Although the brand ranked 11th and above the industry's average in the closely watched J.D. Power and Associates annual Initial Quality study, consumers believe the quality of the nameplate's models is lower, said David Rooney, Chrysler's director of marketing and global communications.
To improve its image, the marketer today rolls out a communications strategy beginning with national broadcast TV that will talk up the engineering and technology behind Chrysler's vehicles, Mr. Rooney said.
After getting feedback from Chrysler's consumer research, Mr. Rooney and his team developed a set of core values for the brand that harkens back to Chrysler's roots of "attainable" value, stylish vehicles, performance and refined quality.
The work, from Omnicom Group's BBDO Detroit, Troy, Mich., introduces the tagline "Engineered Beautifully," which replaces the 3-year-old "Inspiration Comes Standard." The multimedia effort includes a new website, online ads, print ads and a slew of events.
Those events are a key part of the strategy. "You'll see a major effort to really get people to experience our vehicles," said George Murphy, senior VP-global brand marketing, Chrysler Group. He said more than 60% of Chrysler buyers are new to the brand. He also hopes to boost the brand's weak performance on the East and West coasts.
In recent years, the Chrysler brand has struggled to find its place in the automotive world following a misguided "Path to premium" strategy in early 2003 with ads featuring singer Celine Dion and the tagline "Drive & Love." It abandoned the strategy the following year, when its bold, hot-selling new 300 sedan lifted the marque.
Lacking a common DNA
Mr. Murphy admitted the brand has been a "little bit schizophrenic," existing more as a collection of nameplates than a brand with shared DNA. The former campaign varied too much by product and had no real common thread, and didn't resonate with consumers. It also failed to "talk about the technology behind the good looks," he said.
Chrysler is launching the new hard-top Sebring convertible this week along with a 60-second brand spot. But teased in the commercial is the nameplate's crown jewel, the redone Town & Country minivan, to show a glimpse of the vehicle's industry-first swivel seats -- a feature that lets second-row seats turn 180 degrees to face the third row so passengers can talk face to face or play games on a portable table.
Town & Country, which arrives as a 2008 model this fall, has been the brand's best-selling model in each of the last four years, according to Advertising Age sibling Automotive News. The automaker said the minivan was Chrysler's best-selling model through April, with 52,572 units sold, a 2% jump from the year-ago period.
Sales drop 11%
Overall, the marketer said total Chrysler brand sales fell by 11% through April to 190,913 units compared to the year-ago period.
The timing is right since 80% of the brand's lineup is new or has been redone in the past 12 months, said Susan Thomson, senior manager-global brand communications at the automaker.
Chrysler brand spent $439 million in measured media last year, $154 million less than what it spent in 2005, according to TNS Media Intelligence.