The story of what Stellantis and its forebears have accomplished with the Jeep brand is one of the most remarkable heights of any brand in recent automotive history. Only recently has Jeep been identified with imaginative, high-quality, near-luxury products, but it has risen to or near the top of strong automotive brand identities over the past decade or so.
Every new foray Jeep makes into the marketing arena tends to succeed as the brand adds authentic values to its original architecture based on a love of nature and patriotism, which is why its latest ad campaign bears watching. Jeep buzzed to the new movie, Jurassic World Dominion, with both product placement of the gas-powered Jeep Wrangler in the hit movie and with new TV commercials featuring the upcoming Wrangler 4xe all-electric vehicle.
“This partnership is focused on relevance, authenticity and meaning, which is how we’ve approached things in my 14 years” as chief marketing officer of Fiat Chrysler, now part of Paris-based Stellantis, Olivier Francois told reporters recently.
The new Jeep-Jurassic collaboration is relevant. “One lasting impression counts for millions of impressions, which is why creativity is key,” said Francois. “Viewers will see the Wrangler in the film, which is great visibility. And while that’s nice to have, that’s not the name of the game. The name of the game is relevance, and what I love about this partnership is the cultural relevance. It holds the brand on the global cultural palate.”
Authenticity? “Jeep is a real character and a current one at that Jurassic film, Olivier said. “It makes sense to everybody. It’s not fake. It doesn’t smell like marketing. Jeep is part of the story.”
And in terms of meaning, he said, “What does this mean [partnership] say about Jeep? The first thing that stands out is about adventure. It’s at the heart of the brand, and this commercial shows that the Wrangler 4xe is loaded for any adventure, literally and metaphorically.”
So Jeep continues to build on a legacy that began as an America-first brand for outdoor enthusiasts. And consider new proof that it’s still effectively associated with patriotism: Jeep was ranked No. 1 for the brand that best embodies the value of “patriotism” in Brand Key’s latest 20th annual survey of American brands. Not only did Jeep lead Walmart at No. 2, Disney, Ford, Amazon and Coca-Cola, but at No. 1, Jeep ranked exactly where it did in 2002, while none of the other top companies have had anything like a consistent showing.
Jeep’s performance continues to build on itself, but ironically perhaps it owes much to two auto executives from Europe who came in and rebuilt Chrysler from the ground up beginning in 2008. The late Sergio Marchionne, an accountant from Canada who headed Fiat , accepted Chrysler’s corpse from American taxpayers with a determination to rebuild the company into what would once again be a formidable member of the traditional Detroit Three. And he was joined by Francois, a Frenchman who had been Marchionne’s right-hand man.
When Fiat inherited Chrysler and its several brands, the cupboard was pretty bare in terms of strong and exciting products. Jeep had its Grand Cherokee, Wrangler and some smaller models but was considered a franchise brand. Chrysler had the minivan and some bad cars, ditto for Dodge, which also had the Ram pickup truck line under its umbrella.
So, with little to brag about in the way of products and not much capital to work with at the start, Fiat Chrysler, Marchionne and Francois had to lead the company’s revival with branding and effective marketing, counting on product design, features, desirability and quality to come catch up sometime.
And that’s exactly what they did, with Francois’ series of memorable Super Bowl commercials — starting with the iconic “Born of Fire” spot starring Eminem and the slogan “Imported from Detroit” — achieving the first significant draw for his efforts during the ad’s Big Game appears in 2011.
A handful of Jeep commercials have been among the company’s Super Bowl successes over the past decade or so, and Francois has broadened the brand’s appeal in other ways as well. At the same time, by plane, the variety of offerings in Jeep’s lineup, the level of appointments and amenities in the vehicles, and product quality have caught up with the rest of the market and surpassed it in some ways.