Ford's Mercury adopts 'independent' outlook with new Sable drive

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Ford Motor Co.'s Mercury brand will unveil a new tagline, "Live life in your own lane," when it breaks TV spots for the 2000 Sable on Oct. 18.

Replacing "Imagine yourself in a Mercury," the tag will be used in all model-year advertising and promotional material for the Lincoln-Mercury unit's brand.

"The new tagline speaks to this independent mindset, which essentially means our buyers are more inclined to out-think, rather than out-spend, their peers," said Jennifer Moneagle, group brand manager.

Mercury wouldn't reveal Sable spending, but according to Competitive Media Reporting, the automaker spent $23.1 million on the marque in 1998.

Simultaneously, Lincoln Mercury will upgrade its Web sites (mercuryvehicles.com and lincolnvehicles.com), making them more useful for car shoppers, it said.

Deborah Wahl, Lincoln Mercury marketing communications manager, said the sites were improved because "Lincoln and Mercury buyers are increasingly more reliant upon the Internet for their automotive shopping."

The revamped sites will include access to a third party (carclub.com), allowing shoppers to compare Lincoln Mercury vehicles' features with other brands.

It will also include "flash" movies to display vehicles.

The Sable advertising will show engineering enhancements on the new model, Ms. Moneagle said. One TV spot--"Pedal Woman"--shows a woman engineer who designed an adjustable pedal, making the car easier to drive for people of different heights.

In addition, Mercury will emphasize styling that differentiates Sable from the Ford Taurus. In the past, Sable had been a rebadged "twin" vehicle of the better-selling Taurus. The Sable will have different front and rear-end treatments, she said.

HIGHER PRICE A PROBLEM

Sable should be moved further upscale, said Art Spinella, VP-general manager of CNW Marketing/Research. But "90% of Mercury intenders understand that Taurus is the same vehicle" and don't want to pay the higher price.

Mr. Spinella said Mercury's profile of its buyers as individualistic is in line with research, with one caveat--they are "very strongly, very staunchly domestic-make customers."

He added: "They tend to want to be independent in the context of being very strongly domestic buyers."

Mercury plans to sign a major marketing partnership with Barnes & Noble, but officials wouldn't reveal details.

Copyright October 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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