Ford Motor Co. (F), aiming to maintain momentum with the first of its four new Lincoln models, is introducing a fresh promotional campaign for the MKZ sedan in a bid to lift its still-struggling luxury brand.
In a broadcast, print and digital advertising push that begins today, Ford will emphasize individual nameplates such as MKZ instead of the broader Lincoln brand, said Andrew Frick, a Lincoln marketing manager. While sales of new MKZ models are increasing, with higher prices and younger buyers, the Lincoln line still lacks the appeal of Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW)’s BMW and Daimler AG (DAI)’s Mercedes-Benz.
“Leading with just the Lincoln brand as a whole right now wouldn’t get us as far as leading with the individual nameplate,” Frick told reporters yesterday near Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. “We looked back at other brands and how they started to transform their brands, and they didn’t start with just their overall name, they started with a series of nameplate introductions.”
Lincoln remains a vexing challenge to Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally, who engineered a turnaround of Ford’s namesake brand that accounts for almost all of the second-largest U.S. automaker’s sales. The latest MKZ, introduced earlier this year, is the first of four new Lincoln models to be introduced in four years and is part of a more than $1 billion investment by Ford to try to resurrect the line.
The MKZ, a mid-size sedan, has become Lincoln’s most well-known nameplate, surpassing the Navigator sport-utility vehicle, Frick said.
Deliveries of the car are up 1.3 percent this year through September, while sales for the broader Lincoln line dropped 6.3 percent. The average buyer of the redesigned MKZ is 57, four years younger than owners of the previous version. Their average household income is also $22,000 higher at $122,000, according to the company.
In the four television spots shared with reporters during a briefing yesterday, couples sitting on couches ask questions related to luxury car features. In two of the spots, the couples pose questions in front of both the MKZ and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)’s Lexus ES sedan to highlight features like the panoramic retractable roof and inflatable seat belts available on MKZ and not on the ES.
The new ads contrast with a campaign that Ford began in December, which included Lincoln’s first-ever Super Bowl commercial and reintroduced the luxury line as the Lincoln Motor Company. One of the commercials opened with the immolation of the now-defunct Town Car, the airport taxi that long defined and more recently dogged the brand.
Ford now is focusing on individual Lincoln cars and SUVs because 60 percent of buyers who are familiar with nameplates have a favorable opinion of the brand, said David Rivers, a Lincoln marketing spokesman. Favorable opinion drops to 26 percent among those who don’t know the nameplates, he said.
“That is a very key piece of information for us,” he said. “What it said is we need to be much more nameplate-focused than we might have been. It will set up a bit of this new approach.”
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