Dictionary.com defines Marauder as “someone who travels around plundering or pillaging.” This isn’t exactly a flattering term. Yet, Mercury thought it was an appropriate name for their last great, mean, hot-rod sedan.
To be fair, Mercury had been using the Marauder name back into the 60’s. That’s back when corporations weren’t so concerned about every nuance of their products’ names.
Maybe that’s part of what makes the last Mercury Marauder so interesting. It has that don’t-give-a-f**k attitude that’s missing from so many modern cars.
This last generation of Marauder started out as the far more humble Mercury Grand Marquis sedan. I had a Grand Marquis as a rental for a couple of months many years ago (that’s a whole different story). It was quiet and comfortable and powerful. And large (especially compared to my 1996 Honda Civic Coupe).
I’ve never driven a Marauder, but my understanding is that it dropped some of the niceties of the standard Grand Marquis and replaced them with brute power while darkening the otherwise bland exterior.
According to Wikipedia, most Marauders were painted black, though a few rolled out of the factory in silver, dark red or dark blue paint. I think I saw a silver one once, but I’ve never seen them in blue or red in the wild. In fact, a co-worker many years ago owned one in black. I regret not asking him if I could take it for a spin.
Enough about paint and unusual Ford products. Let’s talk about websites.
To promote the Marauder, we’ll first look at this ad from a November 2002 magazine:
I suppose the point of the ad is that most police officers will mistaken the Marauder for a typical Grand Marquis, and therefore assume you’re a retiree living in south Florida, and therefore assume there’s no possible way you’d be driving 100 miles per hour down the highway.
I don’t think anyone was fooled.
Instead, let’s dissect that URL near the bottom of the page:
Now, I’m going to break from tradition here for just a moment and show you what MercuryVehicles.com/marauder/mtmag brings up right now (normally I try to build a bit of suspense at this point in the article, but I have my reasons today):
Not surprisingly, the page no longer exists. Ford dropped the Mercury brand many years ago. So any trip to MercuryVehicles.com today (and any of its site sections) gives you the page above.
As far as dead-end pages go, this one’s not too bad. It recognizes the fact that Mercury is no longer an active brand and instead suggests you check out the latest Ford and Lincoln products.
I bring this up now because we’ll see a couple more ads in just a moment that do the exact same thing and there’s no point in stringing you along for the whole ride. Mercury is dead. And Ford has a decent web presence to let you know that.
Now, what I really care about is the sequence of site sections in the URL in the ad above. Let’s take a look at it again:
The first part of the address is the standard domain for Mercury (at the time) of MercuryVehicles.com. We already know where that leads — it goes to the screen you just saw a minute ago.
Then we have a site section of /marauder/ and that also makes sense since it’s the model in the car.
But then we end with /mtmag. This the part I’m most intrigued by. I imagine the causal readers of the ad might not even notice the extra section at the end. And if they typed it into their browser, they might not think twice about adding those extra five (or six, if you include the / ) characters into their address bar.
By now, it should be apparent that the extra section at the end of the URL is actually a reference to Motor Trend Magazine.
I don’t normally specify the name of the publications from which I pluck these advertisements because it generally doesn’t matter. But this is one of the few cases in which it does make a difference.
No doubt, the hope here was that the user would type in the full address listed and then be taken to a page with information about the delicious Mercury Marauder. Whether knowingly or not, that viewer also gave the Ford marketing team a little bit of insight as to how they arrived at that website.
This is something in the business called “conversion,” and it’s a difficult thing to track. Marketers want to know how many people saw the ad in the magazine and then went to their computers and typed in the address. With a more simple site, like, presumably, mercuryvehicles.com/marauder, the marketing team might never know what triggered that user to visit the site.
But by adding the /mtmag section at the end, they would be able to make some assumptions about the number of users who saw the ad in Motor Trend and then went to the site.
At the very least, they would be able to compare the number of interested readers of Motor Trend magazine to the number of interested readers of other magazines. That assumes, of course, that they used this same ad in other magazines with different site sections in the URL.
I don’t know that any such other ads existed. The ad above is the only one of its kind that I found, and it just happened to be in a Motor Trend magazine.
Oh! Except, I DO have an excellent example of such advertisement comparisons (sometimes called A/B Testing, though that has some different uses, too).
This is a different ad, of course, but it’s also for the Marauder and I think it’s very topical to today’s discussion:
Above we see a different ad for the Marauder, this one from July 2002. The ad was actually accompanied by a little insert card you could send off for more information:
I should have sent that in for the DVD. What I wouldn’t give to see how the Marauder was promoted back then!
Anyway, the DVD doesn’t matter. What we care about is the URL in both the ad and the card:
Any eagle-eyed readers out there may have already noticed that the ad and the card both suggest visiting www.MercuryVehicles.com/Marauder/MT. And, of course, we now see that this is just a thinly veiled reference to Motor Trend Magazine.
Side note: I’m not sure why this older ad from July has the simpler /MT section, while the later ad above, from November, has the slightly more verbose /MTMAG section. Was there another magazine where these ads appeared that also had the abbreviation MT? Monthly Tyrannosaurus? Mostly Trucks? Manhood Tribulations? I don’t know.
As for visiting www.MercuryVehicles.com/Marauder/MT, don’t bother. It gives the same “The road to Mercury Vehicles is closed” page we saw above. In fact, any site that points to MercuryVehicles.com will return that page. So we don’t need to revisit it.
Instead, I want to show you this:
If it looks familiar, it should.
It’s nearly the exact same ad we saw above, just printed in a different magazine. In this case, the ad appeared in the July 2002 issue of Road & Track magazine.
It’s important to note this ad also included a very similar card to send in:
The big difference here is the website listed at the bottom of both the ad and the card:
This time, the same ad and the same card reference the same website except these end their URL with /RT. That, of course, references Road & Track magazine.
Did the reader need to type in the full URL to learn more about Mercury’s awesome Panther-platform sedan? No. They could have ended at /Marauder, no doubt. But most people (the few who actually typed this into their browser) probably thought nothing of typing an extra /MT or /RT into the URL to get the information.
In turn, however, they gave the Mercury marketing team just that much more insight into how they found the web address, which would then help them direct their marketing efforts in the future.
I wanted to show this because I think it’s a very interesting view into how marketing teams try to track conversion. But this is in no way unique to Ford or Mercury. We’ll see more examples of this in the future (one of which is just, OMG, Make It STOP!).
I miss the Marauder. I wish more cars embodied its attitude. But maybe that’s just me. For now, I’ll be happy to know that it existed, and I’ll delight in the fact that there are likely a few shining examples of this pillager still on the roads today.