VOL. MMXIII..No. 209

Bold Moves | Strategy in Perspective

Lincoln MKX Finds Success with McConnaughey’s Lonely Commercials



Matthew McConaughey is back in a fresh crop of Lincoln MKX commercials, albeit with a bit less of those rambling monologues, but they still have the same eerie loneliness that makes this one of the strangest ad campaign strategies in recent memory.


This year’s spots are directed by Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Milk), who seems to have suddenly become quite sought after for car commercials — he’s also done a few for BMW.


BTS of Lincoln campaign

Behind the scenes of the 2016 campaign. The story of a man and his car, and that’s pretty much it.

If you’re like me, you find the new commercials just as creepy and depressing as last year’s spots. Last year, Lincoln got plenty of buzz thanks to McConaughey being endlessly spoofed for his bizarre soliloquies about – er, what were they about? You tell me.

{ “When McConaughey first appeared in the ads, I felt sure that the brand would not renew his contract after such a wooden and awkwardly performance. I was wrong.” }

When the campaign was first launched, audiences weren’t sure if the ads were supposed to be funny or deep — especially with McConnaughey’s bizarre soliloquies.

“Sometimes you got to go back… to actually move forward, and I don’t mean going back to reminisce, or chase ghosts, I mean going back to see where you came from, where you’ve been, how you got here and see where you’re going.  I know there are those that say you can’t go back.  Yes, you can.  You just have to look in the right place.”


Wow, that’s so deep I have to dig to find it.


When McConaughey first appeared in the ads, I felt sure that Lincoln would never renew his contract after such a wooden and narcissistic performance. I was wrong.

{ “He’s a modern-day Gatsby, alone in a gilded cage… He looks deep into his eyes in the mirror while a bleak layer of smooth jazz plays.” }

In fact, the 2014 campaign and its ensuing buzz (thanks in part to SNL’s spoof starring Jim Carrey) helped Lincoln boost sales by 16%, drove traffic to dealers, and tripled its website visits. Altogether the brand hit about 10% market share in the fourth quarter of 2014, which is roughly double its brand average.


So why fix it if it ain’t broke?


In this latest run, which launched during the Superbowl, McConaughey spares us the haikus and instead remains largely silent, in his silent and very lonely luxury life. He’s a modern-day Gatsby, alone in a gilded cage. We see the interior of an exquisite mansion; a beautiful closet with rows of pristine white shirts. We are voyeurs, watching as the playboy dresses himself for a night out. He looks deep into eyes in the mirror, while a bleak layer of smooth jazz plays.


In the 2016 campaign spots, we are given more of a glimpse into the strange and lonely life of a Gatsby-esque character who seems to do a lot of driving around.

Apparently, executives at Lincoln were aiming for the message of “quiet luxury”, hence why all of the commercials are so moody and… quiet. The Lincoln MKX, we are led to believe, is for those who are discreet, have no friends, and drive around alone.


Oh wait – he’s not always alone, there’s also one spot where he talks to some dogs and asks them if they want sushi. Doesn’t everybody do that?


So what makes the campaign so successful? For one, the brand sets itself apart from the more traditionally boastful and brash strategy favored by most other car brands. With Lincoln, we are told there is no need to speak for a car that speaks for itself. Like Cadillac, Lincoln is speaking to the upwardly mobile consumer who wants to stand out from the crowd of BMW’s and Mercedes — and also maybe doesn’t have the cash for that kind of luxury. It’s a quiet message that in the end, speaks volumes where other’s speak too loud.


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