Dodge Looks Online to Reach Young Buyers

Dodge is taking to the Web to market its new Caliber model compact car, targeting young, hip professionals.

“We’re trying to connect with young people, who are early adopters of technology. When you look at the youth group, you see their consumption patterns are online, in gaming, social networking, and video. We want to be where they are,” Mark Spencer, senior manager of Dodge communications for the Chrysler Group, told ClickZ News.

DaimlerChrysler is hoping that the Caliber, a compact car with unusual features like a built-in beverage cooler, electroluminescent blue console lights, and a high-end sound system that’s iPod-ready, will help it reach college-educated, single 25 to 35-year-olds with a $45,000 median income. That’s a demographic that presents unique challengers to the automaker.

“In fact, this target demographic is extremely influential and equally difficult to reach,” said George Murphy, senior VP of global marketing at Chrysler Group. “They prefer brands that are perceived as hip and popular, but not too commercial; they respond best to messages that are available where they congregate, both on- and off-line. For Dodge Caliber, one of our keys to success will be connecting with consumers on their terms using their technology.”

To reach these consumers, Dodge will allocate 20 percent of its Caliber advertising budget to what it calls “non- traditional” ads, which includes online and gaming. Most of the company’s campaigns barely broke the 5-percent mark two or three years ago, and today 10 percent is a big allocation for some models, Spencer said.

Online ads will focus on comedy, music, animation and sports sites. The campaign will run banner ads on sites like The Onion, Daily Candy, and The Knot. It will also run :30 pre-roll video ads before the content on Time Warner’s newly launched “Office Pirates” site, which targets 20-somethings with its irreverent video content. Dodge is also exploring more co-branded marketing opportunities with Office Pirates as that property grows and develops, Spencer said.

Dodge has worked closely with Comedy Central, both online and off, to tightly integrate the Caliber into a Friday night sketch comedy show, “Stand Up Nation with Greg Giraldo.” The Caliber is part of some of the sketches that will appear on the show and online.

“This is the furthest I think we and Comedy Central have taken a branded content integration,” Spencer said. “We’ve integrated our message into the content, so we’re just part of the experience.”

Dodge will also try to tap into social networking opportunities, such as creating a branded character on MySpace in May. The company will also offer avatars on IM clients at Yahoo and MSN. It will also add Caliber to the Xfire IM and gaming platform, where it already has a presence with its Charger brand.

Dodge has built four custom online games with the Caliber, and has integrated the car into four console games for Playstation and Xbox, including EA Sports’ “Fight Night 3,” Ubisoft’s “And1,” and two Tom Clancy games from Red Storm Entertainment.

Dodge has also created several 30-second video modules for Dodge.com to highlight key product features.

Dodge began airing TV commercials on this week, both on network and cable channels. For the national market, the campaign’s theme is “It’s Anything but Cute.” Dodge is also running ads specifically targeting African Americans, using the “Respect the Unexpected” tagline, and to Hispanics with the boxing-themed message, “Peso Ligero, Mucho Caracter” (Lightweight, a lot of Character).

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