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Reaching ‘Higher’ in Car Market

Apr 23, 2007  •  Post A Comment

By Adam Armbruster, Special to TelevisionWeek

How do you create additional market share for a well-entrenched American icon brand such as Lincoln?

How does a breakthrough television campaign like Lincoln’s current “Reach Higher” campaign affect potential Lincoln buyers?

Is there really room in the luxury auto segment for yet another new product, and are there enough high-income buyers to support all of these products?

And perhaps most important: How can television help Lincoln carve out immediate brand awareness for its new vehicles?

To find out, we spoke with Tom Grill, Lincoln’s brand communications manager.

We asked Mr. Grill about Lincoln’s increase in market share thanks to his innovative broadcast television and Web campaign, the planning that went into it and the effect of it on the buying process, as well as about buyers’ usage of the Lincoln Web site.

TelevisionWeek: What do you think of Lincoln’s current brand campaign and how well do you feel it connects with a potential Lincoln buyer?
Tom Grill: Lincoln’s branding campaign “Reach Higher” is aimed at the American Dream consumer … someone who is always striving to succeed and seeks to reward themselves for their success. We believe our campaign is spot-on with the potential Lincoln buyer.

TVWeek: Do you feel that Lincoln has generated a buzz with national TV about any specific new models?
Mr. Grill: Yes, the Lincoln campaign has helped attract consumers to our new luxury crossover, the Lincoln MKX, as well as to our new luxury sedan, the Lincoln MKZ, and our newly redesigned Lincoln Navigator.

TVWeek: What types of people or owners of other brands does Lincoln hope to convert?
Mr. Grill: Lincoln is looking to reach people who are self-made optimists and entrepreneurial in nature. We believe these people will find Lincolns — with their beautiful designs and smooth handling — to be a wonderful way to reward themselves for their hard work.

TVWeek: What do you expect television to do for Lincoln?
Mr. Grill: Television provides Lincoln with the opportunity to reach consumers with very compelling “story-form” TV ads that showcase our Lincoln MKX, MKZ and Navigator in lifestyle settings that resonate with our target buyers.

TVWeek: Do you use your Web site as a “landing point” for consumers before they actually buy? What internal systems must be in place before you launch a Web-driver TV campaign?
Mr. Grill: The Lincoln Web site, lincoln.com, is a very strong component of our marketing campaign and is often one of the first places people will go to learn about Lincoln vehicles. It is a very compelling site, with industry-leading 3-D animation that allows you to personalize your experience with our vehicles right there online.

TVWeek: How is the Lincoln campaign going in what we all know to be a hypercompetitive luxury segment?
Mr. Grill: Lincoln sales and market share are up from when we started the campaign. So yes, a combination of great new vehicles along with strong, compelling communications does equal success for the Lincoln brand.

TVWeek: Lincoln is indeed showing signs of sales improvement. In addition to the successful MDX, the redesigned Lincoln Navigator has been a success for Lincoln; March 2007 sales were close to March 2006’s totals … a very positive indicator. How has TV marketing and advertising changed during your career?
Mr. Grill: Television has always been a major part of our communications plan, but in the last few years we have been paying attention to digital, CRM [customer relationship management] and emerging media as well.

Automotive television marketing involves the methodical process of identifying both the influencers and the end buyer of the product. In marketing planning, we should always consider the fact that human beings seldom make purchases based solely on their own decision; they often seek out the opinion of friends or family and, of course, consider the impact on the buyer’s desired self-image. As such, the Lincoln “Reach Higher” imagery appeals to a person who wants to be seen as confident and successful.

The term “marketing” is used to describe many things, but in its purest form is really about knowing who in the end is going to make a decision to buy and how best to communicate with that consumer.

Only after all the media planner decisions have been made about who is buying the product, what the buyer “wants to see” in the product message and what the appropriate tone of the message is, should a media planner begin to create an advertising plan.

A marketing message is the process of translating an electronic human desire into an electronic TV image, and then back again into a consumer electronic impulse to buy, and finally to the resulting emotional human ownership experience. Effective ad campaigns are first built on solid marketing research that considers consumers’ personal aspirations.

So, as proven by Lincoln, there is room in a crowded product segment for a new entry, assuming the new product strikes a chord with buyers through innovative design and style. The Lincoln product look is bold, confident and stylish. These are certainly things that are desirable to a person who wants to be seen as a winner. The Lincoln product designs are unique and very easy to spot on the road.

Lincoln’s brand message appeals to the demographic with simple yet striking imagery that creates a feeling of success that is attractive to car buyers. The Lincoln Navigator and MKX vehicles have such a bold, polished appearance, which is played up in the TV ads. Targeted media also was purchased to reach higher-income Americans, including financial programming and upscale sporting events.

In the past, this luxury segment seemed to have been permanently claimed by Lexus, BMW, Audi and Mercedes. Lincoln’s success makes one wonder if all of the negative press about domestic auto manufacturers is overstated if such a mature brand can successfully design, produce and market a new entry in a crowded product segment.

Adam Armbruster is a partner in the Red Bank, N.J.-based retail and broadcasting consulting firm Eckstein, Summers, Armbruster and Co. He can be reached at adam@esacompany.com or 941-928-7192.