What Chrysler did to save the Jeep from being killed by SUVs.

In the 1990s, Chrysler the car company was in a conundrum. They didn’t know what to do with their Jeep Wrangler brand of cars. Market share of the Jeep was constantly declining because of SUVs. SUVs were bigger, more spacious, and luxurious.

Chrysler held a number of focus groups asking people how to go about improving Jeeps. And the responses were along similar lines: make them more luxurious. Have soft leather seats. Give them curves like traditional cars. Get rid of the removable doors.

In essence, people were asking for another nondescript SUV. By making those changes, Jeep would lose its distinctive flavour.

Clotaire Rapaille, a marketing consultant hired by Chrysler gave contrarian advice. He admonished that it’s a mistake listening to what people say. Because most of them don’t know what they want.

Rapaille conducted his own focus groups. But instead of asking people what they wanted in a Jeep, he asked them to tell him about their earliest memories of a Jeep. And the stories he heard had a recurring theme: people loved going out in the open in their Jeeps – going off road where no one else had gone before. Jeep gave them a sense of freedom and adventure.

Rapaille went back to Chrysler and told them to advertise Jeeps not as cars. But as horses.

Rapaille advised Chrysler to eschew luxury and retain the rough and tough look. The problem was not the car. The problem was how they were positioning the car.

When Chrysler started showing ads in which Jeeps are driven on mountains instead of on roads – going to places inaccessible by other cars – sales started going up again.

Action Summary:

  • Don’t ask people what they want. Instead, try to determine why they (would) want it
  • Asking people about their first impressions and memories of a particular thing can give you a lot of insights
  • Differentiate yourself. And retain the things that make you different

Credits: Ankesh Kothari, Zenstrategies.com

Aniketh is a Digital Marketer. After co-founding the Digital Division at Beehive Communication (Now a part of Publicis) he moved over to Cogmat to build a Digital team where he served as Head of Operations for 3 years. In 2014, he set up Mindstorm - A Hybrid Digital Marketing Agency with an ambition to challenge convention & set new standards for the Digital Industry. He recently set a new goal for Aniketh.com so as to create a new breed of Next Generation Hybrid Marketers.

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