years, Lincoln has taken one more step in its brand transformation from stodgy to sophisticated. With the 2017 Continental slated to launch this fall, there's an opportunity for its ad agency, Hudson Rouge, to take a bigger leap.

Jon Pearce, the agency's creative chief, remains laser-focused on ways to draw younger buyers. Lincoln's sales are up 10 percent this year, but it's still locked in the second tier of luxury brands, behind the three German giants, Lexus and Cadillac.

In an interview with Special Correspondent Julie Halpert, Pearce discussed strategies for making the brand more clearly defined and competitive.

Q: How has Hudson Rouge advanced the perception of Lincoln to a brand that's less stodgy and more hip? How has that translated to sales?

A: There was double-digit growth year over year for sales. The dealers are seeing appreciably younger people come into the dealerships.

All signs point to a challenger brand with a lot of momentum behind it. A lot of that, of course, is driven by the new models themselves, and I think marketing has a little bit of a share.

Why revive the concept of using names for models instead of letters?

Lincoln's got two wonderfully iconic names in Navigator and Continental. They join the letter names really nicely. More than that, they're evocative for people. There's a history there, and I think they show up in a way that there's already some recognition attached to them.

How effective a spokesman has Matthew McConaughey been?

We've got a nice track record now, so when you see Matthew in an ad, it's a Lincoln ad. He's not in it that much. He doesn't say anything, but he doesn't have to. He adds an elegance and a refined style and makes the brand feel modern. He was never intended to be a pitchman for the brand but to appear in as authentic a way as possible. People look to brands that feel like they're for them. I think that Matthew's charisma and confidence do that in a huge way. It's been very successful, very attention-getting for Lincoln.

What are the goals with the "It's like that" campaign?

Where we wanted to go with Matthew in this campaign was lean into the visceral. Each time we try and talk about an experience you get with the car, because Lincoln is all about engineering experiences. With the MKZ it was "It's like that." We really liked the succinctness of it, that it wasn't overpromising.

Did Ellen DeGeneres' spoof of the McConaughey ads help the brand?

The original challenge was to get Lincoln back on the radar again, get Lincoln back into popular culture and that's pretty difficult to do when you're at the beginning of a product transformation. To have the brand end up on "Ellen," not just once but three times in all, that was all amazing earned PR and it opened up the aperture for Lincoln and got people to see it who might not normally see the brand. Sales were up month after month in general and year after year in general.

What did the Dap-Kings do for the brand?

They're a truly authentic partnership for Lincoln. By partnering with the Dap-Kings and using them in a spot, we can reach a much bigger audience. [Sharon Jones] has got 600,000 social fans. We targeted her fans by making a behind-the-scenes film, Dap Wisdom. Then also music fans in general because they've got tons of followers in neo-soul, blues, funk, jazz. They cross a lot of those territories. [Fans are] getting the backstory we filmed and they're getting our commercial along with that. So it's a nice opportunity for us to give content to people who actually are open to receiving it.

What other plans are there to leverage pop culture?

We're always looking for the right partnerships. Matthew feels so right for the brand. The Dap-Kings feel so right. We are always looking for people who organically feel like they're part of the warm, human brand that Lincoln is. When you do that, you form something that's even bigger for the brand. It helps inform what the brand is to people. It's been really successful for us and we want to continue to look for those kinds of authentic partnerships.

How diverse is the talent at Hudson Rouge, and how is it being used to help Lincoln?

It's actually a point of pride I have. We knew we wanted to be successful at all layers of marketing funnels for Lincoln. So that meant recruiting people who had automotive experience but also people who came from the worlds of luxury and fashion. Our head of brand content and alliances [Monique Frumberg], for instance, came from the Sundance Channel, with deep knowledge of independent film. And she's leading the Tribeca Film Festival partnership.

The director of social [Ashley Davidson, creative director of brand publishing] was a fashion blogger and fashion strategist. I loved the idea of pairing her with a digital writer who had once been an automotive designer. You get this interesting alchemy where you're able to speak like a modern, culturally relevant automotive brand.

Lincoln trails BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Cadillac in market share. What does it need to do to stand out from those brands?

We're taking smart risks. We're going to continue to do that. We know we have to be out there in provocative and innovative ways. We're really positioning the brand as a warm, human, personally crafted brand. It's in stark contrast to the German brands, that [market a car as a] precise machine.

What are Hudson Rouge's goals going forward?

I want to capitalize on the momentum that we've achieved and keep defining this warm, human face that Lincoln lives in. With Continental's launch, we're going to be doing some really innovative things. It's time for a big behavior in digital for Lincoln. Now that we've defined the brand in the last year or two, we've focused on the driver and where the driver truly is important. I don't think anybody is doing that the way we are now.
 

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I think the 2017 MKZ 3.0t will help pull more younger people into Lincoln dealerships. I saw a guy in his 30s hand washing a 2015 model at the carwash this weekend. In the real world, the MKZ looks like a work of art from all directions.

A next gen slightly larger MKC, with a longer, cleaner, lower profile, with a companion sedan would help Lincoln greatly with the sub 40 demographic.
 

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I hope the next gen MKC gets more aggressive and cleaner lines in it's overall design, to attract the younger consumers.

Similar to the 2017 Q3

 

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I don't care for the marketing-speak in the (f)article
so
I'm offering a high-praise-imho comment I just saw elsewhere

"...The Continental is generating a lot of dealer interest and God knows it has style. The Continental has found a "gotta have" trendiness that the first (modern) RWD Chrysler 300 had and that trendiness will pull people out of the German products as Lincoln makes honey deals."


- - - - - - -

just found a rather asinine video review (Autoguide :angel) that says Lincoln's avg customer age is down to 58 :joyous:
link info obscured below

youtube - watch?v=D_yRrSMNyxg

 

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I don't care for the marketing-speak in the (f)article
so
I'm offering a high-praise-imho comment I just saw elsewhere

"...The Continental is generating a lot of dealer interest and God knows it has style. The Continental has found a "gotta have" trendiness that the first (modern) RWD Chrysler 300 had and that trendiness will pull people out of the German products as Lincoln makes honey deals."
Why should Lincoln make "honey deals." Just price them right in the first place. This idea of making deals and incentives is insane. A luxury car trying to gain market share should keep pricing simple, elegant and way below the competition.
 

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Agreed.
I would love to see them start with a radical concept like Infiniti did.

I wouldn't consider that that radical....it's a redesigned FX (QX60? 70? whichever number it is) in concept form. A note on it - I find the wheels don't match....they're very linear compared to the curvy body/sheetmetal.

It'd be interesting to see a modern take on the Navicross concept:



Maybe if I get time, I'll work on a chop of it.
 

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^
Never liked that hideous Navicross.
And honestly, it looks like a Ford 500 with a Lincoln grill, which also sat higher with AWD.

I don't know, Americans don't seem to like wagons or hybrid CUV's, MKT was proof of that. They like roomy CUV's and the taller the better. I bet Lincoln learned their lesson, preparing for Aviator.
 

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^
Never liked that hideous Navicross.
And honestly, it looks like a Ford 500 with a Lincoln grill, which also sat higher with AWD.

I don't know, Americans don't seem to like wagons or hybrid CUV's, MKT was proof of that. They like roomy CUV's and the taller the better. I bet Lincoln learned their lesson, preparing for Aviator.
By hybrid are you meaning powertrain or a hybrid of design styles (a la X6, GLE coupe "SUV coupes")?

I'm not necessarily arguing for an SUV coupe from Lincoln - I just thought it might be interesting to see what one could look like. And it's interesting that Lincoln put forward that concept so many years ago, only for it to become a trend here now.
 

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I like that idea, a more angular design more similar to the larger MKX, but smaller and the new front end. The idea is longer, clean lines and more aggressive/athletic.

Just shrink down the MKX concept, add sharper lines, deeper creases, and add the new Lincoln front end.

i think Lincoln would bring spectacular luxury interiors, and gobs of power, along with a 250-300 mile EV and 50 mile plug-in hybrid powertrains.

Just thinking about it, the New MKC would make a perfect Lincoln EV with available inductive home charging. With the New Ford Escape and Focus offering EVs as well. But Lincoln offering Lincoln Luxury. I also think like Sync3, I would expect Ford to create a 'common' branded inductive charging system for both product lines.
 

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I hope the next gen MKC gets more aggressive and cleaner lines in it's overall design, to attract the younger consumers.

Similar to the 2017 Q3

OMG, that's horrible! I tend to like Audi's understated design, but in that case it's so anonymous that it'd be virtually invisible. It'll sell, for the same reason the hideous Lexus crossovers sell, because of the brand.

Lincoln needs to have a strong corporate design without being being gaudy. Not easy to do.

Edit: Did you actually call that A3 aggressive?
 

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The MKC concept had a softer profile and far less aggressive face than the Infiniti concept. I think this segment could be livened up with a more pronounced face language, and a bit more profile accentuation. Leave the softer lines for the MKX. As it turned out, the production MKC looked even softer yet. I think they need to amp-up for this demographic. And as blogging stated, more electrification would be great. Who needs platform exclusiveness, when you can have it all, style and efficiency.
 

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The MKC concept had a softer profile and far less aggressive face than the Infiniti concept. I think this segment could be livened up with a more pronounced face language, and a bit more profile accentuation. Leave the softer lines for the MKX. As it turned out, the production MKC looked even softer yet. I think they need to amp-up for this demographic. And as blogging stated, more electrification would be great. Who needs platform exclusiveness, when you can have it all, style and efficiency.
Right being the segment the MKC is in tends to lend more to a younger demographic maybe they can find a more sporty looking design, seems to be working well for the NX. Also I've kind of wondered about dropping the 2.0 from the lineup and maybe using just the 2.3 in two different states of tune or if something else they could put in there. Really hoping they add a Drivers Package with the Focus RS rear diff like the MKZ has.
 

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The MKC concept had a softer profile and far less aggressive face than the Infiniti concept. I think this segment could be livened up with a more pronounced face language, and a bit more profile accentuation. Leave the softer lines for the MKX. As it turned out, the production MKC looked even softer yet. I think they need to amp-up for this demographic. And as blogging stated, more electrification would be great. Who needs platform exclusiveness, when you can have it all, style and efficiency.
You have to balance the edginess with more Lincolnesque class, and IMO they nailed it with the MKC Concept. The Lexus NX/RX are all edge, no class. That Infiniti still has some curves which soften it and save it from being hideous so that's better and I like it, I just think the MKC balances aggression and elegance perfectly. But as somebody else pointed out, I'm hardly in the target demographic for these crossovers.
 

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You have to balance the edginess with more Lincolnesque class, and IMO they nailed it with the MKC Concept. The Lexus NX/RX are all edge, no class. That Infiniti still has some curves which soften it and save it from being hideous so that's better and I like it, I just think the MKC balances aggression and elegance perfectly. But as somebody else pointed out, I'm hardly in the target demographic for these crossovers.
I'd also argue that the concept had more "edgeiness" to it, whereas the production MKC looks more "ordinary" (for lack of a better term). A lot of that has to do with proportions, which while very similar, were changed just enough in the transition that it lost some of that striking design of the concept.
 

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You have to balance the edginess with more Lincolnesque class, and IMO they nailed it with the MKC Concept. The Lexus NX/RX are all edge, no class. That Infiniti still has some curves which soften it and save it from being hideous so that's better and I like it, I just think the MKC balances aggression and elegance perfectly. But as somebody else pointed out, I'm hardly in the target demographic for these crossovers.
I do think the MKC is one of the best designs for it's class.
Maybe it's just the size. The second row is very tight. All the others in it's class are a bit roomier.

 

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The overall design is fine, but the details are lacking. The front does not have a premium look to it, and the profile needs something.
Being based on the Escape, it does have size issues. The MKC seemed like a 'get it out while the market's hot' model. It has brought in sales for Lincoln, and allows them to offer something in the category for now.
 
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