Adventures In Marketing: Observe the Edgy and Rebellious Lincoln MKZ Buyers!

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
adventures in marketing observe the edgy and rebellious lincoln mkz buyers

I do a lot of traveling (to such exotic places as Kershaw, South Carolina and South Haven, Michigan) in my travels with the 24 Hours of LeMons, which means I have plenty of dead time in airports to contemplate puzzling car ads. The Economist is the best possible magazine to have on hand when you get hit by a six-hour weather delay at George Bush International, because of its incredible bang-for-buck density. It’s clear that marketing flacks take the Economist‘s word for it when they talk about readership demographics, because the split between self-proclaimed readership (powerful and influential globe-trotting executives) and actual readership (geeked-out history/politics junkies with unkempt beards and Dead Kennedys T-shirts) makes for some entertaining car advertisements. Here’s one for the ’13 Lincoln MKZ, which attempts to woo the 72-year-old owner of a 6-store dry-cleaning chain into feeling that the purchase of an MKZ will transform him into a focus-group-perfect 42-year-old entrepreneur. Let’s take a closer look at what Lincoln’s marketers picture as the idealized MKZ buyer.

“Like individuals, no two journeys are alike.” In fact, every one of the ten men pictured in this ad is the exact same guy: the mid-level manager who uses PowerPoint to make minutes drag on like geological epochs. He’s not The Man, but— in the world created by Ford’s marketers— The Man drives a Lincoln instead of one of those foreign jobs.

So, 30 years after Gates, Jobs, and Wozniak changed The Man’s dress code from oligarchic suits to not-quite-one-of-the-guys nerdwear, we’ve got the double disconnect of a car being pitched in a publication read by a demographic that mostly ignores Detroit cars, using what appear to be computer-generated images straight out of the notes gleaned from a focus group comprised of hyper-optimistic Las Vegas realtors.

Of course, this got me to thinking about the only MKZ owner I’ve ever known, who actually is a 40-something business executive. In 2006, I was working as a tech writer at a software startup in California, and the founder (a super-geeked-out physics PhD with a Prius) decided he’d better hire what the investors call “adult supervision,” a genuine suit who could convince everyone that we were serious. This guy parked his brand-new MKZ between my battered P71 Crown Vic and the QA guy’s hooptie Porsche 924, and it became clear that he’d traded in his Lexus GS for the Lincoln because he’d believed the car writers when they broke out their “DETROIT IS BACK!” rubberstamps upon attending the no-doubt-luxurious MKZ launch, and he really wanted to buy American. He didn’t look much like the guys in the Economist ad, and he was more a low-drama administrator than the risk-taking maverick envisioned by those Vegas realtors, but at least he was the right age. He was disappointed by the MKZ— I can’t recall exactly why— but he was determined to give his Lincoln a chance. In my opinion, Ford’s marketers would be better off going with a focus group made up entirely of hair-transplanted strip-club owners from suburban Bakersfield; go for the semi-penumbral-economy bad boys!

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  • CelticPete CelticPete on Apr 20, 2013

    I don't see anything wrong with them chasing this demographic. Yes its true that most 40 something guys are going to get a BMW. But what are they supposed to do, give up? Or only go after 60 somethings?

  • RatherhaveaBuick RatherhaveaBuick on Apr 22, 2013

    These ads are terrible. Totally misdirected advertising. Changing the name to Lincoln Motor Company is the stupidest marketing move they could've made. Regardless of how much money they must've put into their admittedly epic booth at the NY auto show... For the record, the outgoing MKS is so much nicer in every way...

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