MARTY LEVINE DODGE RAM

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For years, Chrysler Corp.'s Dodge Ram struggled as a poor third behind Ford and Chevrolet in full-size pickup truck sales.

So when it came time to draw up a marketing plan for the first totally redesigned Ram in 22 years, Marty Levine started from scratch.

Two years before the Ram's October 1993 debut, Mr. Levine, the Dodge general manager, formed a cross-functional launch team that brought together staff from engineering, manufacturing, parts, PR and marketing to win over loyal Ford and Chevy truck owners.

"We took a step back, as if we were new to the segment. For almost six months, the team took a deep dive into what makes the segment tick," says Mr. Levine, 47.

As a result, Chrysler can't build Rams fast enough. In the first seven months of the 1994 model year, the company sold 107,970 Rams, a 111% increase from the same period the year before. While Ford and Chevrolet continue to lead the segment, Chrysler has proven it can be a mainstream player.

Early on, Chrysler's research showed the Ram's aggressive styling set it apart. To further distinguish the truck, BBDO Worldwide, Southfield, Mich., developed an ad campaign that positioned it as delivering attributes that buyers didn't expect. The campaign's theme: "The rules have changed."

"Most truck advertising is interchangeable," Mr. Levine says, citing commercials that show trucks bouncing up mountains and splashing through mud. The Ram campaign used studio scenes that conveyed advantages in power, safety, comfort and storage room, including a fold-up console that contains storage compartments for a cellular phone, laptop computer and other business equipment.

Mr. Levine also directed a big effort in grass-roots marketing. The division developed business plans to help dealers maximize regional opportunities, and it came up with an ad and promotional effort for truck-loving Texas.

"We knew we were bringing out a truck whose essence was to break the rules, and we didn't want anyone in the organization to have the impression that this was just advertising rhetoric," Mr. Levine says.

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