Why a Car Dealership Gave Away Nearly a Half-Dozen Vehicles

A new influencer campaign from a New York Lincoln dealership hopes to tap into alternative marketing strategies.

By Rayna Katz August 4, 2017, 7:16 AM EDT

The five social-media influencers chosen for Healey Lincoln's campaign posed with their new rides.

Photo: Courtesy of Lincoln

Healey Lincoln, a car dealership in Goshen, New York, has revved up the test-drive concept to a new level. Owned by Healey Brothers, the company has deployed an influencer-marketing campaign called “Behind the Wheel” that kicked off with a live event August 1.

Five local social-media leaders were handed keys to a new Lincoln at the party, and they will drive the cars for the next five months. Each month, cars will be switched out so that each influencer experiences each of five models. The temporary Lincoln owners have been asked to post honest tales on their experiences, and the dealership will keep the promotion in front of potential car-buyers with a micro-site, blog posts based on the influencers’ social-media comments, and videos taken of each car hand-off that will include drone photography.

Healey Lincoln came up with the idea during a training session for Lincoln dealers around the country, who were asked to come up with a “moonshot idea, meaning something that’s different from our usual business but is implementable,” said John Koerner, the dealership's executive general manager.

“It’s a great way to bring our product out, not with an advertisement from us but from real people who are influential in our community,” he stated. “People in their world will see their comments as much more believable than ours.”

The lucky quintuplet of drivers includes Chuck Benfer, a market president at iHeartMedia; Alexis Eggleton, creator of the blog Trading Cardio for Cosmos; Claudia Jacobs, owner of Claudia Jacobs Designs; Quanah Jay Hicks, a singer/songwriter and music producer; and Victor Vargas, a DJ.

The group was chosen for their “stickiness"—the amount of likes, shares, or other signs of engagement they get from followers on social media, according to Nicole Feller, assistant vice president of Focus Media, a marketing and public relations firm that helped Healey Lincoln with the campaign. 

“These individuals, who all are from the Hudson Valley, have strong followings because they’re interesting,” Feller said. “They’re going to interesting places and doing interesting things that people might enjoy when they go along for the ride. They come from a diverse range of industries, and future customers can relate to them.”

Koerner said choosing the agency was a crucial step, and he knew Focus from a previous event they worked on. They're already planning to name a second round of influencers following the initial run, depending on the success of the campaign.

“We’d never done an influencer-marketing campaign before, and this wasn’t a project for an auto marketing firm,” Koerner said. “We needed an agency that could push us to see things differently and find influencers in the area.”

At the kickoff, influencers were made to feel special starting with valet parking, catering that accommodated special dietary requests such as gluten-free items, and gift bags. Photographers also made them fell like the center of attention. Tom’s Greenhouses and Florist adorned the atmosphere with calla lilies and other white flowers in keeping with the black-and-white theme, which are the colors of the Lincoln brand. Linens, dishes, and flatware came from Durant’s Party, while Catherine's catered the event. Event production was handled in-house and overseen by Maureen Howard, Ford Lincoln concierge at Healey.

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