According to The Detroit News, Chryslers’ new strategy to convince American consumers that it is still viable and even worthwhile as an investment begins with a 70% increase in its advertising budget, to nearly $2.9 billion this year.
Still newly out of bankruptcy, this battered brand has a lot of image mending to do. Chrysler’s been all over the place. They had great mini vans, then everybody else made theirs more affordable. They had the Viper, then they didn’t. They launched some great cars, including the rebirth of their Dodge Charger and Challenger, then came out with some that just made you scratch your head.
So can Chrysler be competitive again after two years in exile?
To mastermind it all, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, who is also CEO of Fiat, asked Fiat marketing chief Olivier Francois to head Chrysler's marketing, as well.
One of Francois' first moves was to cancel longtime contracts with advertising agencies, including BBDO Detroit, replacing them with new players hired for specific tasks — such as national branding or multicultural ads — rather than the old way of aligning agencies with individual brands.
Another new Chrysler strategy is the return of Fiat to North America after 27 years, starting with the tiny Fiat 500. Yes, I did say FIAT, as in “Fix it again, Tony.”
This will be very interesting to watch, indeed. I hope Chrysler is banking on the fact that many of today’s car buyers are too young to remember how terrible the FIAT cars of the 70’s were. Based on my experience with Fiat and Alpha Romeo cars of that era, the most diplomatic term I can muster is “quirky.” How will the Fiat 500, or some re-badged Chrysler car based on its platform, compete against the likes of Honda, Toyota and Hyundai?
If they can pull this off, it’ll be nothing short of a Motown Miracle.