Bringing Lincoln Back To Life

January 8, 2013
Lincoln Stretch

The Lincoln stretch limo

Remember when Lincoln was a vaunted, aspirational brand?

I can recall as a little kid thinking that if I ever had the good fortune of being rich and powerful, I would for sure be chauffeured around in a Lincoln stretch.

While that hasn’t exactly come true, I did have the opportunity to take a spin in a “regular” Lincoln recently while my somewhat less prestigious Ford Escape was in the shop. I liked the few hours I spent in it, but those boyhood fantasies of owning one have mostly faded, much like the power of the Lincoln brand itself.

In the past decade or so, when all American car companies were facing monumental challenges, Ford ditched some of its brands that competed in the luxury category. A majority of Aston Martin was bought by a consortium of owners, including Kuwaiti companies. Volvo was sold to a Chinese holding company. Jaguar now calls an Indian automotive manufacturer home. According to Car & Driver magazine, Ford’s goal all along was to preserve Lincoln and make it THE luxury brand in the company’s portfolio. So now, as we emerge from The Great Recession, it seems it’s time for the resurrection to occur.

I’m not a car guy. I know a little bit about the kinds of cars I’ve owned – and crashed — and there have been plenty of both. But Lincoln has always caught my eye. So when I began hearing about the relaunch of the brand, it caught my attention. One morning I was watching CBS “This Morning: and saw Ford’s CEO and the new global head of Lincoln talking about the brand. Link To Interview

Then I watched the company’s first TV ad titled “Introducing the Lincoln Motor Company,” a visually beautiful spot from Hudson Rouge. The voiceover is a bit cheesy, but it does a good job of emphasizing the elements of a car that appeal to more than just the traditional luxury buyer.

In addition, the company has announced it will advertise during the Super Bowl. And they’re pulling out all the stops in trying to bring the idea of luxury to life. The company launched a redesigned website that features live consultants and a concierge service. They’re arranging a “date night” two-day test drive opportunity that apparently comes with a free restaurant visit (not sure if that means Chili’s or something more upscale). And purchasers will receive a free gift ranging from champagne, a night at the Ritz or even jewelry.

One of the interesting parts to me is that “The Lincoln Motor Company,” as it’s now being called, is not coming out swinging with all-new products. Instead it is repositioning  existing models like the MKS and the MKX – then rolling out the MKZ and a few more new models in the years to come. One of the new models, a crossover, ironically will be built on the Ford Escape platform, according to Automobile magazine.

New Lincoln MKZ

New Lincoln MKZ

While the company works to differentiate its products from competitors with more fuel-efficient hybrids and other “innovations” that make the driving (and riding) experience more desirable, they’re all built on existing platforms. It seems rebranding and repositioning is the option du jour for now, because while pulling off a Lincoln resurgence is a billion-dollar venture, the research, development, production, distribution, marketing and everything else associated with building completely new vehicles is a MULTI-billion dollar prospect.

Well good for them, I say. I love the new positioning and the creative execution, and the PR blitz certainly has piqued my interest. It’s a thin line walked when a brand attempts to hold on to its heritage while giving it fresh and new feeling. But if Lincoln can sell its “old” cars with new features, superior performance and a luxury look and feel, best of luck to them!

That said, am I trading in my Escape for an MKZ anytime soon? Absolutely not.

The question now appears to be whether Lincoln can recover after falling so far in the past 10 to 20 years. We’ll see. In 2012 it was ranked 8th in sales among luxury brands in the U.S., not an easy thing to overcome. But for my part, for the first time in many, many years, I’m starting to once again think about the day when I’m rolling down the streets of Minneapolis (if not chauffeured) in a brand new Lincoln. A boy can dream, right?