By on August 28, 2013


                 In a push to get younger consumers into dealerships, Lincoln has undertaken a crash rebranding program. Ford is pushing dealers to upgrade facilities, as well as retraining sales staff in the lingo of “progressive luxury.” Chic furniture and flatscreens are some of the stereotypical dealership improvements that Lincoln hopes to persuade dealers to implement. But there’s one initiative that’s certainly out of the ordinary: the creation of a Lincoln-specific scent, to be wafted through dealerships.

                Dee-Ann Durbin of AP covered the Chicago conference where Lincoln marketing gurus attempted to inculcate the assembled salespeople with the values of “progressive luxury.” Wearing animal print bathrobes, tasting flavor-infused salt, and sitting in luxurious chairs were just some of the activities designed to attune salespeople to the sensitivities of the moneyed yuppies breaking down the doors of Lincoln dealerships across the nation. The scent- described as “a fresh-smelling blend of Earl Grey tea, jasmine and orange flowers”- is part of the wider package. There are an endless number of jokes about the true scent of Lincoln to be made here (Aquanet and embalming fluid come to mind), but I’ll defer to commenters in that regard. Ford wants dealers to install some method of projecting the handcrafted odor throughout dealerships, although the exact method of delivery is unclear. Will it be candles? Incense burners? Custom Glade Plug-Ins? The goal is that customers will “memorize” the scent as intrinsic to the Lincoln brand identity, bringing them back for more huffs and more sales.

                The website for consultant group Business Voice, the firm responsible for distributing the new initiative, goes into greater detail about the goals and the logic behind the Lincoln Scent. As the blurb points out, scent marketing isn’t a new idea. We all know that a Godiva store is supposed to smell like overpriced chocolate and that Abercrombie and Fitch douses everything in Extract of California or whatever their signature cologne is called. In a similar vein, Business Voice acknowledges the importance of “new car smell:” “It’s part of our culture’s collective awareness.”  This brings up an excellent point: new car smell is valued because it’s a universally understood status symbol.

                In fact, it might just be what keeps the entire industry afloat. That intoxicating aroma of outgassing plastics, drying glues, fresh fluids, and newly installed rubber fittings has pushed many a wavering car shopper over the edge.  In an era when even consumers of extremely modest means can afford “luxury” colognes and perfumes, new car smell remains attractively dear. There are lots of people that can scrape together $100 for a bottle of Gucci or Polo or other vial of flammable liquids, but comparatively few that can sign off on a new car lease or loan. Sure, the difference in smell between a Versa and an S-Class isn’t radical. But it still shows that you’re wealthy enough right now to drive this year’s model, regardless of what class you might be buying in.  Given the universally accepted importance of the new car smell to consumers, why do anything to cover it up? This smacks of an answer to a question that nobody asked.

                The other point to consider is that luxury car showrooms are not like stores at the mall. For the most part, they are not areas for casual wandering and browsing. They don’t rely on $2.99 impulse buys like Cinnabon or Bath and Body Works. They’re stores that sell high-dollar, high-importance products to adults with significant resources. A classy interior and a slick sales staff can go a long way towards facilitating these purchases, but they aren’t what bring customers into dealers in the first place. Attractive products, competently marketed, under desirable brand names, are what keep luxury dealers in business. Rebuilding the Lincoln brand name will have to rest on stronger foundations than a pleasant scent.  

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29 Comments on “Get a Whiff of Lincoln’s New Marketing Scheme...”

  • avatar
    Jason Lombard

    That’s gotta be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard-and I work in marketing for a living. Scents instead of focusing on the core problem–the product. Oh well, I’m sure that they shrug their shoulders before they shutter the brand and say, “Well, we tried.” And they’ll all laugh as they cash their bonus checks.

    The Lincoln smell. The first priority if you’re a perfume company, the worst possible waste of time and money if you’re a car company.

    • 0 avatar

      The application or particular aroma might be the tough nut to crack, but the idea isn’t all that dumb. We have five senses, and they’re not all separate and discrete. We’ve all sniffed a particular aroma that triggered memories long gone from the first time we whiffed those aromas, some good, some bad. Associating a particular smell with being pampered in a dealership might help sell future models that have been spiked with the aroma. The key is the aroma chosen: Tea and jasmine might sell to women, but I suspect sizzling bacon and home fries would work better on men.

  • avatar

    As as an automotive advertising and marketing professional, I read this with incredulity. Lincoln, I want you to succeed, but you still don’t get it. While perception is reality, product is perception. Ask Tesla.

  • avatar

    Dear Lincoln:

    Your own special stank won’t sell cars. Making really good, desirable cars will sell cars. If you invested the money you’ve spent on your own special stank or getting Jimmy Fallon to curate stuff on maybe making the cars more fun to drive or getting the infotainment system better people might just buy your stuff.

    So maybe try that.


  • avatar

    Does Lincoln realize that any given scent may smell good to a lot of people, but repulsive to others? And that some people are allergic to any perfume?

    How about, say, making luxury cars? The smell of leather should be all the perfume you need.

  • avatar

    I’m also forced to wonder if this is a chicken vs. egg question. Are the marketers resorting to the special stank because the underlying product is so underwhelming, or have the marketers become so good at marketing…well, marketing…that they’ve succeeded in convincing a car company that what they need is a special stank to move metal?

    Which came first, the lemon or the lemon scent?

  • avatar

    On principle, Lincoln’s signature scent must be branded by Cartier.

  • avatar

    Bergamot? Earl grey? That might be ‘luxury’ but it’s sure as hell isn’t progressive! I’m not sure, but if I’m buying a nice car, I just want my ass kissed. Maybe instead of offering free coffee at the dealership they can offer chilled Krug or something. Drunk people with money will make more irrational choices (i.e. buying a Lincoln) than sober people with money!

    • 0 avatar

      Now THAT’s a good idea. Open bar at Lincoln dealerships.Except this is the worst hangover ever… it comes with a Lincoln and a $399 lease per month for 36 months.

      (actually, that’s not as bad as child support, so technically not the worst hangover ever.)

  • avatar

    The Lincoln Smell is a combination of epoxy used to hold landau roofs in place with a hint of singed currency for the money being wasted on existential exercises into oblivion such as these.

  • avatar

    I live in a medium sized town in central California. I just checked… the nearest Lincoln dealership is 30 miles away– and it’s a Ford store as well. The nearest freestanding Lincoln dealership is ???

    So are they going to waft this fragrance through the Ford portion as well, or set up air dams to keep it from the masses?

    I don’t remember Lexus having a ‘scent,’ just great product.

  • avatar

    Fine tobacco, expensive scotch, and fresh paper currency – that smell will sell Lincolns.

    • 0 avatar

      Didn’t you just describe original Polo?

    • 0 avatar

      Take it a step further, give the buyer a glass of scotch when discussing the product might soften them up to the pending sale. In all honesty I love Lincoln I feel like if done correctly it could be the interesting alternative to the normal boring premium brand, like don’t care if it’s rwd it can ‘ve a fwd based but just make sure 90% of cars are standard awd with fwd left for the lease specials. I think the biggest downfall of that most dealers I been to have no spacial separation, hell there’s one where the fusion and mkz sit side by side. Opposed to the penske dealer who has maserati, mb, porsche, Bmw, lexus, Infiniti, audi, Bentley and mini most of which are in the same building, but to get to it you have to pass through an enclosed hallway/service drive pass through to enter the next section…fairly effective in my opinion for Ford to do the same

  • avatar

    “Extract of California” is the Hollister patented scent. A&F uses Eau De Douchay.

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    ” The other point to consider is that luxury car showrooms are not like stores at the mall. For the most part, they are not areas for casual wandering and browsing.”

    Not that I disagree with you about the absurdity of a Lincoln Scent, but you must surely be aware that malls are just about dead in America, being replaced by the “towne centre”/urban shopping experience. We are coming full circle (

    “Auto rows developed in numerous US cities shortly after 1900 as car companies sought to create districts where the sale and repair of cars could become an easy urban shopping experience.”

    “Currently, one car dealer (Ford) still stands in Motor Row while the remaining buildings have been or are being redeveloped into condominiums, nightclubs, and retail storefronts.”

    Next time you are in Paris, take a walk down Champs-Élysées and note the auto showrooms mixed among the high-end retail. You can buy a Grand Cherokee (yes really) while shopping for your Gucci bag.

    Get used to it, because it’s coming back.

    • 0 avatar

      I know you are right, even in perpetually suburban Florida we are getting lots of the faux-urban “districts” being built. My wife and I finally went to our latest one nearby, it has to be at least 2-3 yrs old too so it’s hardly new, but still very nice and upscale feeling. And it was absolutely packed, even late in the evening the street parking was full and the garage was packed too. So as we walked around, we both commented on how incredibly stupid this was. A bunch of the same stores you find in a mall, except its outdoors. Its hot, humid, muggy, we got sweaty and it was 7pm, as it got darker it became less nice to walk around, cars driving by with lights on, music, exhaust smell and engine noise was annoying. As we finished at the last store, it started to rain, luckily the car was not too far down the street. We were going to eat there but didn’t want to walk in the rain to the restaurant on the other side, so we drove somewhere else with better parking.

      So what’s the point? We have another local traditional mall that has the exact same stores and even the same chain restaurants, the interior is designed to look like a city street even, but without curbs or cars or any of the annoyances. Its always air conditioned or heated, always well lit, never raining inside. Outdoor malls are nice when its a sunny spring or fall day, which we do have plenty of, but when its cold or hot or raining or dark there are much nicer places to shop. Real urban entertainment districts have history and culture and local shops or restaurants that are fun to visit, but these chain-store laden fake suburban ones are just dumb.

      • 0 avatar
        Chicago Dude

        “So what’s the point?” “Its always air conditioned or heated, always well lit, never raining inside.”

        I think you mostly just answered your own question. If the shopping public is willing to accept the outdoor shopping center (and your experience proves they will), the owner can charge the same rents while at the same time running with lower operating expenses. It’s not just saving on the electric bill either. The indoor mall operator pays serious property taxes on those enclosed walkways. A bunch of sidewalks and decorative landscaping doesn’t get taxed at anywhere near the same rate.

  • avatar

    The Lincoln smell – The smell of desperation…

  • avatar

    oh, THAT Hollister.

    I was thinking of this one:

    where I worked for 3 years. Its only redeeming quality was the 3 P-51 Mustangs hangared at the local airport and the CDF borate bombers based there. Great stuff when they buzzed our building on final.

    Lincoln won’t be helped with fragrances. Suppose someone with allergies to same walks in the door?

    Smell of success is needed here.
    Check the boxes:

    Front Engine
    Rear Drive
    Coyote Engine
    Suicide Doors
    Leather (not the cheap stuff)
    Break the link to rebadged Fords

  • avatar

    I think what I’d like to smell at a Lincoln dealership is a knowledgeable salesman who doesn’t reek of Old Spice and cigarettes.

  • avatar

    I sure hope “progressive” has a different meaning in the car business compared to that of the political world.

  • avatar

    Baloney would be an appropriate smell.

  • avatar

    Lots of places do this. Go to the different departments at a Cabellas…they pipe in smells of the outdoors. It won’t save Lincoln, but it isn’t crazy marketing either.

    As to dealership improvements? Make the joint look like an episode of Mad Men complete with ash tray’s and whiskey bottles on the salesman’s desk.

  • avatar

    I, for one, hate the stench of new cars.

    Different plastics and rubbers venting what may be toxic fumes up into my lungs.

    Having spent my childhood wrenching on beaten up old cars with my father, the “old car” smell is what comforts me: some old car that you’ve lovingly restored and kept running means more to me than hydrocarbon poisons leeching out of various Chinese made plastic surfaces.

  • avatar

    It’s been a few years since I was in a Lincoln showroom and as far as I could tell it was exactly like the Ford dealer next door. So yea fix up your showrooms and what ever, but at some point you are going to have to have the product folks want.

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