Brands roll the dice when they affiliate with movies, since it’s anyone’s guess what will be a blockbuster.
Lexus chose correctly when it signed on 18 months ago to play an integral part of Disney’s “Black Panther,” where the main character drives a Lexus LC 500.
The movie, which opened in theaters Feb. 16, is smashing box office records. Global ticket sales by Monday will total an estimated $387 million, according to comScore. Disney said on Sunday that ticket sales for the film in North America alone will total roughly $218 million between Friday and Monday.
The partnership includes a website with a series of online comics featuring the vehicle. A 30-second spot, “Long Live The King,” ran during the third quarter of the Super Bowl. The 60-second version of the spot has already garnered more than 5 million views on YouTube.
The deal with Marvel was presented to the automaker by its multicultural agency Walton Isaacson, says Cooper Ericksen, Lexus vice president of marketing. It was right about the time that the 30-year-old brand was “entering a new phase of our history,” he tells Marketing Daily.
“The first three decades, we were really focusing on the ‘relentless pursuit of perfection,’” he says. “And we had a covenant that we really live by, which is produce the finest vehicles, treat customers like guests in our home, have the finest dealers and just determination. If you think you can, you will. And so that was really our guiding light for three decades.”
The brand is transitioning from its original tagline to “Experience Amazing,” he says.
“We want to become more emotionally engaging with our guests,” Ericksen says. “We want to be more of a lifestyle brand. And to do that a lot of things had to happen. One thing that had to happen we needed to change our tagline. We are transitioning from "perfection" to "experience amazing." So when we did that, there are many questions. 'Experience amazing, what is that? That sounds over the top. How can you achieve that?'”
The LC is the first vehicle that the automaker is producing under the design architecture and overall direction of "experience amazing,” he says.
“So we partnered with ‘Black Panther’ because King T'Challa in the movie lives in the most technologically advanced civilization in the Marvel Universe 100 years ahead of the rest of the universe,” Ericksen says. “And Marvel does such a great job at having depth to their stories that each layer you peel back, it gets more interesting and there's just there's more to it. And at Lexus we feel the same way about our products. It's about craftsmanship, it's about attention to detail.”
The other element that made the partnership such a good fit was its timing, he says.The movie premiered right after the Super Bowl and right around the time the Lexus LS luxury performance flagship sedan is hitting the market.
Even though the LS isn't in the movie, King T’Challa (when he’s not the Black Panther) would drive the LS 500 F sport “because it's a great combination of technology performance vehicle, looks phenomenal and it's our flagship vehicle,” Ericksen says. “So, hence, the general idea around the LS 500 as the ‘fit for a king’ brand. That's how we arrived at that general creative strategy.”
There’s a misunderstanding among some that because the movie is based on a comic book, that it’s aimed at kids, he says.
“But the reality is, Disney and Marvel have done a great job building a premium franchise with Marvel Comics, he says. “The median income of the fanbase is north of $100,000. It's an affluent group of people.”
Although the affiliation with the movie is not aimed at increasing the brand’s performance with a black audience, the movie will over-index with African Americans, he says. It is already a strong market for the brand.
“About a third of our volume comes from multicultural audiences and we appear to be a leader amongst our primary competitors,” he says.
While Team One is Lexus’ primary agency, Walton Isaacson created the Super Bowl spot since it tied in with the Marvel partnership. “Minority” marketing is a misnomer anymore, he says. Brands like Lexus that are striving to attract Millennials have found that having a strong multicultural approach is key.
“The reality is those two things are the same,” Ericksen says. “The younger you go, the more diverse the population gets. So you can't have one without the other. So I think that's the reason you're seeing so many broader approaches to multicultural and youth marketing. The term ‘general market,’ I'm not sure what it means anymore. We need to represent all of the cultures, we need to be relevant with all cultures. So our agencies take on different roles.”