Ford's been on an amazing streak building great cars that manage to sell to the masses. It's been a single brand turnaround that deserves all the praise we've been giving it. Ford's "premium" Lincoln brand is entirely made up of rebadged Fords that are slightly nicer and unreasonably more expensive. It's been a predictable failure
Today, the company relaunched the brand as the Lincoln Motor Company in an effort to get people to buy their cars. They also hired Jimmy Fallon to come up with a Super Bowl advertisement for them. All of this is being done to get younger people to think about the brand before dramatically changing their products.
That's backwards and it won't work. I'm sorry, your Super Bowl ad could be Sofia Vergara, nude, reading Neruda poems in the original Spanish on the hood of an MKZ and I'm still not thinking about the car.
Pity Ford execs Jim Farley and Mark Fields. They know they need a luxury brand and they know they'll never have the name ID they've got with Lincoln, so they've convinced Ford CEO Alan Mulally to let them "fix" Lincoln.
But this fix is on a budget and, while I'm sure there are some desperate skunkworks efforts to build a new fleet of cars that are reasonably different from the Ford platform they're based on, it isn't happening fast enough.
Instead, the current Lincoln stable is an expensive Ford Taurus, an expensive Ford Edge, an expensive Ford Flex, and a flagship that's just an expensive Ford Expedition with a lot of chrome. They didn't show any of these cars at the LA Auto Show this last week because they know they're crap.
So what's wrong? It's a good looking car built on a strong platform that offers at least one larger (though largely superfluous) engine and a few more luxury touches, but the price difference isn't worth it. The Fusion already looks luxurious and a similarly optioned Titanium Fusion is around $9,000 cheaper. I'd also argue the Fusion is more attractive.
Lincoln's other plans for the brand include a 24/7 personal concierge to walk people through the buying process and the "Lincoln Date Night" where they will literally buy you dinner so you'll spend the night with them.
Even better, buy a car before January 3rd and they'll give you jewelry, sunglasses, wine, or a one-night stay at the Ritz Carlton. We'd take the Ritz Carlton if only because it gives you the chance to get fucked in a hotel room and not just at the dealership.
All of this gets capped off by an ad campaign that starts with poor quality Imported From Detroit/Levi's pastiche and ends with a Fallon-helmed Super Bowl ad. Here's the pitch for it, by the way:
Fallon will curate and write the Super Bowl ad via social media. He will tell the Lincoln story from tweets from the public about the brand.
WELCOME TO MY HELL.
I like Fallon. I think he's smart enough to surround himself with even smarter, funnier people. The Roots make a great show band. But no one thinks of Fallon as a youthful influencer, which is what Lincoln wants. If he was, at least one person I know would have a Capital One Venture Card.
A car is too expensive of a purchase for anyone to get persuaded into buying it because they saw someone's tweet-as-read-by-Fallon. Even if it does get them in the door — and I doubt it — they're just going to find something not as good as everything being promised.
The lesson of Cadillac's resurgance is that good product trumps good marketing when it comes to selling luxury cars. The Caddy-that-zigs Catera was a rebadged flop. Then Cadillac built the CTS, a car that did zig, and found a market. Now Cadillac can sell cars like the XTS (a rebadged Buick) as part of a broad portfolio of desirable vehicles.
I don't want Lincoln to be a failure. I don't even mind them renaming it Lincoln Motor Company and I applaud the marketing guy who actually charged money for that kind of advice. Selling cars is difficult and I'm lucky that it's not my job to try to figure out how to do it.
This campaign, though, is nothing without product. The only thing I can imagine that makes sense is that Farley/Fields realized the only way to save the brand until they had truly good, unique product was to spend so much money rebranding Lincoln that the rest of the company wouldn't be able to stomach wasting it by burying it in a grave next to Mercury under a tombstone with slightly more leather.
I mean, why else do you basically give $7 million to Jimmy Fallon?