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Mercury Gets A New Face…..Again


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Ford Motor. Co. on Thursday unveiled its latest branding effort for its Mercury brand, featuring four new TV commercials themed "New Doors Open." The campaign, the biggest brand effort in a decade, is meant to support a series of new products coming to Lincoln-Mercury showrooms in the next 24 months.

Ford has struggled to define Mercury for decades, mucking about with entry-level cars as well as premium sedans and SUVs. And in recent years the brand has come to mean little more than "Fords with more chrome." How hard has it been to hang a brand identity on Mercury? Company executives say it has had 12 slogans in 25 years.

Mercury sales were down 23 percent last year and are down 1 percent so far this year. Ford hopes the arrival of the Mariner SUV and Mercury Montego sedan this fall and the 2006 entry-level Milan sedan, geared toward younger consumers, part of a roster of six new vehicles to be introduced over four years. In addition to the Montego, Mariner and Milan, Mercury said it will add an unnamed crossover vehicle and a hybrid-engine version of the Mariner in the 2007 model year.

The campaign features original music scored and recorded especially for Mercury. The song, "It's My Life," was written and is performed by Grammy-winning artist Paula Cole. There are four versions of the song, which will be used throughout the campaign.

In one 30-second television ad titled, "First Dibs," a husband and wife try a number of funny and outlandish ways to outsmart each other every morning to see who can get out of bed earlier and behind the wheel faster of their new Mercury Mariner. In another 30-second spot titled, "Smart," a man and woman are on a blind date, it's raining, and the woman is driving a Mercury Mariner. The woman suddenly, but deftly, maneuvers out of the way of another vehicle also driven by a woman. With just one utterance about "woman drivers," her date is quickly deposited on the curb to soak in the rain.

The broadcast and print parts of "New Doors Opened" will begin with a teaser brand campaign the week of September 13 that will feature images of doors opening and the discoveries suggested behind them, culminating with a set of garage doors opening to reveal the new Mariner and Montego. "New Doors Opened" will continue with flights of Mariner and Montego brand-specific ads that will run from September to November and again in 2005.

Mercury has already spent $93 million in measured media through May, compared with $76 million in calendar 2003, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

Mercury, too, will utilize the Internet much more than in past product launches. "For this campaign, we are dedicating nearly 25 percent of our total marketing communications budget to digital and customer relationship events, which represents a substantial commitment when compared to prior launches," says John Fitzpatrick, Lincoln-Mercury general manager. That compares with the 3 percent most car companies spend.

A new Mercury Web site launches in October. The site is based on consumer research conducted by Mercury that revealed consumers' preferences to discover product features and benefits as part of an overall lifestyle approach. It will focus on consumer lifestyles, employ innovative photography and video imagery to captivate consumers, and be magazine-like in appearance and navigation for ease of exploration. In addition, Mariner and Montego online advertising will appear on lifestyle websites such as www.epicurious.com, www.foodnetwork.com, Yahoo, MSN, www.weather.com, and others.

CNW Marketing Research says a survey of consumers shows people say they can envision buying a Mercury car at the age of 46, compared with 25 for General Motors Corp's revamped Cadillac brand. Mercury is especially targeting women with the Mercury advertising, as women have always made up a majority of buyers.

"Our sweet spot is (women) from 35 to 50 years old," said Tom Grill, marketing communications manager. "When people say Mercury right now ... it's a slightly older demographic. We're trying to introduce people to Mercury again." -Jim Burt

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