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Lincoln relaunches with presidential smoke, classic mirrors

December 3, 2012

Four score and 17 years ago, an automotive forefather brought forth on these shores a luxury carbuilder named for the first president he voted for -- Lincoln. Today, Ford unveiled its all-out marketing offensive for what it now calls the Lincoln Motor Company, with a massive ad blitz featuring the new MKZ, classic Lincoln models and even Honest Abe himself, looking like he's walking onto the field at the Super Bowl. The question is: Who's listening?

There's no way to talk about what Ford wants to do with Lincoln, and the bold-to-brazen nature of the marketing blitz, without watching its introductory ad:

Behind this melange of symbols lies an offer to "emotionally welcome our new target customer into our brand," says Matt VanDyke, Director of Global Lincoln Brand. By "brand," Ford execs include a new list of nice things Lincoln dealers will now do for customers -- such as setting up two-day test drives and giving them gifts like champagne and a free night at the Ritz-Carlton, according to the New York Times. The ad above will soon become unavoidable on broadcast television, and there's plans for Lincoln's first Super Bowl advertisement, which will run at least $7 million for air time alone.

Lincoln even gets its own Twitter account.

And the cars? Well there's the new MKZ and MKZ Hybrid, which should hit dealers in a matter of weeks. And...there's also four other models, which are widely available as Lincoln sales have fallen 3 percent this year to 74,766. If you want to roll in a full-size Lincoln Navigator sport utility vehicle, Lincoln has you covered; if your tastes run to small luxury SUVs or rear-wheel-drive performance sedans -- the vehicles that power sales at BMW, Lexus, Mercedes and Cadillac -- Lincoln dealers have nothing up their stovepipe hats.

There's rumors floating around Detroit that some Ford execs believe the $1 billion its spending on refreshing and rebranding Lincoln won't be enough to jumpstart the brand without a true flagship vehicle, something on the scale of the classic Continentals that Lincoln showed briefly at the Los Angeles Auto Show previews last week. Whether its the Rat Pack era evoked in the ad above or the booming SUV years, Lincoln has always prospered best when it had cars that offered something unique and stylish. As Henry Leland's other luxury car company one said in its landmark ad: "That which deserves to live -- lives."