After seeing the “I am Ram” commercial the day of Chrysler’s grueling 8-hour media event, I thought maybe Chrysler was done – time to stick a fork in it. Fortunately, the Jeep brand’s version of “I am…” is remarkably impressive and really hits the mark.
Three spots have debuted for the “I am Jeep” campaign. The first is a nod to people who don’t just passively watch life happen in front a TV set, like I am right now as I type this and watch Always Sunny In Philadelphia. “I live. I ride. I am.” mocks the social behavior of non-Jeep people by demonstrating how passive a lot of lives are as TV screens show active lifestyles while no one is in the room, a subtle way to show Jeep owners are out doing the adventurous not watching it. It's a bit different than the atypical muddy trail ride expected from Jeep's marketing team.
“It’s Only Hair” is a more whimsical extension of Jeep’s brand identity. With women as roughly 40% of Jeep buyers, it certainly reaches a significant demographic. In the ad, several women are getting extensive salon styling work done only to hop into their Jeeps and let the open air destroy the hairstylists' work. The appeal is of interest for either gender as it knocks the vanity of our society, something that has a greater appeal than just catering to off-road drivers. The ad is "rugged", but not in the stereotypical dirt and trail way yet still hits a core brand attribute - carefree living.
The only strange part about the “It’s Only Hair” commercial is the 1970’s sitcom music track that is a bit trite; even though, it is an obvious nod at the ridiculous score of most salon product ads. Unfortunately, it’s a bit too distracting and causes the spot to lose some of its punch by being too cutesy in its execution.
Some may argue the spots lack product communication and may be too much of an emotional, lifestyle message. However, it is important to note that, at this time, product is Jeep’s weakness. They are in a product lull and need to rebuild the image while attracting more than just their hardcore enthusiasts to the brand. Reminding people what Jeep stands for is a great way to generate interest while not doing the expected tearing up of sand dunes. The brand is obviously hoping this less-rugged approach will broaden appeal.
According to Automotive News, "Jeep research found that only 30 percent of consumers are interested in true off-roading, so the brand aims to appeal to both its traditional 'adventurers' and 'dreamers', a larger group of people who are time-constrained by family and work, who want authentic gear with the hope that one day they'll be able to do more and dream less.'"
In attempt to appeal to the time-constrained Jeep consumer, “Clocks” is the other commercial that unfortunately is a bit weak when compared to the other two spots. It does encapsulate the same message and is connected to the campaign idea; however, it just lacks a bit of the charm of “It’s Only Hair” or the pulse of “I live. I ride. I am.”
The enthusiasts are not fans of the new spots, but it's really not for them. This is about extending the brand, not entrenching it. Most enthusiast forum members had things like this to say, "The concept is good, but instead of showing coffee makers, clocks, TV's it should have shown the Jeep out in nature while saying those things and then it would be perfect. Without knowing this was a Jeep commercial I was expecting it will end up with an insurance ad or about a new high tech cell phone."
Overall the campaign is interesting and while it may not appeal much to the trail seeking Jeep owner, it has another agenda to extend the joie de vivre Jeep ownership brings to those who may be intrigued to join the club. With not a lot to talk about product-wise until the new Jeep Grand Cherokee arrives in Summer 2010, this campaign is a good strategic move as the brand repairs some scars after a brutal 2009.
UPDATE from Bloomberg News 12/4/2009: Seems the Jeep dealers are not too happy about the brand's direction and are calling for "the company to pull new television ads and restore regional marketing budgets."