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By Carl Howe

The Wall Street Journal had a great article on Saturday that described
Lexus' long term effort to reposition its brand to the "prestige luxury" market segment. And to give them credit, they went about it in a smart way:

Now, with Toyota's (NYSE:TM) sales hitting new records, it craves a makeover for Lexus. It wants to become a brand associated with the biggest names in luxury. Imagine "Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci and Lexus all mentioned in the same breath," says Brian Bolain, a Lexus marketing manager.

Marketing, the lifeblood of a luxury brand, isn't a traditional strength for Lexus, which is known more for reliability and customer service. History shows it can be very difficult to change consumer perceptions of a car brand. And luxury buyers, usually older, could be even more stubborn, as they are often highly loyal to the kinds of cars they've previously owned.
Lexus started its new push in 2005 when it assembled the super-affluent team -- nine Lexus employees from various departments including marketing and finance. The team interviewed car buyers who had at least $5 million in assets (excluding their primary residence) and who had previously owned a few luxury vehicles. More than half of the interviewees selected were men.

For the next two years, the team crisscrossed the country, asking 100 ultra-wealthy people such questions as "Why do you live where you live?" and "What do you do for enjoyment?" "We asked ourselves and these people a lot of questions," says team leader and marketing chief Deborah Wahl Meyer.

Said another way, these guys decided to focus on what the target customer in this market wanted and enjoyed, and then reshaped its development process to meet those needs. While marketing may not have been a traditional strength for Lexus, it sounds like it is going to be. If General Motors (NYSE:GM), Ford (NYSE:F), and Daimler (DCX) aren't taking notes, they should be.

TM 1-yr chart


Source: Target Marketing: Toyota's Lexus Makeover