Luxury brands: Don’t fall prey to what frequent-flier programs have

I finally reached silver medallion status with Delta! You can imagine my optimism flying roundtrip between Detroit and Los Angeles last week. I believed I might get an upgrade to a better seat, maybe even in first class!

No such luck. In fact, I noticed nearly everyone on my flight was silver or gold status. And none of us got an upgrade. So we all rushed to the gate, vying to board first -- a supposed perk for our “special” loyalty status. I overheard a fellow passenger quip: “What’s the point in being elite when now everyone else is, too?”

Her observation was spot-on. Luxury status doesn’t rank if everyone has it.

And this brings me to the Lincoln brand.

Ford Motor Co. wants to give the faltering brand cachet again. That starts with great design and product, which Ford says it’s working on. It also means creating a customer experience that makes Lincoln customers feel like they are “elite.”

And it means limiting production so you don’t run into an everyone-else-has-it-too scenario. The process will be painful for many dealerships. Some might opt out because it doesn’t make business sense for them to invest millions on facility upgrades. And most dealers don’t know the future Lincoln product lineup.

It’s a gamble.

But to rebuild Lincoln, luxury can’t be something attainable to all. Otherwise, you’re just another chump standing in an airport line hoping your carry-on bag will fit above your coach seat.

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