Millennial Reach

With the last wave of baby boomers now in their 50s, consumer brands are turning to a younger, and more discerning, audience to drive awareness and profits.


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 When Matthew McConaughey began appearing in a series of television commercials for the 2015 Lincoln MKC, the luxury automaker saw an opportunity to ride the coattails of a popular actor who had just earned an Academy Award and Golden Globe for his portrayal of a cowboy in Dallas Buyers Club.

Although Lee Jelenic, Lincoln’s marketing communications manager, teased in the leadup to the commercials that McConaughey’s next work was with Lincoln, the automaker didn’t count on the reaction it got from Hollywood and the entertainment sector — in particular the parodies of the spot by Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show and from Jim Carrey on Saturday Night Live.

“That was pure gold,” says Mike Bernacchi, marketing professor at the University of Detroit Mercy in Detroit and publisher of Under
The Microscope, a marketing and business newsletter. “Parodies expand the communication marketplace with embellishment and enhancement. They’re irreplaceable building bricks. They never go anywhere but up, and they make a more solid structure. And here’s the key: They allow the discussion to continue. That’s the beauty of it.”

Jelenic and his social media team seized the opportunity. “It was huge for us,” he says. “We realized many people saw the skits before they saw the spot. So all the people that saw the spoof and thought it was great and were talking about what kind of car Jim Carrey was driving or spoofing Matthew, all that activity ... we were saying, ‘Hey, here’s the work. You saw the jokes, you saw the parody. Here’s the work.’ ”

At the same time, Lincoln had a sense of humor about the response.

“The original spots, I don’t think they were trying to be funny,” says Erin Leedy, senior vice president at Market Strategies International, a market research consultancy in Livonia that generated the 2015 Michigan Social Media Brand Index in partnership with DBusiness.

“They were trying to be sincere. But then after the parodies started happening, some of the subsequent spots came out and they made it clear they were laughing with us a little bit, which I think made it even better. There was like a moxie about that: ‘Yeah, we know you think it’s funny, we kind of think it’s funny, too, and we’re just going to keep doing it. We’re in on the joke.’ ”

The bottom line? Lincoln has “been performing best-in-class in engagement across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for a long time as a brand,” Jelenic says. “After the parodies, we saw a significant change in our overall engagement and a willingness to further engage with our brand.”

Since he began pitching the MKC and the MKZ sedan about a year ago, the star of the 2011 movie The Lincoln Lawyer has helped boost the automaker’s sales by 8 percent through August, compared to the same period last year.

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