DEARBORN - Lincoln’s Group Marketing Manager C.J. O’Donnell and his team have a long trek ahead of them as the brand undergoes a major rebirth.
O’Donnell is using all of his creative, strategic and business muscle to help Lincoln win the race to become a luxury leader.
As an influence in sports car racing and a skilled runner who has completed two Marine Corps marathons, O’Donnell recognizes the parallels between running a marathon and building a luxury brand.
“This is parallel to racing Le Mans or running a marathon. This isn’t a sprint. We see it in our work every day,” says O’Donnell. “The team is working 12 to 14 hours a day. So, you have to pace yourself. You need the fortitude to keep clicking off the miles, knowing that you have a long way to go before you’re done, but with each step you closer to your goal.”
Before joining Lincoln, O’Donnell was the executive vice president of Marketing and Sales for Jaguar North America. During his six years there, Jaguar improved its profile in the market as well as its financial position. That experience provided a strong foundation for his current assignment with Lincoln.
“It is Groundhog Day. There are several similarities,” says O’Donnell. “In some ways it is very much the same step-by-step process on how we need to recover the brand.”
The key to success in the luxury field, says O’Donnell, is the experience Lincoln vehicles deliver to customers.
“It is important for us to personalize a client’s interaction with our cars,” says O’Donnell. “We want the vehicles to interact with customers in a way that is sensitive to their needs, intuitive and essenitally making their lives easier.”
Those human elements are brought to life in the MKZ Concept with styling features like the ambient lighting that illuminates the interior architecture and creates a warm and inviting environment.
O’Donnell’s strides are not limited to the number of miles he has run. His accomplishments also include receiving an MBA from Columbia University and completing Ford’s Marketing Leadership program. He also is an accomplished open-wheel and sports car racer in Formula Ford and Sports Car Club of America.
Although the MKZ Concept is a “first step in Lincoln’s rebirth,” O’Donnell says he understands the need to keep pushing ahead and clicking off the miles the same way he does when he is pounding the pavement or in the driver’s seat.
“Our product investment is on target and now we can begin to compare where we were in the first cycle versus the second cycle. The team will begin to see the company rewarding the brand’s success with more investment and new products in the second cycle,” says O’Donnell. “The rest is continuing the momentum. Every year the pieces get filled and the people get aligned, and things are beginning to work. We are going to get there.”