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IPA

IPA Effectiveness Awards

2000

Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, 44 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8QS, UK
Tel: +44 (0)171 235 7020  Fax: +44 (0)171 245 9904

Agency: Young & Rubicam Author: Mark Turner

Lincoln USA

BACKGROUND

Historically, Lincoln has been a well�known American automotive brand with high relevance among older American males. Lincoln's product line included the Town Car, Continental and Mark VIII. All models shared the classic, physical characteristics of American luxury: comfort, elegance, size and interior space. Lincoln's market share centered around older (60+ years) car buyers who recognized and demanded more traditional cars that exemplified conventional American luxury automobiles: however, from 1990 to 1995, defection of Lincoln owners to other cars steadily worsened. By 1996�1997 the rate of defection to other brands on their next car purchase outstripped the ability of the Lincoln brand to bring new owners into the franchise (Figure 1). 

Lincoln needed to account for why consumers were rejecting Lincoln and take measures to stem the slide.

THE UNDERLYING PROBLEM: A NEW YOUNGER UNDERSTANDING OF LUXURY

A perceptual mapping analysis by Goldfarb Associates (Figure 2) helped reveal one reason why Lincoln was being eclipsed by the competition. 

Although clearly perceived as luxury cars, Lincoln models were associated with Cadillac as almost too large. Their classic and comfortable image was falling short of the 'top�line luxury' associated with imported brands like Mercedes Benz and Jaguar. Lincoln and the other American luxury brand, Cadillac, were also being eclipsed by luxury car brands like BMW, Infiniti, Lexus and Jaguar who were seen as more exciting, trendy, and fun. Although these brands shared prestige perceptions with Jaguar and Mercedes, they also had succeeded at adding reputations for better performance and state�of�the�art technology to customary luxury car attributes. 

Lincoln is an American brand and the American version of luxury was associated with physical comfort, size that insulates the driver from feeling the road, and a roomy interior with expensive appointments. All those characteristics appealed to older and more traditional luxury car buyers and represented 'marketing of the past and not the future'.

The demographics of Lincoln owners, who were older, more male than the owners of newer luxury brands, suggested that the competitive imagery had something appealing to the next (younger) generation of luxury car buyers that Lincoln lacked. Unfortunately the direction owner demographics seemed to be going was even older. Adding to 'aging user' perceptions was the increased proportion of retired executives (Table 1). 

TABLE 1: BUYER DEMOGRAPHIC PRE�ADVERTISING

Pre�advertising

 

1994

1996

Female

22%

22%

Male

78%

78%

Median age

62 years

64 years 

Median income

$92,500

$92,500

Retired

41%

50%

Executives

11%

11%

Source: R.L Polk Retail Registration/NCVS

With an aging owner base, Lincoln's ability to remain competitive and profitable was compromised in attracting newcomers to the brand franchise from a younger target. 

Industry knowledge of younger buyers characterized them as more active, and possibly more individualized in their conceptions of success. For them, the definitions of success are defined personally rather than by society. Therefore the luxury or prestige symbols (or brands) that signify success might not be traditional ones for them. This caused Lincoln to re�examine how these younger car buyers define luxury and prestige.

BRAND ANALYSIS

Up until this point in time, Lincoln's version of luxury was confined to functional characteristics like the physical experience of how its cars ride. Qualitative work revealed comfort to be a central element associated with luxury. Yet, when asked about Lincoln comfort compared to the other luxury brands, consumers said it didn't measure up. Endemic to this younger point of view was the explosion of the Sports Utility Vehicle as a luxury market contender that was becoming a dominant model form. This shift in the perceptions of Lincoln comfort, coupled with perceptions of Lincoln as 'old American luxury,' was driving the defection of owners buying their next cars, which, by 1996, was clearly reducing sales for Lincoln.

OVERALL STRATEGY FOR REJUVENATING THE BRAND

Lincoln recognized that the health of the bottom line rested on selling cars to more than its existing consumer base. Three marketing and branding objectives were developed:

  1. Build relevance for the overall brand by attracting the buyer of the future into the franchise: the 'conquest' consumer who subscribes to modern definitions of comfort and luxury and is currently not driving a Lincoln vehicle.
  2. Transform current comfort perceptions into modern definitions by first investigating more specifically what those definitions are.
  3. Retain or even rejuvenate the affiliation of the traditional target base consumers.

Building relevance among a younger target was difficult enough, but doing so without alienating older buyers posed a complex challenge. Lincoln needed to re�examine the way both older and younger consumers defined comfort and how that affected their evaluations of luxury cars. It hoped to develop creative ideas that could bridge the two groups in communications.

HOW CONSUMERS EXTEND COMFORT TO LUXURY

Exploratory research consisting of 40 in�depth interviews in five US cities was conducted, using a story�telling methodology in which participants were asked to bring at least 12 pictures that 'Say comfort to you'. Participants were the younger 'conquest target', 3/4 owners of import luxury cars and 1/4 with American luxury cars. Interviews revealed that consumers think about comfort as a multidimensional concept central to their perception of luxury. The dimensions include functional, experiential and psychological benefits:

Qualitative research confirmed what Lincoln feared: the younger target buyer holds a different understanding of comfort, one that is much more holistic, emotional and psychological than that of the traditional American consumer. Moreover, for them comfort may also include action imagery inherent in the new (sports utility vehicle) form of automobile.

Pleasure

The report noted that consumers 'associated pleasure with a feeling of freedom that allowed them to truly relax, both mentally and physically, and enjoy life by providing temporary insulation from the problems of everyday life.' Beautiful surroundings provide pleasure by 'setting the mood' that gives one the chance to let one's mind wander. It is 'manifested in style that is tasteful and filled with amenities, but not overdone.' This experiential dimension offers a desirable contrast to the cacophony of everyday life with its complex set of situations and dilemmas.

Pride

Pride was understood to be 'inherent in classic, timeless designs' that were associated with quality motoring. 'Classic means well thought�out and therefore 'smart'' features designed especially to make motoring trouble�free.' Classic also needed to be integrated into the car's interior appointments aesthetically. 'Emotionally, comfort implies certainty based on long�established reputation.' Car characteristics that convey this are superior in craftsmanship, attention to detail and the highest level of quality materials like wood, leather or silk. Pride stemmed from owning and driving a car that is elegant, reflecting a driver who is a 'person of substance'. Timelessness is a part of how consumers recognize classic design. It connotes an owner who takes pride in his or her accomplishments.

Control

Control was understood as 'confidence in one's abilities and in oneself, a sense of mastery over one's environment.' Control implicitly is a virtue and a car that provides luxury and comfort is expressive of the owner's virtuosity. Control represented self�established, self�chosen isolation from stress or potential harm and 'was imagined as an escape from everyday life to indulge in well�deserved 'selfish time' for the driver.' Control as an element of comfort was emphasized especially among younger owners.

Comfort as a bridge idea

The report findings suggested a strategic opportunity to the client/agency team because consumers described comfort in such rich and multifaceted ways that it could be used as a strategic perceptual bridge between traditional Lincoln buyers and new buyers whose definitions of luxury included elements of performance and fun. The key to building that bridge would be in how the idea was expressed for Lincoln, both visually and verbally, since preconceptions of Lincoln comfort fell short of the degree offered by imported competitors.

USING NEW MODEL DESIGN TO STRATEGICALLY ADVANCE BRAND REPUTATION AND APPEAL

Competitors were transforming their brand imagery in dramatic ways by introducing redesigned classics as well as new models of cars in the US (i.e. Mercedes Benz, Volvo, and Cadillac Catera). Lincoln recognized it too would have to design new models. Anything less would appear to be 'empty' talk. 

Lincoln understood that the new models themselves had to be designed to stand for an actively updated form of luxury relevant to younger targets if the brand was to successfully reposition itself in their consideration set. In particular, Lincoln recognized the transformation of the car market by the explosion of a new car 'form', the Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV). These creatures were a car species that had evolved well beyond older versions of 'off�road' or even 'personal sized truck' vehicles into a combination of all�terrain capability with luxury car riding experience through extravagant interior appointments. 

To begin the brand rejuvenation, Lincoln developed two new models, a luxury sports utility vehicle (the Lincoln Navigator) and a new performance�influenced luxury sedan (the Lincoln LS). The Navigator was designed to be a contemporary, fun and active luxury vehicle which would convey owners' success status in modern terms. In addition, Lincoln needed a luxury 'high performance sedan' to compete with Lexus, Infiniti, and Mercedes Benz among buyers who were not interested in the sports utility vehicle form.

 The next step was to position and advertise the new models in ways that would create fresh understanding of the new definition of 'Lincoln Luxury' and return the brand to market relevance.

DESIGNING THREE SYNERGISTIC AD CAMPAIGNS TO ENSURE THAT THE LAUNCHES TRANSFORM THE BRAND

In order to reposition the brand to a younger constituency and ensure payback for the investment of developing two new models, advertising had to work hard in order to keep each of several messages focused. 

The client�agency team recognized the necessity of creating simultaneous campaigns rather than fall prey to saddling one set of advertisements with too many tasks. Brand communications could reassure (and retain) current owner�constituents while evolving toward a more contemporary image of luxury and comfort. Advertisements to launch the new Navigator had to contribute directly to a younger and more diverse owner imagery and actually bring these 'conquest' buyers into the franchise by selling Navigators. LS advertising had to further diversify the user imagery by appealing to younger 'conquest' target individuals who might want a more performance, luxury sedan. Attempting this with a single campaign would overburden each advertisement with the task of carrying too many messages (a common problem in the US market). 

Although three campaigns were needed, a synergy among them was a critical requirement in order to make the brand identity more widely valued and more contemporary. Strategically it was decided to:

ENHANCING THE NEW MODEL BRAND CONTRIBUTION WITH THE RIGHT COMMUNICATIONS

A brand campaign was designed to capitalize on the insight that the new definition of luxury rested on comfort and performance. Each new model required a campaign of its own to create imagery of a younger brand owneruser and deliver actual buyers who matched this imagery. Strategy for each campaign was designed to complement the others while addressing a particular audience (Figure 4).

CAMPAIGN OBJECTIVES: THINK AND DO IN FUTURE

Planned Complementary Advertising Goals 

Complementary but distinct objectives were established for each campaign. The brand campaign had to establish a 'big tent' under which older Lincoln luxury buyers would feel at home and younger buyers would also want to belong. Each of the new car model campaigns had to change brand perceptions, in each buyer's consideration set. Doing this was expected to transform a younger newly interested prospect into a Lincoln owner. The desired responses to the campaigns were as follows:

Lincoln brand campaign

Lincoln makes vehicles:

Lincoln brand:

Navigator campaign ('conquest' younger target)

Lincoln makes vehicles:

LS campaign ('conquest' younger target)

Lincoln makes vehicles: 

CREATIVE SOLUTIONS

Although each campaign had specific objectives, there were creative principles that were applied to all three to unify the brand impression:

Several insights into the consumer's set of symbolic meanings regarding cars were used in the nonverbal aspects of the advertising. Brand advertising never showed the whole car because it triggered familiar oldimage associations and blocked any new message. Instead, the advertising used signature design cues to 'brand' the new imagery, the key one of which is the vertical front grill of the car. An upright, chrome, vertical front grill is the icon of all luxury cars in the minds of consumers.

 Moreover, the edit style and production technique were deliberately high energy, using quick cuts, oblique angles and fast motion to reinforce the new brand image. It was deliberately not the typical car model display advertising that job fell to the new model launches that supplemented the brand advertising. 

For Navigator, to rejuvenate the brand and attract the conquest target buyer, the message focused on:

For LS, the task was to support the 'You can have both performance and luxury' by: 

MEDIA STRATEGY SHIFTS TO ADDRESS CONQUEST TARGET LIFESTYLE HABITS

Consistent with the clientagency team's consumer insights, media strategy was also 'redesigned' to implement the learning about the 'conquest target' buyers. 

The targets' unique definitions of comfort had been seen in qualitative work to arise from the nature of their daytoday lives. The research was revisited and the warmup comments revealed them to be: 

In addition, media consumption for all three target segments was analyzed. Traditionally, automotive advertising in the US is heavily weighted toward television supplemented by print. The Lincoln team recognized that differences in media consumption of the conquest target consumers made standard heavyweight television media spends very inefficient. Because these consumers have complex schedules for work and family, they do not watch specific programming regularly. They incorporate media and media events into their schedules; they do not schedule their lives around regular viewing times. They are more likely to read magazines that are portable and can be enjoyed as they fit into each consumer's schedule and routines. 

However, media consumption analysis also revealed that they do schedule themselves to watch some television, primarily event programming. Major sporting occasions such as onetime per year events like Wimbledon or the America's Cup race, or playoffs and championships in football, baseball, basketball and hockey are of enough interest for them to plan to view as they happen. These consumers also make time to watch the first week of the new autumn television program lineup to determine which new comedy or drama series they like or how favorite series from last year will begin, or the finale week of programs. 

The media mix was shifted gradually over the years from mostly network television supplemented by print to a much more diverse mix of media. The traditional target had been easily reached through Monday Night Football and golf. The new, more diverse target needed to be approached via more diverse media vehicles to underscore the contemporary direction the Lincoln brand was taking. 

TV shifted to print, especially magazines and the content of TV also was diversified, as shown in Figures 5 and 6a and 6b.

BRAND CAMPAIGN RESULTS

Lincoln uses DRI, a wellregarded US quantitative copy testing service, to evaluate the brand advertising message performance of two executions 'Waterfall' and 'Sailboat' (Figure 7). Standard copy testing for this campaign research practice was modified to include a control cell who did not see the new ads. This was so that the impact of the perceptions of the advertising campaign versus brand equity alone could be identified. This control cell design allows direct comparison of brand user perceptions from consumers who did not see the advertisements with those who did view the advertisements.

The brand advertising advanced positive heritage perceptions of Lincoln among both traditional and conquest targets on strategically designated core attributes (Figure 8). 

The advertisements also added desired perceptions among the 'conquest target' prospects (Figure 9). 

The DRI image scan revealed that the desired emphasis on the emotional elements of 'comfort as an escape' was strongly achieved. Exposure to the advertisements 'significantly increased association of brand Lincoln with the more relevant emotional/psychological aspects of comfort' (Figure 10). 

In addition, brand advertisements reduce 'oldfashioned' driver imagery among both targets. Those who saw the advertisements had significantly lower 'Lincoln driver' perceptions on descriptors that carry negative connotations among younger luxury consumers. These negative perceptions were also reduced among more traditional consumers (Figure 11). 

DRI also showed that the advertisements not only reduced specific traditional perceptions of userimagery (Lincoln drivers) but also increased specific desired contemporary perceptions of the Lincoln driver (Figure 12).

NAVIGATOR CAMPAIGN RESULTS

The Navigator advertising was evaluated using Ford Marketing Tracking (quantitative) research to ascertain its ability to raise awareness and create prestige/comfort perceptions for the product which would expand brand reputation. Sales figures were evaluated strategically for the source of buyers: did they come from outside the Ford family of cars? Sales were also evaluated for the buyer profile they generated: were the Navigator buyers more diverse and younger than the older executive males of the base owner/driver profile as planned?

1. Who bought? the right target:

(Source 1998 NVCS, Ford MRO)

2. Raised awareness and created desired perceptions.

3. Target awareness 1 month after launch advertising began: 69% vs. 40% for previous Lincoln launches (Source: Ford Marketing Tracker).

4. Perceptions of Navigator: prestigious, highly comfortable, for people who demand the finest.

5. From whom did we steal buyers? Buyer profile shifted as desired (Source: 1998 NVCS, Ford MRO):

LS CAMPAIGN RESULTS

The message was tested using 40 indepth interviews of luxury car owners ( 3/4 sample) and American luxury owners ( 1/4 ). Since this was the most recent of the three campaigns, quantitative assessment is not yet available. Interviews were conducted in five US cities to gain a national spectrum of attitudes. The report from the independent interviewer's service notes the following findings:

1. Outstanding positive reaction to the LS campaign across all markets. Described by consumers as:

2. Creates an upscale, premium persona for the brand seen as being in the same category as BMW, Lexus, Mercedes.

3. Conveys sophistication/luxury while implying performance.

4. The line 'Lincoln LS, where it's going may not be as surprising as where it comes from' is well liked.

5. 'Wood, leather and adrenaline' theme line is appealing to many and clearly conveys the combination of luxury and performance.

ADVERTISING PAYOUT

Did the Triple Campaign Effort Stem Defection? Yes the new advertising helped 'nexttime' buyers stay with Lincoln. Figure 13 updates the 'problem' shown in Figure 1 to show postadvertising reverse of this trend. Was the 'Right Buyer' Brought into the Franchise? Yes the buyers of the new Navigator and LS dramatically diversify the demographics of gender, age and life phase, and increase median income. Boxed total brand measures of demographics postadvertising are significant vs. 1996. Breakout figures for Navigator and available figures for more recently launched LS demonstrate their direct contribution to brand shifts (Table 2).

TABLE 2: PREPOST CAMPAIGN SHIFT IN ACTUAL BUYER PROFILES

Preadvertising

Postadvertising

 

1994

1996

Total brand

Navigator

Early LS buyers

Female

22%

22%

28%

37%

49%

Male

78%

78%

72%

63%

51%

Median age

62

64

63

49

54

Median income

$92,500

$92,500

$112,500

$137,500

NA

Retired

41%

50%

48%

22%

30%

Executives

11%

11%

10%

22%

NA

Source: R.L Polk New Car Registration/NCVS


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IPA, Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, London 2000