DEARBORN - Seeing is believing.
That’s why the Lincoln Marketing Communications team has been taking its show on the road to get luxury consumers to experience for themselves all that the Lincoln brand has to offer.
“The No. 1 thing we’ve learned from doing test drives and different experiential programs is how surprised customers are once they’ve driven or been inside of a Lincoln vehicle,” said Connie Fontaine, manager, Lincoln Marketing Communications. “The reaction we get most often is, ‘I can’t believe this is a Lincoln.’”
Earlier this year, Lincoln implemented the first-of-its-kind “At Home Test Drive,” offering online consumers the opportunity to test drive the Lincoln MKX for a weekend.
“We actually targeted people who were not looking for a Lincoln but a different brand of luxury vehicle,” said Fontaine. “A Lincoln specialist would deliver a vehicle to their home or work, demonstrate the product and ask them to take a survey about their current opinion of Lincoln vehicles.”
At the end of the weekend, the consumers were asked to take a post-survey to see whether or not their perceptions of the Lincoln brand had changed. To date, among the nearly 900 competitive luxury vehicle owners who have participated in the program, favorable opinion of the brand increased 17 percent and consideration increased 24 percent.
One BMW 5-Series owner said, “This is a great program to get me and others to consider a car we might not otherwise have paid much attention to.”
And a Porsche owner said, “Being a part of this program will definitely influence my next vehicle purchase.”
Fontaine says giving consumers an opportunity to experience the new Lincoln products for themselves is the best way to attract new customers to the brand.
“Getting that tactile feel of what it’s like to get into a new Lincoln – not just the features and technology that we have in our products but the overall luxury package – is surprising to a lot of people,” said Fontaine.
Lincoln has been surprising people all over the country through a number of experiential marketing efforts. Last summer, for example, Lincoln teamed up with Motor Trend and Automobile magazine to present the Bay-to-Beach Discovery Drive, a three-day ride-and-drive experience culminating at the world renowned luxury automotive event, the Pebble Beach Concours d Elegance.
Bay to Beach gave three couples – who drive competing luxury vehicles – an opportunity to take to the road along the coast of California and put their opinions to the test.
In a fuel-efficiency challenge, the couples compared the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid with the Lexus HS Hybrid.
“It’s amazing how un-fuel-efficient my car is,” said Shannon Della Porta, an Infiniti owner. “It really makes me think we need to rethink our car.”
Couples also had a chance to see how the Lincoln MKX handled along the winding California coastline against the Mercedes ML and the Lexus RX in a crossover challenge.
“I was pleasantly surprised with the Lincoln,” said Aaron Hoffman, an Audi owner. “It was a lot of fun to drive. It was exhilarating to drive frankly for those roads. It beat out the Lexus. And it beat out the Mercedes . . . which I think was a real shocker.”
Lincoln also is reaching out to consumers through a variety of social media channels, including Facebook. In less than 18 months, the number of fans on Lincoln’s Facebook page has grown to almost 35,000.
“Looking towards the future, social media will continue to be a powerful tool for us as we continue a dialogue with potential customers,” said Fontaine.
As an indication of what the future holds for the Lincoln brand, marketing efforts throughout the past year produced a 21 percent lift in favorable opinion and a 24 percent increase in consideration – both metrics that exceeded goals and objectives and compare favorably to the resurgence experienced on the Ford brand over the last few years.
In addition, more than 20,000 consumers have requested more information about Lincoln products – a sign that once people experience what Lincoln has to offer, they are interested in more.
“What we are trying to do for Lincoln is not going to happen overnight,” said Fontaine. “We are rebuilding a great luxury brand for today’s luxury consumer and through targeted, innovative and thought-provoking marketing initiatives paired with great products now, and in the future, we believe we will make it happen."