DETROIT - Seeking a fresh connection with younger customers, Lincoln Mercury has launched a thorough review of pricing and advertising, not just its products.
'It's everything from the way we price our vehicles and use incentives to the way we distribute and sell our vehicles through current dealership networks to the product line,' said Jim Rogers, Lincoln Mercury general marketing manager.
'Should we reduce the price of our vehicles and never do incentives? Should we be on network TV? Should we take our direct marketing budget way up, or eliminate it altogether? What should we do with the Internet? Do we have the right products? If not, how do we get them?' Rogers said. 'We are examining every piece of our business.'
In 1998, Lincoln Mercury moved outside of Detroit's automotive orbit to Irvine, Calif. Both brands are trying to become relevant to a new generation of younger, trendier buyers.
Strategy changes already are evident. Lincoln is readying the Blackwood luxury pickup for production within a year. Ford Division is showing off a new Focus small car for 2000, but there is no me-too model for Mercury.
Current Lincoln Mercury vehicles have to prove their worth, and new product ideas are being explored. For example, a what-if scenario equips the Mercury Sable with all-wheel drive in the Northeast, Rogers said.
In 1998, Mercury sold 410,186 vehicles, down 6.3 percent from 1997. Lincoln sold 187,121 vehicles, up 12.5 percent.
Lincoln Mercury needs to create more forceful brand identities, said Douglas Scott, president of Allison-Fisher Inc., a marketing research and consulting firm in Southfield, Mich.
'What is the Lincoln brand today given the fact that the Europeans and the Japanese are finding niches and filling them with all sorts of vehicles from punchy coupes and sporty two-seaters to high-flown sports sedans?' Scott asked. 'Lincoln, like Cadillac, has to figure out a contemporary position.'
Mercury has to get out from under Ford Division. 'Mercury needs to establish a brand identity,' Scott said. 'It either must find an entirely new identity or figure out what it means to be upscale of Ford.'