A few years before his death, my Dad bought a light blue, Lincoln Town car. He seemed pretty proud of that car but, not personally being into cars, I didn’t understand why (except that it offered a smooth ride for my mother).
Eyeing the vehicle, he said, “I never saw myself as a Lincoln man, but this car has everything we wanted.”
What a curious phrase. What did he mean by “never saw myself as a Lincoln man?” I’d been raised in an affluent community. Did he mean he never saw himself as successful? Wealthy? Maybe he meant “uppity”?
Consider the power brands have to shape our self-images.
Dad enjoyed watching Jack Nicklaus play golf, but I guess his humble roots – the son of an immigrant family – conflicted with his definition of affluence. While he golfed at country clubs, it probably didn’t feel like home to him.
I was in my twenties when Dad bought the Lincoln and – while it was really, really nice for my Dad – you wouldn’t see me driving that car. Not then.
Because while it was luxurious, it also was stodgy – something old people drive. Dad was in his sixties. Plus, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it and even if I could, in the college town where I lived, it would have been vandalized. But how did I get that impression? After all, cars are just vehicles that get us from point A to B.
My thinking is shaped. So is yours.
We’ve been bombarded with years and years of messaging, which puts the marketing teams for older brands at an advantage and some at a disadvantage, depending on how they’d like to define today’s message.
Branding is educating customers about who they are.
With personal and professional fascination, I’ve watched Matthew McConaughey’s Lincoln commercials (and spoofs). McConaughey’s ramblings make perfect sense to me.
Did Lincoln just reach back into a memory of a time gone by to capture a latent audience?
How many of us, about McConaughey’s age, have buried feelings or thoughts about the brand? Curators of the campaign leaned into psychology – tapping into associated feelings and forgotten memories. Through a one-on-one with a star, they attempt to redefine today’s Lincoln man.
Some customers are ready to transition into a Lincoln. For others, buying a Lincoln is not in the budget. The message suggests that thirty and forty-somethings think about where they came from and reflect on where they want to be.
Educate customers about your brand by showing customers who they are. Lincoln chose a hard-working, talented Academy Award winner to speak from the heart about where the brand has been and where it wants to go. McConaughey’s down-to-earth demeanor and pauses for reflection set the tone.
Who is a “Lincoln man?” Someone who drives the car because he “just liked it.”
Generate Free Press by Being Original.
But then, oh no. Saturday Night Live and Ellen DeGeneres saw the spots and started poking fun at them.
Ellen eats brownies and cracks fun puns. She hijacks the commercial’s connection with her audience and ends by fist pumping out the window to a rap. This is not Dad’s Lincoln (by the way, an ad phrase that’s been used before.)
Does comedian mocking hurt or help brands? You know the answer; it helps. If you’re cool enough to be made fun of by media outlets, you’re laughing with them- all the way to the bank.
Matt VanDyke, director, global Lincoln says, “In these commercials, Matthew is helping us introduce Lincoln’s next chapter of luxury with MKC. Lincoln MKC is extremely important for our brand.”
McConaughey says, “When Lincoln came to me with the idea of the campaign, I liked what the message was about. Authentic is a word that kept coming up.”
An authentic performance is exactly what resonates with the mainstream. Even if you can’t afford one, you’ll still think it’s cool.
But, McConaughey playing in a Lincoln commercial? Is this a joke? Why is he so reflective? So somber? Playing off the needling wins. Lincoln defines the customer as authentic – a trait that laughs with naysayers and drives forward with customers.
That’s great for Lincoln, but what about my brand?
I’d love to see Lincoln’s fourth quarter numbers!
But, what about yours? You might not be able to hire an Academy Award winner or even air television commercials, but moving into Q4 and then into Q1, you should have a sense of your story.
Lincoln had to define the brand in order to communicate the vision to customers. Start with your own direction and story. Think about the associated feelings and memories your customers might have stored up about your product or service from competing messages. Address those. Even on a limited budget, you can communicate an original message across paid, earned, or owned media.
I tip my hat to the whole Lincoln campaign. If you invest in defining your customer and being original, people will invest in taking notice.