THE MARKETING 100: LINCOLN NAVIGATOR: MIKE RICHARDS

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Ford motor co.'s Lincoln brand has gotten a lift from Navigator, its first sport-utility vehicle. The swanky, $40,000-plus vehicle is attracting younger and first-time Lincoln buyers-fulfilling its mission.

"To us, the Navigator is about more than a sport utility. It's the beginning of a new Lincoln," Mike Richards, Navigator's first brand manager, told Advertising Age last year. Mr. Richards, now regional manager of Lincoln Mercury division in Detroit, declined to be interviewed for this article.

But just before Navigator's ad blitz broke last June, he said the median age of target buyers was 48 years old vs. 63 years old for the Lincoln brand overall.

To reach the target, Mr. Richards directed an integrated campaign and spent $35 million in measured media last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Much work was done early last year to create awareness.

Young & Rubicam unit Wunderman Cato Johnson, Detroit, handled the pre-launch Web campaign that hit six months before the SUV's debut with banner ads on 28 sites. Wunderman sent 500,000 prospects a teaser direct piece four months before launch. Lincoln raved about the early 6% response rate, mailing an elegant follow-up booklet to hand-raisers.

Lincoln reeled in 10,000 Navigator orders before the ad launch. Y&R Advertising, Detroit, used slogans like "Anywhere, James" and "Ditch the Joneses" in print ads.

A TV spot played off the brand's use of a valet, but the twist is he has to climb rocks and duck a bear to retrieve the "black Lincoln."

Mr. Richards explained that "our segment doesn't care about the Joneses" and is more outdoorsy than traditional Lincoln buyers.

Sales have been brisk. During the first 4 months of 1998, Lincoln sold 13,753 Navigators, according to Automotive News. Mr. Richards predicted eventual annual sales of about 40,000.

"We'll use the Navigator to shift the paradigm on how luxury consumers see Lincoln," he said.

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