In an effort to keep its Lincoln brand competitive in the luxury car market, Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F [FREE Stock Trend Analysis]) has announced it will unveil an aggressive new campaign to bolster flagging sales.
Lincoln was once the top-selling luxury car brand, selling the Town Car sedan and Navigator SUV at high volume in the 1990s. Back then, combined sales for those two models reached over 230,000 vehicles sold per year. That momentum has slowed over time, and Lincoln now ranks at number eight in the luxury car race, behind German companies BMW and Mercedes-Benz, and Toyota's (NYSE: TM) Lexus division. Lincoln has only sold 69,000 vehicles in the past ten months.
James D. Farley Jr., head of global sales and marketing at Ford, has become the head of a rebranding campaign for Lincoln, and plans to do with the company what has already been done with many of Ford's other products. Sleek, fuel-efficient automobiles with the latest technological advancements have boosted Ford sales across the board and made it one of the most profitable car companies in the world.
Lincoln has not been the particular focus of these improvements so far, though. During its best years, Lincoln accounted for about eight percent of Ford's total sales, but these days only accounts for three percent.
The new campaign is hoping to reverse this trend and take back the luxury automobile market, starting with a redesigned MKZ midsize with a sweeping grille, tapered body, and an all-glass retractable roof. Three newer models are soon to follow, including a larger sedan and a new SUV.
“The most important thing is for people to be aware that there is a transition going on,” Mr. Farley said in a New York Times article detailing the campaign's highlights. One of the more stunning features of this revitalization is the decision to focus the company's advertising efforts on associating the Lincoln name with the nation's sixteenth president.
The brand plans to use Lincoln as a metaphor for the elegance and fortitude that exemplify its luxury products. Ads will draw comparisons between the look of classic Lincoln models like the presidential limousines of the ‘50s and ‘60s, and the new designs of the 21st century like the redesigned MKZ.
In a more overt embrace of the company's name, images of Abraham Lincoln will be used in ads, including ads planned for the Super Bowl in February.
The name of the brand will be changed to the Lincoln Motor Company, and along with the new advertising angle, improved customer service is going to be a highlight. The brand's 300 dealers across the country have begun training sessions nicknamed the Lincoln Academy, where sales associates are being taught a detailed set of “luxury truths” that include welcoming potential customers and adding to the sales experience by creating a more one-on-one relationship.
To facilitate this relationship even more, Lincoln's web site will have a consultant available 24 hours a day for live discussion about their products and the buying process.
Ford hopes these changes, including advertising in front of the massive Super Bowl audience, will bring attention back to Lincoln and remind luxury buyers of what the company has to offer. Says Farley, “We have to shake them up.”
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