DETROIT -- Seeking to reclaim its relevance by wooing young luxury customers, Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln brand is preparing to kick off an aggressive marketing campaign at a Nov. 26 music event tied to the start of the Los Angeles Auto Show.
The campaign is part of an effort to address what Ford marketing honcho Jim Farley calls "the burden of being Lincoln."
Because Lincoln has fallen off many buyers' radar, Farley says, it's up to the brand to remove any barrier that would prevent people from considering a Lincoln, taking a test drive and deciding to buy.
On Aug. 28, Lincoln and its ad agency submitted a detailed outline of the campaign to media companies, seeking their ideas on the best channels for reaching its target consumers. The campaign is tied to the launch of the redesigned 2013 MKZ sedan, scheduled to arrive in dealerships in mid to late November. It will be coordinated with sales events to promote other Lincoln vehicles, especially the MKX crossover and MKS sedan.
The musical performance will be streamed live through a Web site tied to the campaign's working theme: "Reimagined," according to a copy of the marketing plan obtained this month by Automotive News.
In an Aug. 24 interview, Farley, Ford's group vice president of global marketing, sales and service, admitted Lincoln has fallen so far off the radar for many customers that a conventional campaign announcing the arrival of a new model won't suffice.
"Our marketing is going to have to be compelling enough to conquest customers so that they actually sample the product," he said. "It's not enough for our advertising just to educate people that there's a new MKZ."
Farley, who relied heavily on experiential marketing when he launched the Scion brand at Toyota, said Lincoln will take a page from that playbook.
"We absolutely have to have experiential marketing at the point where the product is showing up and we have mass availability of the MKZ and we can get test drives done," he said.
In addition, Lincoln will be the "first luxury brand to offer a 24/7 concierge service," with live sales representatives waiting to help customers price their MKZ, Farley said.
"That's the burden of being Lincoln. Other brands don't have to do that. They have plenty of loyal customers," he said. "For us to grow, we have to eliminate excuses" that prevent consumers from learning about a car, including the excuse of not having time to get to a dealership.
As part of its new image, Lincoln will rebrand itself as "Lincoln Motor Co.," according to the document.
The campaign is being coordinated by Lincoln's still-unnamed New York ad agency, a unit of WPP, the global media and advertising conglomerate. The Lincoln agency works with Team Detroit, the Dearborn agency for the Ford brand.
Lincoln plans to use a combination of digital media and conventional channels, such as TV, in an effort to get customers to test drive the MKZ and to think of Lincoln in a new way. The document mentions the idea of using celebrities to illustrate the Lincoln reimagining, for example, "Lady Gaga reimagines Michael Jackson (Thriller)" and "George Clooney reimagines Chariots of Fire." A Lincoln spokesman said the examples were just hypothetical at this point and do not imply any celebrities have been signed.
Lincoln sales have declined steadily in recent years as its customers have aged. In August, Lincoln accounted for just 4 percent of Ford Motor sales. The Ford Edge, the third-best-selling SUV or crossover in Ford's lineup, outsold the entire Lincoln brand in August, 11,603 to 8,141.
The average age of Lincoln's customer base is 65. The rear-wheel-drive Town Car, discontinued after the 2011 model year and based on an ancient platform, is the vehicle most associated with the brand.
Lincoln knows that it must find younger customers to survive. Lincoln has spent two years researching the profile of the customers it seeks. Lincoln calls them "cultural progressive magicians" and "agile visionaries." The document says these consumers, aged 35-50 with an average household income of $150,000, are "obsessively curious knowledge seekers who have a strong sense of purpose in life and dream of making the world a better place."