Chrysler Group is taking an nontraditional approach to marketing lately. Rather than focusing its efforts in the same old places, Chrysler is targeting areas like malls, schools and music concerts with its “Ride & Drive” program. The underlying principle is that consumers are less stressed than they are at a dealership and will be easier to mold.
Social media taking them unawares
Using social media to connect with potential customers in a more relaxed fashion has proven popular for automakers in recent years, particularly through Facebook. Chrysler’s Ride & Drive is designed to facilitate a smooth transition from social media interaction to actual test drives and purchases.
“We’re trying to look at this as a physical-to-virtual experience,” said Chrysler Group’s head of marketing strategy, George Neill. “You connect with them in person and they take that online. We don’t look at Ride & Drive as an isolated experience. We want to link it to our other marketing activities, social included.”
More than brochures
Some automakers simply place vehicles in malls along with brochures. Fiat communications leader Casey Hurbis acknowledges that that isn’t enough anymore.
“Back in the day, you just threw the car in the mall with some brochures. The [evolution] is when you look at the digital and social play.”
Offering test drives away from a dealership via a social media interface is the new wave, and Chrysler is looking to take advantage with its Ride & Drive program. Fiat reportedly made significant inroads with the public at recent events like the Detroit Jazz Festival, while Dodge Ram trucks were featured at the Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas.
Drive 4 the Kids and more
Another popular social media marketing program for Chrysler has been the “Drive 4 the Kids” program. With each test drive, Chrysler donates $20 to an elementary school booster club. Jeep has a Ride & Drive program in Washington state that is part of its official sponsorship of USA Men’s Basketball, which will be competing in the upcoming London Summer Olympic Games.
Test driving where you want to
Jay Lenstrom of Chicago-based Marketing Werks told Automotive News that Ride & Drives have proven fruitful for Detroit. Making potential auto buyers more comfortable is essential.
“With Detroit coming back in the market in a big way, they had to bring their cars to the people in a big way,” Lenstrom said. “Where would you rather take a test drive? Go to the dealer and have an ugly experience, or do it at your kid’s soccer game for five or 10 minutes?”
Many Ride & Drive events allow the consumer to be the driver, while others allow them to ride along with a professional, such as at “Camp Jeep” events that involve a rough-terrain course.
“This is about going to where people are. Being in unexpected places really wows people and yields great results for us,” said Neill. “We’re trying to intercept people who want to learn more about our vehicles and do it in a low-pressure environment.”