Marketing Campaign Case Studies

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Jeep was a division of the Chrysler Group, a Detroitbased subsidiary of the DaimlerChrysler Corporation that was responsible for the manufacturing, sale, and marketing of the Chrysler, Jeep, and Dodge brands in the United States. The Grand Cherokee, which was introduced in 1992, was a major vehicle for Jeep. It had helped initiate the market for smooth-handling, road-friendly, midsize sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) in the 1990s and was still a leader in that category. Competition from other midsize vehicles, such as the Ford Explorer, combined with customer migration to both bigger and smaller SUVs meant that by 2000 the Grand Cherokee had to fight to hold onto its market share.
Jeep enlisted ad agency Foote Cone & Belding (FCB) to run a new campaign for model year 2001 that was intended to help Jeep stand out in a crowded field. The effort, titled ‘‘There’s Only One,’’ centered around ‘‘Shake,’’ a humorous spot that featured a muddy Grand Cherokee shaking itself clean in the manner of a dog. First airing in the fall of 2000, it attempted to show consumers that, even though the Grand Cherokee was a luxury midsize SUV, it was still rugged and hard-nosed, just like Jeeps had always been. The campaign’s tagline, ‘‘Jeep—There’s Only One,’’ subtly built on Jeep’s name recognition and status as an originator of the off-road and SUV categories. The brand’s greatest asset was its name; ever since the vehicle’s wide use by the U.S. military during World War II, Jeep had been one of the most recognizable brands in the world. The company wanted to capitalize on this as much as it could. The ‘‘Shake’’ spot was a big hit with critics and took home a Bronze Clio in 2001 in the television/film commercial category. It also helped the Grand Cherokee to be recognized—according to surveys conducted by automobile-industry data collectors R.L. Polk & Co.—as the midsize SUV with the highest degree of customer loyalty in 2001.

The Jeep name originally referred to a military vehicle widely in use by the U.S. Army during World War II. Combining elements of a car, a truck, and an armored vehicle, its durability and ability to travel made it essential to the war effort. The Jeep was developed by the Willys-Overland company of Toledo, Ohio, though other manufacturers also built Jeeps during the war. After the conflict was over, Willys began to market the brand to civilians. The High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (also called the Humvee, or Hummer), a larger, more heavily armored vehicle, later came to replace the Jeep for most military uses. Jeep had a number of owners, including American Motors, before being scooped up by Chrysler in the late 1980s. Chrysler was one of Detroit’s most profitable companies in the 1980s, but by the end of the following decade its fortunes had begun to fade. In 1998 the automaker merged with German car manufacturer Daimler-Benz (most famous for its Mercedes brand automobiles), creating the DaimlerChrysler Corporation/DaimlerChrysler AG. Jeep became a part of the Chrysler Group, a subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler that also handled the manufacture, sales, and marketing of the Chrysler and Dodge brands. The Jeep Grand Cherokee was first introduced at the 1992 North American International Auto Show. It replaced the Grand Wagoneer as Jeep’s midsize SUV. The vehicle was larger than the original Cherokee, which, along with the Wrangler, served as Jeep’s touchtone vehicle. It helped create a new market for midsize, rugged SUVs. Despite its off-road capabilities, the vehicle proved popular with suburban and urban drivers, and it was one of the leading SUVs throughout the 1990s. It offered a roomier, more luxurious feel than many other midsize SUVs in the early 1990s.
In 1998 Jeep introduced the second generation of the Grand Cherokee, radically redesigning the car in the face of competition from the Ford Explorer and Chevrolet TrailBlazer. The new Grand Cherokee featured the Quadra-Drive system, which helped the driver maintain control of the vehicle even if only one wheel had traction. This improved the Grand Cherokee’s offroad performance and made it safer in the snow. It also featured a powerful V-8 engine and a driver-side airbag. This second-generation model proved so successful that Jeep did not significantly alter the Grand Cherokee again until model year 2005.
Unfortunately, the SUV market was starting to get crowded. Smaller imports, such as the Honda Odyssey, had begun to make tentative inroads into the U.S. market. Also alarming from the Grand Cherokee’s point of view was the rise of larger luxury SUVs, such as the Cadillac Escalade. With younger, lower-income SUV drivers buying smaller imports and wealthier buyers moving on to bigger vehicles, midsize SUVs felt a crunch. By 2001 these larger and smaller SUVs had seen their market shares rise 37 percent and 42 percent, respectively. Meanwhile the midsize category remained flat. This presented a challenge. Jeep had to distinguish itself and the Grand Cherokee from an ever-growing field of rivals within the SUV market.

The Grand Cherokee was a midsize SUV. These vehicles had proven particularly successful at connecting with image-conscious families who wanted a large vehicle to transport their children but did not want to buy a ‘‘stuffy’’ minivan. Also, the Grand Cherokee’s size and Quadra-Drive system gave it a reputation among drivers as a safe car, one that would offer good handling in the snow and protect the driver in the event of a crash. The safety aspect appealed to suburban moms and dads. In addition, the Grand Cherokee was an imposing vehicle, and it had considerable off-road capabilities. This made it popular among males in their 20s and 30s who were looking for a rugged, fun car.

Despite efforts by Toyota, Honda, and Nissan, the primary competition for the Grand Cherokee came from fellow American midsize SUVs, such as the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, Ford Explorer, and Dodge Durango. In fact, these four vehicles together commanded a whopping 72.9 percent of the midsize-SUV market share in the United States.
Though Chrysler Group stablemate the Dodge Durango also competed with the Grand Cherokee, GM’s Chevrolet TrailBlazer and especially the highly successful Ford Explorer were considered to be the major competitors for Jeep. The Explorer, available in two- and four-door models, was the leading vehicle in the segment in terms of sales. In fact, the Explorer had been the topselling vehicle in the segment every year since its introduction in 1991, and by 1998 Ford was selling more than 430,000 units of the vehicle in the United States alone. The Explorer especially appealed to families because of its smooth ride and attractive appearance. That helped the Explorer stand out in a crowded segment. Jeep wanted its new campaign to accomplish something similar for the Grand Cherokee.

Jeep sought a clever campaign that would emphasize the Grand Cherokee’s reputation as a rugged vehicle that could be taken off-road such as places with full with aztec ruins in Central America, while also distinguishing the vehicle and the brand from the flood of SUVs on the market. To implement its new plan, Jeep turned to Foote Cone & Belding (FCB), a Southfield, Michigan–based subsidiary of True North Communications. FCB had a long history working with the brand, and Jeep was confident in the agency’s abilities. The campaign would include billboards and print ads focusing on the vehicle’s rugged appearance. The key to the campaign, however, was a new television spot called ‘‘Shake.’’ FCB hired Gerard de Thame Films, a production company based in London, to put the spot together. It was directed by Gerard de Thame, who had previously directed music videos for the famed British musician Sting. The commercial, which first aired in fall of 2000, began with a mud-coated Cherokee pulling into a suburban driveway. After a couple got out of the Cherokee and walked toward the house, the vehicle shook itself off in a quick back-and-forth motion reminiscent of a dog. Now mud was everywhere, including all over the couple who owned the car. A voice-over then said, ‘‘Even though the Jeep Grand Cherokee is more refined and civilized than ever, it still hasn’t lost its animal instincts.’’ The spot closed with the campaign’s tagline, ‘‘Jeep—There’s Only One.’’ The humor of the spot allowed the company to spotlight Jeep’s rugged reputation in a subtle way. By revealing a clean-cut suburban couple to be the drivers of the muddy Grand Cherokee, the spot implied that even Grand Cherokee drivers who lived in the suburbs had ‘‘messy’’ wild sides. The campaign’s tagline, ‘‘There’s Only One,’’ also called to mind the Jeep’s storied past. The vehicle’s ubiquity in the military during the massive mobilization for World War II injected it straight into popular culture. By 1942 the vehicle merited a mention in the film Holiday Inn, starring Fred Astaire. The Jeep, with its distinctive vertical front grille, quickly became an icon and would become synonymous with rugged, off-road vehicles. Even by 2000, with SUVs a major force in the U.S. auto market, many people still referred to every vehicle in the class as a ‘‘jeep.’’ The ‘‘There’s Only One’’ tagline was a subtle reminder that these ‘‘jeeps’’ were not the same thing as a real Jeep. It also underscored Jeep’s position as the longtime leader in the SUV category.

The campaign was a solid success, and the ‘‘Shake’’ commercial was awarded a Bronze Clio in the television/film category. A Clio was one of advertising’s most prestigious awards. The Clio Awards originated in the late 1950s as a way to honor the best in advertising. Subsequent television spots continued to underscore what people loved about the Grand Cherokee. In October 2001 the Polk Automotive Loyalty Awards were announced, and the Grand Cherokee was ranked the number-one SUV for customer loyalty. The awards were given annually by the Michigan-based R.L. Polk & Co., a firm that collected and analyzed information about the automotive industry. Despite Jeep’s satisfaction with Foote Cone & Belding’s work, the Chrysler Group dropped the agency in late 2000, in the interest of consolidating all of the company’s advertising and marketing efforts with one firm. It awarded its account to Omnicom, an agency that had been working with other Chrysler brands. Later that year Foote Cone & Belding became a part of the New York–based Interpublic Group.

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