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Forward Into the Past for Newly Renamed Lincoln Motor Co.

Old name for a newly updated brand.

by on Dec.03, 2012

Lincoln launches its name change -- and the new MKZ -- with a new multimedia campaign.

What difference does a name make? No, that’s not the beginning of an essay on Shakespeare, though Ford is hoping a new name for its long-struggling Lincoln brand will make it smell as sweet as a rose.

The Detroit luxury marque is taking a step forward into the past by reviving the name it first had back in 1922, the Lincoln Motor Co.  Ford officials are hoping that the subtle change – which it plans to heavily promote as part of a new multimedia ad campaign – will help signal the broader changes coming at Lincoln, starting with the launch of the new MKZ sedan.

Back from the Jungle!

“Befitting this new chapter in the life of Lincoln we are making a complete new start in every aspect of consumer communication to emotionally welcome our new target customer into our brand,” said Matt VanDyke, Director of Global Lincoln Brand.

An image from the Lincoln heyday, with the classic Mark II, and a new one featuring the MKZ.

“It’s not often this opportunity comes around,” VanDyke added, “so we intend to make the most of it and have our work in every medium be as fresh, surprising and distinctive as the new Lincoln vehicles and customer experiences will be.”

The new ad campaign kicks off today with a newspaper pitch that asks the provocative question: “Does the World Need Another Luxury Car?” Lincoln is hoping that it can make the case that there is room for another brand – or, more accurately, the revival of a once powerful brand that has all but slipped off buyers’ radar, as Lincoln’s new brand boss, Jim Farley, acknowledged during an interview at the LA Auto Show last week.

Lincoln was founded in 1917 by Henry Leland – who also founded the Cadillac brand. It was originally intended to produce engines for World War I aircraft but soon began producing luxury automobiles. Henry Ford purchased the company in 1922, renaming it the Lincoln Motor Co., though in later years it became paired with another Ford brand, Mercury. With that mid-range marque now abandoned, Ford officials decided to reach back into the past, an era when Lincoln – and cross-town rival Cadillac – dominated the U.S. luxury market.

Lincoln now gets its own design and engineering team - chief stylist Max Wolff shown here with the MKZ.

Lincoln hit its peak, at least from a sales standpoint, in 1990, motorists purchasing 231,660 of its vehicles. But in recent years, it hasn’t come close – volume during the first 10 months of 2012 falling 2.7% even as the luxury market, in general, outpaced the overall U.S. automotive recovery — and like Caddy, it has ceded the market to import marques like Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

But Ford is giving the brand another shot, with the stylish and well-received MKZ kicking off a hoped-for turnaround that will see the launch of four key products by mid-decade, including restyled versions of the bigger MKS sedan and the Navigator full-sized SUV, as well as the introduction of a compact luxury crossover.

Company officials hope to achieve sales of more than 150,000 by 2015 – and by then they plan to begin a long-discussed and equally long-delayed global rollout that will begin with the introduction of the Lincoln Motor Co. into China.

Along with the new name, Ford has been expanding the resources available for Lincoln’s planned renaissance, the brand also getting its own design and engineering team in a bid to help craft more distinctive products than buyers have seen in recent years.

There remain plenty of skeptics who note that the MKZ and other planned Lincoln products will still share their underpinnings with mainstream Ford models – such as the midsize Fusion sedan.

But Lincoln boss Farley points out that increasingly popular Audi also shares key platforms and components with other Volkswagen brands. And as part of a new alliance, Mercedes-Benz platforms will be shared with Nissan, Infiniti and Renault.

Clearly, the products in the Lincoln pipeline will be critical, but company officials recognize that they also have to get those products back on consumers’ radar with the new ad campaign.

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