Campaign Critique: Lincoln Turns to Train Riders for Tweets

Train Station Take Over
In March, the Lincoln Motor Company took over nearly all the billboards in Chicago's Union Station. The ads (examples seen on the right) all talked about "firsts" and invited people to share their firsts on Twitter by using #LincolnFirsts.

Now, I try not to use this blog as a way to critique marketing campaigns very often because as an observer, I don't know what Lincoln's goals were for this campaign, nor do I know how it performed against those goals. But I can make some educated guesses and I've come to the conclusion that this campaign was an example of marketing priorities gone wrong. Just look at some of the responses Lincoln received on Twitter. I assume Lincoln was hoping for better responses than these actual Tweets:
  • The first time I saw this ad at Union Station I wanted to punch it.
  • The first time I stole a car.
  • The first time I pee'd in a bottle in a car
  • The first time I went to a concert it was PDiddy. A rocker girl lost in a sea pot and bandanas.
  • The #lincolnfirsts campaign is such a waste of money. May as well purchase billboards that declare, "We don't understand social media!"
Trains and Automobiles?
Next, think about where these ads were placed: in Chicago's busiest train station. The people who pass through Union Station every day take the train from the suburbs to downtown and vice versa. See anything wrong with that?

They take the train every day.

These people (I'm one of them) likely drive infrequently.  I assume Lincoln was attracted to this audience because it comprises wealthy professionals who may be likely to consider a car a status symbol. I get that. But there are plenty of other ways to reach the same types of people who actually drive to work every day and will use their car much more than train commuters.

In my new book, I write how companies big and small need to engage customers in one community really well before moving on to other communities. Companies do not have to have a Facebook page and a Twitter account and a Google+ page and a Pinterest account. They just need to start with one way to engage their customers in a community and then move on to other platforms. 

Lincoln fell in love with the idea of reaching customers on Twitter and didn't think through how to best engage their target markets on the platform. They fell in love with the platform because it's hot right now. But they didn't think about merging that hot platform with their desire to reach their target market. If they had stopped to think about the best way to engage their target market, I think they would have chosen different tactics than placing billboards in a train station.

I love you, Lincoln, but I didn't love this campaign.

There's never a lack of ideas.

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