Ford steps up its reinvention of the Lincoln brand today with the unveiling of a new advertising campaign that "introduces" a revived entity it's calling the Lincoln Motor Company. Ford CEO Alan Mulally and other top executives will announce the new campaign in (where else?) New York's Lincoln Center Plaza Monday, with supporting events on tap in Miami and Los Angeles as well.
"Today we are announcing a new beginning for a brand that has been part of our company and the American fabric for more than 90 years," stated Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally. "The new Lincoln brand will be defined by great new luxury vehicles, such as the new MKZ, that feature quality, unique style with substance and innovative technology. These elements, coupled with a new level of warm, personal and surprising experiences, will enable Lincoln to appeal to today’s new luxury customer."
The first phase of Lincoln's brand relaunch was unveiled during Ford's appearance at the Los Angeles Auto Show, and will culminate in a Super Bowl TV ad on February 3. Interestingly, Ford has shunned advertising during the big game for the last few years.
Lincoln originally was called the Lincoln Motor Company in 1922 when Edsel Ford signed the agrreement purchasing the company from its founder, Henry Leland. By dusting off the old moniker, Ford hopes to begin to re-educate American luxury buyers about a brand in which it is only now investing significant resources gdain, after essentially neglecting it for the last few years.
"The campaign captures the founding principles of the [Lincoln Motor] company and brings them forward to a new generation of progressive luxury buyers," Ford said in its press release. It also noted that back in the day, Edsel Ford made Lincoln "one of the most distinctive luxury brands in the industry, with motorcars that were urbane, sleek and elegant — the epitome of understated luxury."
For example, the three new TV spots weave together examples of Lincoln's past with those highlighting current design innovation. Dean Martin and Abraham Lincoln reportedly appear in the ads.
"Lincoln has been off the radar for many people," Matt Van Dyke, Lincoln's global head of marketing, sales and service, told Automotive News. "What we want to do is establish it quickly We're going to have to use high-profile placements, use every tool in the toolbox."
The new Lincoln product line in the U.S. begins with a subtantially overhauled MKZ sedan — with its distinctive new "spread-eagle" grill — as the face of the reinvented brand. It already has gone on sale at Lincoln dealers, and three all-new models will join MKZ in Lincoln's completely overhauled lineup over the next four years. Lincoln also is paying homage to stellar past models by displaying a handful of them at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week.
"The [TV] spots evoke what has historically made Lincoln stand apart in the luxury category," the company's press release said, "while using the new MKZ as the face of the reinvented brand." The spots no longer use actor John Slattery, who helped Lincoln in its sparse marketing during its transition period of the last couple of years.
Starting to get ready for the Super Bowl, Lincoln also unveiled Emmitt Smith, former NFL star and Dancing with the Stars champion, as brand ambassador at its Lincoln Center press kick-off.
New Lincoln print advertising debuting today asks, "Does the world need another luxury car?" By next week, the message will change to "Hello. Again." Both ads —just text, no images — emphasize Lincoln "values" that made it a leader before and will be key to its future development, Ford said. New magazine ads launching the MKZ feature "group[s] of people who, at first glance, could easily be categorized, but who Lincoln recognizes as unique individuals in their own right," the press release said. What kind of people? Red-heads, for one.
All of Lincoln's new efforts come in the face of the fact that the U.S. luxury market already is crowded with competitors who've gotten their acts together lately while Lincoln has dawdled. But they beginsto execute the new positioning that Ford CMO Jim Farley has laid out for a revived Lincoln — which now is Ford's only other auto marque, since it jettisoned Mercury a couple of years ago.
"Our ambition is not to be No. 1 [in volume] but to be a different kind of brand," Farley said recently about Lincoln. "An alternative choice for a personalized product, human and warm, not cold, not type A .... an affordable luxury sedan that [doesn't] feel like everyone else's." Lincoln also is taking aim at the Chinese market for the first time.
All of that is a tall order. But Lincoln will advance on that goal just by being back in the U.S. marketing game.