Dodge aims to be down to earth

DETROIT - Eager to revitalize the Dodge brand and give it a bolder and sportier identity, Chrysler group will launch an advertising slogan for the division this fall.

All Dodge advertising will feature the tag line 'Grab life by the horns.' The campaign debuts Sept. 17 with the launch of the redesigned 2002 Ram pickup.

'This will be a powerful icon for our brand,' said Jeff Bell, Chrysler group's vice president of marketing communications.

The campaign will replace 'Dodge Different,' used since 1999. Dodge also will drop its longtime spokesman - the actor Edward Herrmann, whom Bell considers too 'book-smart' for the image the brand needs.

'Dodge buyers eat backyard hamburgers, drive to NASCAR events and have a different outlook on life,' Bell said. `''We aren't vanilla-wafer types. The Dodge guy is street-smart, and we need to be street smart.'

Dodge could use a boost. Its sales the first seven months of the year were down 12.5 percent to 796,227. Ram pickup sales slipped 8 percent to 208,814. Toyota Division is poised to outsell Dodge as the third-best selling brand in the United States this year. Toyota led Dodge in sales by 85,652 through July.

In an earlier interview with Automotive News Marketer, Dodge marketers said the bulk of its estimated $1 billion marketing budget would be spent on NASCAR-related activities and themes.

In addition, the division signed a partnership with rock band Aerosmith in June, sponsoring the group's 48-city U.S. tour.

Herrmann won't be replaced. Bell doesn't think Dodge needs a spokesman. He hopes the ram's head, on which the slogan is based, will become as recognizable as the Nike swoosh.

The slogan, developed with PentaMark Worldwide in Troy, Mich., and other BBDO agencies in New York, will be tied in with Ram advertising featuring the pickup as the new mayor of an imaginary town called Truckville. Bell said the Truckville theme will be expanded on the Dodge Web site (www.4aDodge.com), where consumers 'can meet the mayor and have a lot of fun exploring Truckville.'

You can reach Diana T. Kurylko at dkurylko@autonews.com

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