DETROIT - Chrysler Corp. has increased its share of the black automotive market 30 percent during the last three years.
According to internal research, Chrysler started the 1994 calendar year with 13.8 percent of that market and ended 1996 with 17.9 percent.
Jim Julow, executive director of corporate marketing, said Chrysler now has a larger share of the black car-truck buying market than it does of the overall market. The company had 16.2 percent of the U.S. market in 1996.
So how did Chrysler increase its share of black car-truck buyers? New product helped, but Julow gives equal credit to Don Coleman Advertising Inc. of Southfield, Mich., which won one of Chrysler's minority marketing accounts in 1994.
Owner Don Coleman said Chrysler funded his agency's development of a strategic plan for the black car-truck buying market that includes advertising, promotions and special events.
'We've been allowed to exercise all elements of the marketing mix toward this target, just as you do in the general market,' Coleman said. 'That has been a major difference.'
Indeed, Julow said Chrysler's old minority marketing program ran across all divisions, included too many car lines and allocated too much money for advertising and not enough for marketing.
In 1994, Coleman Advertising created 11 target markets for Chrysler: Atlanta; Baltimore; Chicago; Dallas; Detroit; Houston; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tenn.; New York; Philadelphia; and Washington.
The agency is trying to raise Chrysler's brand awareness in the black community by sponsoring and sometimes creating high-profile events. For instance:
1. The manufacturer will co-sponsor, with Ebony magazine, the opening reception of the annual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists in Chicago July 16-20. Chrysler will offer test drives and will sponsor a public golf tournament. Proceeds will be donated to the association's internship program.
2. Chrysler will be the exclusive automotive sponsor of Detroit's African World Festival Aug. 14-17, at which it will display its vehicles and brand logos. An estimated 1.5 million people are expected to attend.
3. Chrysler will sponsor an art competition in Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit high schools during the first two weeks in December. The winner in each market will receive a $2,500 U.S. Savings bond.
Julow said he believes that Chrysler's ethnic ads must mirror its general market advertising.
In other words, Chrysler does not advertise the Neon to black shoppers as one kind of car and to the general market as something else. The Neon is pitched to both markets as functional, fun to drive and inexpensive to own and operate.
'You can take certain elements (of the vehicle) and try to build them up (with cultural cues),' Julow said. 'But at the end of the day, if you try to re-create a vehicle in some other format, you will fail.'
For example, Coleman said in the case of Jeep, black consumers are less likely to identify with off-road advertisements for the sport-utility.
'So we call Jeep (in print ads) an enigmatic joy,' he said. 'It's rugged but luxurious. Like wearing jeans under a fur coat.'
Coleman added that ethnic advertisements must appeal to the general market because media aimed at black people attract white consumers. For example, he said a lot of TV shows that are perceived as having predominantly black viewers, such as 'In Living Color,' have majority white audiences.
And like the general market, Julow said that the black car-buying market is not monolithic. Chrysler targets 10 demographic groups within the black automotive market with five of its platforms. To young, single black women, Chrysler pitches the Neon. It aims the Chrysler Cirrus at women with children. And the Jeep Grand Cherokee's target is upscale black men.
Julow said Chrysler is not big enough to dominate the general market. But he added that the company can 'dominate target audiences (such as) African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, maybe even women, depending on what our competitors do.'