Chrysler Super Bowl Ad: Shift On ‘Imported From Detroit’? – Forbes

Posted: Saturday, February 01, 2014

Chrysler may indeed rely on Bob Dylan to create its annual Super Bowl advertising moment this year. And the company may tout a new Chrysler 200 sedan on Sunday, as it did three years ago with its epochal Eminem spot. But don’t count on Chrysler to cling to its worn-out  “Imported From Detroit” positioning in doing so.

A new approach for Chrysler could be blowin’ in the wind this weekend.

Here’s betting that, if Chrysler indeed runs a spot for its new-and-improved 200 during Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday, the ad effectively will represent a final turning away from the positioning that helped a product-thin Chrysler get off its back — but which by now has outlived its usefulness. Chrysler may cling to the “Imported From Detroit” tag line but move away from its spirit.

New Chrysler approach may eclipse "Spirit of Detroit."

New Chrysler approach may eclipse “Spirit of Detroit.”

Hand it to Chrysler CMO Olivier Francois: The Frenchman has become a master at understanding and exploiting American popular culture and marketing.Look at how deftly he took advantage of the pre-release hype for Anchorman 2 last fall with an ad campaign for the new Dodge Durango featuring Will Ferrell, before the actual movie came out in December and promptly disappointed at the box office.

And in regard to the Super Bowl, Francois has followed up the Eminem coup, and the Clint Eastwood star turn in the 2012 Super Bowl ad, by sticking steadfastly with his unique approach to building anticipation for Chrysler’s Super Bowl ad this year: not giving anything away.

Unlike all of Chrysler’s automaker rivals that will be advertising on Sunday and already have sacrificed drama on the altar of social-media buzz, Francois once again has uttered nary a peep about what Super Bowl viewers can expect to see from his company on Sunday. Will it be some declaration about institutional toughness, or maybe a spot focusing on the new Jeep Cherokee, which has become so important to the Chrysler lineup?

Or both? Last year, Chrysler ran brand-themed ads for both Ram and Jeep, but no one necessarily had been expecting two ads from the company. On Friday afternoon, Chrysler announced that it would be showing three ads during the Super Bowl.

Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne provided some vague hint about what to expect in talking to reporters at the North American International Auto Show a couple of weeks ago.

“Someone made the comment to me that I had the right commercial in 2011 and the wrong car,” Marchionne said, according to Bloomberg Bloomberg. “I think we now have hopefully the right commercial and the right car.” So Chrysler may indeed return to the Chrysler brand, and even the 200, in this Super Bowl.

Understandably, Detroiters and other fans of the traditional Big Three automakers were heartened when Chrysler made the city itself the centerpiece of the trailblazing “Born of Fire” commercial in 2011 and of a subsequent long-term campaign to associate the grittiness and determination of the brand and company with the ultimate would-be comeback story: Motown itself.

The campaign became a coup, as “Imported From Detroit” lifted Chrysler and its threadbare product line way beyond their objective merits. It continued to fuel a corporate revival culminating in a Chrysler that now is not only back on its feet but is actually helping its new parent  survive by subsidizing Fiat’s woeful situation in Europe with flush profits from sales of Jeeps, Rams and Dodges in the United States.

But Eminem and 2011 were then, and this is now. And for at least the last year, Francois has been signaling a change — and, in fact, beginning to implement a shift — in the brand’s reliance on its association with Detroit.

Francois told me over a year ago that Chrysler advertising even then would begin to emphasize more the “Imported” part of its famous slogan than the “Detroit” part, because new Chrysler vehicles were going to begin demonstrating a never-before-seen worthiness to be actually pitted against imported as well as domestic competitors.

Then, last fall, Francois indicated how that evolution had advanced. “We will” pivot from “Imported From Detroit,” at least the way it had been rendered previously, he told me. Will the Super Bowl provide the marketing platform for making the shift evident? “Time will tell,” Francois said.

“There’s nothing more important to me than showing the world that there is nothing we owe — nothing — to German technology, to Japanese quality or to European flair and style,” Francois declared. “And this is a part of Chrysler’s mission that also was contained in the ‘Imported From Detroit’ tag line.


Write a Reply or Comment:

Your email address will not be published.*