No brand likes to play copycat. But that's the predicament Chrysler is in this week as it has to follow General Motors' blowout sales event in which its offering vehicles to the public for the "insider" employee price. That offer drove GM sales up more than 40% in June from the year earlier and its market sharee up to about 33% from the 25%-26% it was seeing earlier this year.
So how to one up GM? Bring former chairman Lee Iacocca, star of more than 60 commercials in the 1980s and 90s back to sell Chrysler's version of the same discount for a few weeks. It's a good idea, and my hat is off to Chrysler communications chief Jason Vines for cooking it up.
Iacocca has been gone from Chrysler since 1993, and doubtless many of the would-be Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep buyers under age 35 will have little to no memory of him. But for those over 35, who represent the lion's share of Chrysler buyers, it will certainly get their attention. Iacocca was a much ballyhooed and respected figure--kind of a Jack Welch and Donald Trump rolled into one. Many wanted him to run for president in 1988 and 1992.
GM siezed the imagination of the car buying public in June with its big employee discounts for everyone. Ford and Chrysler are playing catch up. But when Iacocca ads start rolling, I predict July will be more the month of Chrysler.
Chrysler's turn-back-the-clock ad strategy is one in a string of interesting look-back campaigns by advertisiers. Wrigley has returned to the Doublemint Twins. Quaker is running TV ads showing young people driving around with a Quaker figure in their convertible. Burger King has been using the old "Burger King" from the 1970s in TV ads. And Keebler has gone back to using the elves as its chief salesforce.
There's even a new Herbie The Love Bug movie out to make people think fondly of Volkswagen again.
What could be next? For Chrysler, I personally would like to see Ricardo Montelban try to sell me a Chrysler 300C or Dodge Charger with "Rich Corinthian leather." I say that even after an ad copywriter who worked on those Chrysler ads in the 1970s told me he made up the line. No such thing as Corinthian leather sold to automakers then or now.