Lexus has been quickening the pulse of luxury auto buyers for a few years now, regularly bringing out new models with a performance and styling edge and evolving its brand to match—from a reputation as a “safe” foreign luxury brand to its aspirational positioning as a true rival to the German luxury automakers.
Its new LC 500 coupe gives Lexus a presence for the first time in an extremely high-end segment where true automotive aficionados, not just people with money, do their shopping.
“We’ve never before been in the roughly $100,000 coupe segment,” Brian Bolain, US general manager of products and consumer marketing for Lexus, told brandchannel. “It helps the brand to confirm its presence as a Tier One luxury brand. And the halo perspective for the car gives something for buyers to aspire to. It also feeds curiosity, which is important for the brand as we continue to grow.”
Add the window displays at Barney’s New York to Lexus’s efforts to create more of a cachet as an exciting lifestyle brand. Through July 16, the Toyota-owned premium marque is celebrating the release of its new flagship with “Haute Pursuit,” a joint window display of various aspects of the car in Barney’s windows on Madison Avenue, juxtaposed with handbag collections from designers Balenciaga, Delvaux, Fendi, Fontana Milano 1915, Loewe and more.
As Barney’s explains in a blog post,
‘Haute Pursuit’ is the latest installment of a yearlong partnership between the two brands. “Both the Lexus customer and the Barneys client look for an exclusive relationship to the product that differentiates it from anything else on the market,” says Barneys creative director Matthew Mazzucca. “What also aligns the two brands so much is that we’re always trying to find new, smart, and sophisticated ways of retelling the story of our brands without losing our core identity.”
Building on this synergy, ‘Haute Pursuit’ draws inspiration from key elements that differentiate the Lexus LC 500—each of the four Madison Avenue windows focuses on one aspect of the prestigious coupe and puts it front and center. “It’s been an exciting and eye-opening process to be able to understand the engineering behind this unique vehicle firsthand,” Mazzucca says. “We wanted to isolate these elements in a way that’s abstract enough to relate to our customers’ approach to aesthetics, but focused enough to take some of the key elements of the LC 500 and convey one clear message across all four windows.”
Bolain commented: “The LC 500 represents a new era of Lexus performance and design. The craftsmanship and styling of the LC 500 make a bold statement, so launching a dynamic and striking window display on Madison Avenue was a perfect way to celebrate our newest flagship vehicle.”
The brand also just made its annual appearance at the US Open men’s golf tournament, held this year in Erin Hills, Wisconsin. LC 500 was one of the star vehicles at the tourney, where Lexus invited fans to autograph sessions with some of the pro golfers it sponsors as well as other activations.
“We were there again to talk to people of means, and to share ourselves at their event in an activity that feels natural,” Bolain said.
brandchannel talked with Bolain about the Barney’s promotion and marketing Lexus as a lifestyle.
bc: Lexus has steadily added to the excitement quotient over the last few years with vehicles designated for performance, and F Sport versions of other vehicles. Where are you at in the brand’s journey?
Brian Bolain: We have done a lot of things quite intentionally to boost performance and image metrics around the brand. It’s a box you absolutely have to check. We introduced our F and F Sport products and this halo product, the LC 500 coupe. We see recognition now for F and F Sport models that rivals that of our German competition. So the customer is understanding what “F” stands for.
bc: Why did returning to US motorsports make sense?
Bolain: We’ve seen a steady rise in performance metrics over the last five years. Our image is benefiting from that. And this year we’ve layered on motorsports, the first time in 10 years that Lexus has been racing in the US. There’s a version of those cars that you can buy for the street.
bc: Auto racing isn’t as popular with millennials as with older generations, but you’re not aiming at millennials just yet, right?
Bolain: Our youngest product, the IS sedan, has a median age of the buyer of 41—and that’s younger than the median age for any Audi, Mercedes or BMW. But our typical Lexus buyer is late 50s and early 60s. And when it comes to motorsports, for that target, we need to talk with people who are influencers. People who follow motorsports tend to know about cars and like to talk about brands. So when you go into motorsports, you’re reaching someone who’s very apt to fall into a conversation with someone else about cars. That’s the person we’re trying to reach.
bc: How does the Barney’s promotion help with LC 500 and lifestyle marketing of Lexus?
Bolain: We worked with Barney’s on holiday windows for Christmas 2015. We enjoyed working with the Barney’s team, and with the LC 500 it seemed like the perfect chance to do it again. It’s a rarefied-air car, and it seemed to jibe perfectly with Barney’s. We wanted to talk about things like craftsmanship in our new car and everything in Barney’s store is made with some degree of craftsmanship. There was a logical connection in terms of where we are moving the brand.
Barney’s conceived of what’s displayed in the windows, with a little bit of help from us. They did a nice job of bringing our interiors to life, and the craftsmanship and quality of our sound systems, and the overall design of our vehicles. So it seems like they hit on a number of key elements for us.
bc: Where else are you going with lifestyle marketing?
Bolain: We’ve embraced it in the last several years. We started getting involved in lending cars out to people who are influencers, for instance. We did a program with LS Hybrid a while back in which we loaned cars to CEOs in a number of fields—tech, banking, entertainment, fashion—and let them use the car for a month and then pass it on to a person of their choice for two weeks. It was a way of [insinuating] ourselves into a rarefied environment. Barney’s execution is another way to subtly put the Lexus name in front of people who aren’t always thinking about cars, but eventually they acquire one.
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Barney’s New York photos credit: Tom Sibley Photography