In journalism school I learned the most famous rule of thumb to ever a guide a profession: If it bleeds, it leads.
Of course, that can be applied to any news story. It means the biggest piece of information gets top billing. The more “blood” in a story, the better the chances are that someone will read it. When readership increases, so do ad dollars. Pretty simple.
So a Detroit News story yesterday took me by surprise, because a giant bomb of information lay buried in the last two lines of the article: Ford may change Lincoln’s name. Whoa! That’s kind of a big deal.
The article seemed normal enough, as it mentioned the struggles of Lincoln, talked about a new design center and previewed the upcoming all-new 2014 MKZ. The last two lines of the article, though, are:
There’s also been talk of renaming the brand.
Farley, when asked about such a move, said “stay tuned.”
That’s Jim Farley, Ford’s VP of marketing and sales. Seriously, how is that just left there at the bottom with no further explanation? Why didn’t the story lead with that little nugget of info and then go into the new MKZ and why it’s different and why it might be different enough to warrant an all-new brand name?
A car brand changing its name would be unprecedented. Sure, there have been plenty of new brands entering the U.S. market, and lots of others that exist only on the used market now, but when has an existing brand just up and switched names? Especially a major one like Lincoln?
From my point of view, this would essentially be Ford killing off Lincoln and replacing it with something else. That would be a tremendous undertaking, from both a financial and marketing standpoint. However, the Lincoln brand has suffered from poor sales and falling brand equity, so maybe the money required to make over the brand to Ford’s specifications would be more than simply doing away with the storied nameplate and creating a new one.
Should Ford kill the Lincoln name and replace it with something new?