Dodge Courts Millennial Car Buyers One Piece At a Time

Chrysler is gunning hard for millennial car buyers with their revamped 2013 Dodge Dart and their marketing campaign is a bullseye. With, Chrysler has created a new way for consumers to buy cars based on online crowdsourcing, or having donors pitch in online to raise money. Here’s how the folks at Wieden + Kennedy explain it in their 30 second commercial for the car giant:

While it’s not easy to market cars to a generation growing more apathetic towards them, the stakes are high for auto manufacturers. By 2025, millennials will account for 75% of vehicles purchased. That’s why it’s so exciting to see a company market to millennials the way we want to be marketed to.

Enter The Dodge Dart Registry. The Dodge Dart is one of Chrysler’s first compact sedans in seven years and, according to Forbes’ auto contributor Matthew De Paula, is “arguably the first good small car the company has made in two decades”. Yet, against a tough segment including brand heavyweights like Honda Civic, Dodge Dart sales have been disappointing. They needed to get on the radar and reach millennials. Here’s what they’re doing and why I love it.

How the Dodge Dart Registry works

A prospective car buyer goes to and picks out the color, rims etc. of their Dodge Dart. Then, she sets up a profile for their fundraising efforts where donors will pitch in to buy specific car parts like a steering wheel, nuts and bolts etc.–like a wedding registry. Buyers can customize their profile with video and descriptions and donation tiers.

While most buyers probably won’t use the registry outside a major event (graduations, weddings, birthdays etc), the campaign is still pretty cool and millennial-friendly for a couple of reasons.

1) Allows millennials to drive the buyer cycle online

An Atlantic article recently bemoaned General Motors’ desire to “get Millennials off their laptops and into showrooms.”  Chrysler, on the other hand, brings the showroom to millennials’ laptops instead. Rather than try to get millennials to revert to behaviors that better suit the brand, the Dodge Dart Registry is an example of an automaker changing their behavior to better suit millennial consumers.

According to Deloitte, the number one reason millennials visit dealerships is to test-drive a car, not collect information. Why? Because we have the whole internet at our disposal! We prefer to do the legwork on our own (aka with help from Google and our parents) and only meet in person when it’s really necessary, like actually driving the car.

The Dodge Dart Registry meets millennials on their home turf–and makes the whole process fun! Can you say, “understands my needs as a consumer?”

2) Customization lets us make it about us (not you)….

One of the coolest things about the Dodge Dart Registry is that you can pick out the colors, rims and various internal/external features and instantly see what the car would look like; you can even make the car do a little twirl and get all the views.

Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 6.24.28 PM

Custom views aren’t revolutionary (heck, you can even view different colors and angles for toasters these days), but add them with the personalized profile and suddenly, there’s a shift. This isn’t just some image; it’s my car. Or the car that I’ll give to my children for graduation. Or share with my fiance as a wedding gift. Whether you go the full mile and add a video/description or just change the title of your profile to “Lindsey’s car”, this way of online shopping makes the product a part of my story rather than forcing me to try to fit into a brand narrative–before I’ve even spent a dollar. Pretty nifty.

3) …and our community

Crowdsourcing is the hook that initially drew me to this campaign.  The average car costing $32,000 and sitting parked 23 hours a day. Yes, the Dodge Dart is priced at a more reasonable $15,000-25,000 range, but that’s still a bill I wouldn’t mind getting some help with.

But a car is not just a big financial investment; it’s an emotional one (one of the reasons I love this Camry commercial so much). Crowdsourcing doesn’t just share the financial cost of the car across a group, but the emotional one as well by making it an accessible gift you can give someone. The results can be quite beautiful.

Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 6.28.11 PM

Cancer survivor Toni’s Dodge Dart registry profile explains just how amazing it is to pitch in to make someone’s road easier. Toni’s story was filmed by Dodge, but even James and Tamara’s non-professional registry profile tells a story that will resonate with people who love them–they’re getting married and want a new car for their new life together. Who knows? A friend might buy the seatbelt that could buckle in another new life someday.

Great marketing makes it personal. This is great marketing, but here’s how to make it even better.

How to Make The Dodge Dart Registry Campaign Even More Effective

The biggest regret I have for this Dodge Dart registry is that they marketed it…just like any other car. When a brand goes out of the way to create a new way to buy a car, then markets the car itself as “doing things differently”, these methods diminish the concept. Here’s what I recommend.

Invest in non-print and television channels

Automotive marketing to milennials is something I care about. I’ve even been paid to speak on my theories on it (see keynote  presentation and/or slides only). But I didn’t hear about this Dodge Dart Registry until recently….six months after its big launch. That’s because I’m a millennial and I don’t buy print magazines or have cable. TV commercials and print ads won’t reach me (and I really wanted to be reached about this!). I wish that Dodge had invested in either a newsy publicity stunt (ex. “Dodge Builds World’s Biggest Lego Car to Celebrate ‘One Piece at a Time’ Dodge Dart Registry”) that would have drawn more attention to what they’re doing. A little extra PR investment would have amplified an already cool message.

Unify the campaign with an image or tagline

I first found out about this campaign when my mom pulled showed me this print ad.


No wonder I hadn’t noticed it–it looked like any other car ad. Other than a few lines of copy, there was nothing in the image to demonstrate it was anything new. Except for the fact that they invented a whole new way to buy a car. I think the campaign would have been strengthened by a unifying image that showed how what they were doing was different (ex. grandma changing tires, dad cleaning windshield, friend putting in headlights etc) that grabbed my attention.

This would have also made the website registry, commercial and print ad seem like parts of the same campaign vs. three separate entities. Just look at how the powerful image of Kraft Salad Dressing’s Mr. Zesty translated equally well across print and tv.

Finally, they should have played Johnny Cash’s “One Piece at A Time” at some point. It’s just TOO perfect!

YouTube did a LEGO version of this song and there’s no way to make some sort of publicity stunt out of this concept? #JustSaying

Thanks for reading! Lindsey Kirchoff

3 thoughts on “Dodge Courts Millennial Car Buyers One Piece At a Time

  1. Nicole Kinney says:

    Great article, Lindsey!

  2. […] Engage them on multiple platforms. It’s no secret that Millenials are increasingly apathetic toward purchasing and maintaining cars. As car dealerships try to compete not only against each other, but the resurgence of public transportation, Chrysler has launched a multi-dimensional campaign for the Dodge Dart that includes online test drives and crowdsourcing. By putting the ‘dealership’ experience on the web, Chrysler is bringing their product to the consumer. […]

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