Lexus Heads Into 2013 With IS, And 'L'

Lexus.Lexus had a busy 2012. The luxury brand began the year with its largest campaign in recent memory in support of the midsize 2013 GS 350 sedan, which introduced a new design language for the brand. The campaign introduced a new, more emotive position and a new tag, "No Going Back." It also expanded the performance sub-brand F first announced in 2007. And there were three other new product campaigns during the year, for the CT 200h hybrid, the ES sedan, and the full-size LS flagship, in that order. 

The company gets to rest a bit this year. Okay -- not really. At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the luxury division of Toyota rolled out the new, totally redesigned IS, the Lexus car that first brought a sport driving zeitgeist to the brand (if you don't include the SC 430 roadster, discontinued about three years ago). This week's unveiling of the new IS was paired -- as almost always the case with auto reveals -- with a video. In this case the film was a black-and-white video with splashes of color, that cut back and forth between models in avant-garde attire, and the car. That's a new approach for the brand, even given last year's more social (in the literal sense) ads.

Brian Bolain, national manager of marketing strategy for the Torrance, Calif.-based Lexus USA, tells Marketing Daily that this kind of edgy creative will inform not only the Lexus IS, but to some extent the whole line. The larger issue, per Brian Smith, Lexus VP Marketing, is changing the left-brain focus on the engineering perfection of specific vehicles to a less analytic appraisal. The new approach, in other words, takes Lexus out of the lab and into the affluent lifestyle of a younger demo. It also allows the Lexus name to share the stage with the cars, instead of letting the latter upstage the former. 

"The luxury marque has to lead because luxury buyers are passionate about brands," he says. "In the past, Lexus owners felt this way about the dealership and owner experience, and about service. That has continued to be the bar we've set, but obviously you can't talk about that in advertising." 

As for the IS, Bolain says of the launch video and the marketing it hints at: "It gives the car an edge. It's imagery about the power of the car; but the car is also part of a broader experience, it's about how the car changes your life. And it presents a high-contrast world, with splashes of color, because right now so much color is coming at you in ads, that when you take that away and put it back in contextually, it really stands out." 

Bolain and Smith are dealing with the same thing a lot of marketers -- luxury and otherwise -- are contending with: how to juggle an expanding lineup, which in Lexus' case also includes hybrid and the F performance sub-brand --with multiple launches, media consumption habits, and social media, which requires at least one person to do nothing but listen. "It helped tremendously last year that we planned the year in advance instead of going launch by launch," says Bolain.

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