Say this for Lincoln’s current branding: They get the value of having a specific aesthetic. For the past several years, that style’s been defined by heavy hitters like Matthew McConaughey and Annie Liebovitz, and in the brand’s Grammys spot–a 60-second ad named “Cord”–they’ve tapped young Texas bluesman Gary Clark Jr. as its face.
That makes sense. Clark is a stylish guy who looks like central casting’s vision of what a young superstar blues musician in the year 2017 should look like. There’s an ineffable cool to Clark that fits well within Lincoln’s view of its brand–he and McConaughey don’t have much in common besides the fact that they both live in Austin, Texas, but they both make a Lincoln Continental look like a cool car, and that’s where the brand wants to be right now. John Emmert, Lincoln’s Group Marketing Manager, says that Lincoln brought in Clark because “He takes cues from classic, iconic artists, and creates something modern and authentic, and that appeals to a broad audience, including our customers, for whom music is a true passion point.” “Classic,” “iconic,” “modern,” and “authentic” are all words Lincoln would be happy to be associated with.
For Clark, meanwhile, the collaboration makes its own kind of sense. His persona might be larger than his actual fanbase–prior to working with Lincoln, he’s been the face of campaigns from John Varvatos and Sonos. He’s appeared as himself in movies and TV–in 2014’s Chef, on Showtime’s Roadies–and played for President Obama. But as a touring artist, he plays theaters, not arenas, unless he’s serving as the opener for Eric Clapton or Tom Petty. He’s effectively branded as a superstar, in other words, even though he’s still in the “up-and-coming” part of his career. If you’re still a young artist whose biggest gigs are opening for actual superstars, headlining a Lincoln ad is a potent way to maintain a persona that, right now, is as marketable as anything you’re doing onstage or on a record. There’s value for Gary Clark Jr. in being perceived as the sort of guy who can slip into Matthew McConaughey’s seat in the Lincoln ad, and there’s value for Lincoln in putting him there.