Disassociation as a Strategy for Targeting Upscale Markets

If you were like most teenagers, the mere thought of being seen in public with your parents or siblings was a source of great angst. What if your friends saw you with these totally un-cool people- your image and reputation would be ruined! If your situation was like mine, it turns out in the end that parents and siblings were not so bad after all. But, image is everything, so we would go out of our way to disassociate our “brand” from someone or something with which we did not want to be connected.

This avoidance strategy practiced in our teen years can be brought out of retirement by marketers wishing to extend their business footprint to upscale markets. These customers expect higher product quality, personalized service, and an overall superior experience to mass market brands. Companies marketing a portfolio of brands face challenges in serving upscale marketers, including decisions about branding. Even a well known brand name is not necessarily an asset because if the aim is to reach a high-end market, those customers may reject a brand perceived as incongruent with being upscale. Auto companies recognize this dilemma, which is why Toyota created Lexus, Honda developed Acura, and Nissan sells Infiniti.

Another auto brand striving to connect with upscale customers is Ford’s Lincoln nameplate. Lincoln has gone from the top selling luxury brand in America to an also ran. Why? Product design had devolved into dressed up versions of Ford models. Ford’s solution to the problem is to commit $1 billion to an overhaul of Lincoln. In the next few years, Ford will roll out seven new or significantly redesigned Lincolns. Sales projections look for annual volume to more than double by 2015.

Ford’s strategy of a product design makeover is an important first step in energizing the Lincoln brand. But, greater transformation will be needed. A top class dealership experience is needed, both in terms of buyer-seller interaction and service after the sale. Brand communications that consistently position Lincoln as a unique luxury brand are needed. The further it can distance itself from its “average” relative Ford, the better.

Will Ford’s attempt to grow Lincoln pay off? It has the potential for success, if Lincoln can break away from perceptions that it is a Ford with more bells and whistles. Act like a teenager, Lincoln, and keep your distance from your parent… but do not forget that you need them!

Foxnews.com – “Ford’s $1 Billion Plan to Save Lincoln”

Finding Marketing Opportunity Amid Confusion

Beginning a discussion by saying “the government creates marketing opportunity” is a bit unusual. We tend to think of governmental regulations and influence as limiting for businesses. One exception might be the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save (CARS) program, better known as “cash for clunkers.” Its aim is to entice owners of fuel guzzling vehicles to trade for more fuel efficient models. The program itself could be a boon to the auto industry as it offers up to $4500 in incentives to consumers. However, if auto companies rely only on the stimulus effect such a program would potentially create they will miss opportunities to reach potential buyers.

An example of proactive marketing in response to the government incentive program is Ford’s “Recycle Your Ride” campaign. Ford has observed (probably correctly) that the conditions and eligibility requirements of the incentive program will be confusing to many people trying to determine if they are eligible. In response, Ford has an interactive calculator on its web site that will enable consumers to input information on their vehicle to determine their eligibility for the government incentive. In addition, Ford has identified approximately 20 models in its product line that meet the criteria of the government program.

By being a resource for consumers to sort through the details of the Cash for Clunkers program, Ford may be better positioned to reap the benefits of this incentive program than its domestic competitors. A quick perusal of GM and Chrylser web site home pages finds no mention of the Cash for Clunkers program or any marketing efforts that respond to the opportunity. The emphasis of the content on those web sites currently is the company, while Ford’s site tries to help the consumer. Which one do you think potential car buyers will favor? Ford’s tactics illustrate that we should always be looking for an opportunity to provide clarity for customers when uncertainty is present.

Marketing Daily – “Ford Eyes Opportunity in Clunker Confusion”