Hmm, what to do with Lincoln? Steve Jobs could have helped

I'm reading the bio of Steve Jobs.

Love him or hate him, the co-founder of Apple Inc. knew how to build a company and brand it.

Ford Motor Co. leaders ought to take a lesson from Jobs and apply it to Lincoln.

Ford wants to reinvigorate its remaining luxury brand and has created what it calls a "luxury-oriented boutique agency" to handle Lincoln exclusively.

The new agency will be in New York, headed by Cameron McNaughton. McNaughton is an auto industry veteran who has been an adviser to a range of brands. He previously headed his own consulting firm.

McNaughton has his work cut out for him. Lincoln's sales through November are nearly flat with last year at 77,240. Sales at Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus are more than double that amount. Cadillac is way ahead, too.

And Lincoln has an identity crisis. It's not a rebellious sport luxury brand such as Cadillac nor is it branded as refinement as is Lexus. At best, Lincoln is merely competent luxury.

And that's just not enough. It needs more emotion.

McNaughton should look at the most memorable commercials by strong brands such as Apple. The spots promote an idea that evokes emotion rather than pushing specifics about products.

An example: Apple's infamous and unforgettable 1984 commercial launching the Macintosh personal computer. The spot played off George Orwell's novel 1984 about pervasive government surveillance and public mind-control. The spot didn't say much about the specifics of the Mac computer. But it sure defined the Apple brand as an ideal for freethinkers and rebels.

In 1997, Jobs again promoted the spirit of the company more so than the products in the pipeline.

Jobs burnished Apple's identity with the "Think Different" campaign, which he partly wrote.

Here's a shortened version of the text: "Here's to the crazy ones. The rebels. The troublemakers. The ones who see things differently. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

I get goose bumps even now reading it. Now that's a company with products I want to buy. And if I can feel that way about a computer, imagine how I'd feel behind the wheel of a car if the branding for the car is that powerful?

A vehicle is often an extension of how we see ourselves. So please don't show me a car racing down a highway or cruising through a city at night. Boring.

Give me something to think about that will evoke an emotional reaction.

If Lincoln is going to keep the loyalists and attract new customers, its leaders should study Steve Jobs. He knew how to attach emotion to products.

Jobs brought us two of the most innovative and successful companies of the latter 20th century: Apple and Pixar Animation Studios.

It's amazing to build one great company in a lifetime, let alone two.

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