Chrysler Corp.'s Chrysler-Plymouth-Jeep Division
Brand management is a team effort at Chrysler Corp.
In the early 1990s, the carmaker introduced so-called platform teams. Product planners, engineers, designers and marketers are aligned by vehicles built on common platforms, or chassis, such as large cars.
"We operate as a team and we're all accountable for brand building," says Martin Levine, general manager of Chrysler-Plymouth-Jeep Division. "It's a much more holistic approach." Chrysler had brand managers before the platform teams, he explains, "but it never worked as well."
Chrysler doesn't use brand manager titles. The marketer's brands are Chrysler, Dodge, Eagle, Jeep and Plymouth, although Eagle will be cut after the 1998 model year. Mr. Levine, saying he didn't want to criticize General Motors Corp.'s Procter & Gamble Co.-style brand management, continues "There's no such thing as a Procter & Gamble store. Vehicles are sold at retailers that are very closely aligned with the brand."
So, shoppers go to a Jeep dealer to buy a Jeep.
Chrysler's ad agencies, BBDO Worldwide and Bozell, both Southfield, Mich., get involved with the teams, too. For this fall's launch of the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee, Bozell creatives were given a science-fair style presentation.
Earlier this year, engineers explained details to bozell about the engine, chassis and other features, outlining why those items were included. Mr. Levine said good ad or technical ideas sometime come from team members not in those specialities.
Mr. Levine reports to several different executives, including Bud Liebler, VP-marketing; Tom Gale, exec VP-product strategy who, as general manager of Jeep Operations, heads the Jeep platform team; and Ron Boltz, general manager of Large Car Operations.
Part of Chrysler's product development is to identify unmet needs and desires of customers. Carmakers can rely on consumer research too heavily in planning future vehicles, says Mr. Levine. "Future product research with buyer prospects, he adds, can be "directional at best. It can never be definitive."
He sees brand management as partly an art, saying "if it were all science, it wouldn't be practiced right.
At Chrysler, product is the key to brand image, Mr. Levine explains. The automaker relied on fresh vehicle designs when it started repositioning its brand after forming platform teams.
"A brand should be a badge of pride with the owner every day that refuels owner loyalty and repurchase and the owner become an apostle for your brand," he says.
Chrysler is known for innovative designs. such as its driver-side, rear door for minivans.
"A brand is defined by its products," Mr. Levine adds. "Anybody who doesn't think that is treading on very dangerous ground."
Senior VP-general manager Toyota Division
Toyota Motor Sales USA
As senior VP-general manager of Toyota Motor Sales USA's Toyota Division, Dave Illingworth is responsible for protecting the Toyota brand.
He's the maestro orchestrating the so-called car and truck series teams, which figure out how to market Toyota vehicles at his sales' organization. He has a counterpart at Toyota's luxury Lexus Division, which he helped launch in the late 1980s as group VP-general manager of Lexus.
Toyota doesn't use the title brand manager, but the carmaker takes branding every bit as serious as its competitors who do.
"We think brand management is very important and most of the industry feels that way," says Mr. Illingworth. "There's so much [advertising] clutter and so much [automotive] competition, you have to be very wise."
Not a Favorite
Mr. Illingworth says Toyota research shows car advertising is consumers' least favorite category. In fact, the carmaker learned 82% of consumers found something to dislike about buying a new car. Last year, focus groups told the marketer although it made quality products, the company seemed cold.
Thanks to the Internet and other information sources, today's carbuyers know as much about the vehicles as the sales people, he adds.
"That's making us re-evaluate how we sell a car. It doesn't pay to pound your chest and say how great you are," he says.
That's why Toyota is trying to talk to consumers in a friendly way and identify the benefits of buying from the carmaker, says Mr. Illingworth.
Getting Through the Day
Toyota's new "Everyday" campaign, launched last September, attempts to show people how the brand helps get them through their day.
"The product is an expression of the brand and has to be consistent with the brand," he says. "Advertising or marketing campaigns cannot really overcome so-so product."
It's not easy to break through the clutter of the 300 other car ads bombarding consumers daily, says Mr. Illingworth. To break through, Toyota decided to combine its "Everyday" brand campaign in product ads to get more bang for its buck.
Products within a brand
Toyota is the brand and "our models are the products within that brand," Mr. Illingworth explains. "Product advertising can carry the brand message."
Unlike Detroit's Big 3 brand czars, Mr. Illingworth doesn't get involved in developing new vehicles. That planning is left to Toyota's future product development team.
That team hands over new products to Mr. Illingworth and his staff about 18 months before launch. It's up to them to figure out how to best sell the new cars and trucks.
Toyota forms a launch team for a new product rollout. The launch team works with the marketer's ad department and its ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi/Pacific, Torrance, Calif., conducting studies on the best communications' approach.
"A lot of research is done on what the consumer needs and wants," Mr. Illingworth says.
Recent consumer research found an increase in emotional relevance of Toyota brand, with high marks in quality, dependability and reliability. The carmaker is trying to communicate that in a friendly, approachable way with its "Everyday" push, he says.
The launch team also works with Toyota dealers on sales training, figures out product distribution, co-ordinates product brochures, direct marketing and advertising.
Toyota's "Everyday" campaign has evolved since breaking last fall.
"We feel this campaign has a lot of legs and can stay fresh, interesting and refreshing," says Mr. Illingworth. The marketer can use different kinds of music to keep the push fresh and expects future executions to reach out to more segments of the population.
Truck Group brand manager
(F-Series, Ranger, Econoline, medium-duty truck)
Ford Division, Ford Motor Co.
Paul morel says his job changed slightly when Ford Motor Co.'s Ford Division altered its brand management structure last summer.
"The company decided we needed to get closer to the customer," Mr. Morel explains.
Like General Motors Corp., Ford uses a complex needs segmentation to meet customer needs. Mr. Morel says Ford developed its program over the last few years, but is just rolling it out now. The most important needs' factors for full-size pickups are durability, toughness and styling. Mr. Morel's job as Truck Group brand manager has been expanded to include the Ranger compact pickup also involves product pricing and product content.
When Ford introduced brand management in January 1995, Mr. Morel was named Ford Division's Tough brand manager for trucks, handling F-Series and Econoline. When the division realized last summer two of its five brand managers would have diminished duties due to vehicles being cut, it restructured its system.
Ford's restructuring more closely resembled GM, which in 1995 named brand managers for each vehicle.
More Brand Managers
Mr. Morel is among three group brand managers. Ford also added 13 new brand managers, each mostly with a single vehicle. Mr. Morel oversees the brand managers of F-Series full-size pickup, Ranger, full-size Econoline van and medium-duty trucks.
He reports to Darryl Hazel, general marketing manager of the division.
Ford Division's notion of customers and their needs wasn't specific enough before the switch. The focus before was on customers' average ages, incomes and their previous vehicles.
Now, Mr. Morel and the rest of the division are looking closer at psychological and emotional customer needs.
"If we made a mistake it was the Burger King approach-you can get it any way you want," says Mr. Morel.
Hard To Stock
Ford dealers told the manufacturer so many offerings overpromised and disappointed customers because it was too difficult for them to stock trucks with such a wide variety of options. Ford trucks and cars have moved to offer the most popular option packages.
Mr. Morel, who spent 24 years in product development at Ford before switching to the marketing side, gets involved in next-generation product planning-just like his brethren at GM. But most of his time is spent on brand building. He spends most of his time and focus "much more near term, about 12 to 15 months," he says.
Ford's truck business has done a good job over the years pleasing customers, he added. "It shows up in our success in the marketplace."