Lexus Is on the Hunt for Younger, More Diverse Customers
When Marvel’s The Black Panther hits theaters next month, expect the Lexus LC 500 to get a lot of screen time. According to Bloomberg, that’s because it’s not only T’Challa’s personal ride in the film, it’s also part of Lexus’ plan to attract younger, more diverse buyers and ultimately regain its place as the top luxury brand in the U.S.
As baby boomers get older, it makes sense that luxury automakers would try to attract younger buyers. For Lexus, that strategy includes cultivating a sporty, performance-oriented brand image. But changing demographics add a new challenge to the equation. Not only is the U.S. population becoming a lot less white, we’re also seeing increases in spending by black, Hispanic, and Asian consumers that outpaces whites. So while The Black Panther is only one movie, Lexus’ product placement decision is an important part of a much bigger strategy.
“We are going after a younger customer, and just from a demographic standpoint, the younger you go, the more culturally diverse the population gets,” Cooper Ericksen, Lexus’ head of marketing, told Bloomberg. “The task to hit our sales plan really comes from bringing a lot of new customers into the brand.” With the Black Panther tie-in, Ericksen said he believes Lexus can make a positive impression on both younger customers and minorities.
For Lexus, though, the downside of cultivating a sportier, more youthful image might be alienating longtime customers. Its styling, in particular, has become much less conservative over the past few years, and if the LF-1 concept that Lexus showed in Detroit is any indication, that aggressive design language isn’t going anywhere. For older Lexus owners, that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Speaking to CarBuzz, Jeff Bracken, group vice president and general manager of Lexus, said he frequently gets calls from loyal Lexus buyers who don’t like the current styling. “The folks that look at [our styling] as somewhat polarizing would be, for the most part, the folks that have been with us since the beginning,” Bracken said. “In fact, I’ll take phone calls from some of these owners and [they] will literally spend 45 minutes to an hour on the phone with me just expressing how disappointed they are.”
But that doesn’t mean Lexus has any plans to rein in its styling department to keep older customers happy. Bracken said, “It’s a very purposeful and strategic move on our part. If we lose some of our tradition owners, it’s unsettling for us but won’t preclude us from moving down this path. We hope to gain more [customers] than we lose.”