Ford Rides Major Coincidence to Boost Marketing For Struggling Brand

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Strategic marketing and a bit of luck, Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) hopes, will help the auto giant awaken its Lincoln brand. Lincoln has suffered in recent years: an older buying crowd combined with dull models has tanked Lincoln’s sales.

Believe it or not, just a decade and a half ago, Lincoln was actually the top-selling luxury auto brand in the U.S., rolling more than 230,000 cars off the lot each year. Marked by their signature Town Car and their industry-leading Navigator S.U.V., Lincoln led the industry. However, German engineering and brands like Toyota’s (NYSE: TM) Lexus division have proved to be too much for Lincoln to keep up with.

Now, Lincoln pulls into the eighth spot in the luxury car rankings, selling 69,000 from January through October of this year, down 64 percent since their reign over the luxury car industry.

Lincoln’s parent company, Ford, has recently undergone a major turnaround, boosting sales and unleashing more fuel-efficient and technological models. However, these changes haven’t helped Lincoln. Now, Lincoln only accounts for just 3 percent of Ford’s total sales, down 5 percent from the 8 percent stake in Ford’s sales that Lincoln held in its glory days.

So, what does Ford have planned for Lincoln? Major marketing changes, to start.

The brand plans to emphasize the origin of its name: Abraham Lincoln. A strange advertising campaign unveils the president, with pipe and hat in all his glory, as the face of the advertisements. Ford also plans a Super Bowl commercial featuring the abolitionist hero front and center.

The relation to the new Steven Spielberg film “Lincoln” is purely coincidental according to Mark VanDyke, Lincoln’s senior marketing executive. “We didn’t plan it that way,” he says, “but sometimes it’s better to be lucky.” The movie release certainly helps more than it hurts for the card brand, who will slap Lincoln’s face on its commercials as fast as possible to create the mental link with the movie while it is still in consumers’ minds.

Lincoln also plans major reconstruction for its website, including a “concierge” in which customers can set up appointments with dealerships or schedule test drives. It will also feature an available consultant 24 hours a day to provide the ability for customers to have live discussions about the various vehicles. In fact, potential buyers will even be given the chance for what Lincoln is calling a “date night,” including a meal at a restaurant and a two-day test drive experience.

In terms of the actual cars, Lincoln is set to begin the comeback with the midsize MKZ, starting with a complete redesigning. Three other new models will be introduced, including an S.U.V. and a large sedan.

Staff members are being retrained at over 300 dealers in what is being called “The Lincoln Academy” across the country to emphasize the new model of Lincoln’s sales, redefining the basics like how to welcome potential buyers and how to celebrate buyers’ anniversaries of past Lincoln purchases.

Michael Nolan has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!

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