Will your ad spending be up or down in 2001, compared with 2000? By what percentage?
Our advertising spending will probably be flat in 2001. Any variation is likely to be plus or minus 5 percent.
What media mix do you expect for 2001? How does that compare with 2000?
Sixty percent of our advertising budget is for television, both cable and network; 35 percent is in print; and the remaining 5 percent is outdoor, Internet and radio. In the past, we may have been one of the bigger users of radio.
I've been ranting and raving about the clutter on television. But we continue to use both network and also a lot of cable. Our dealers like to see us on television, but the various ways for viewers to zap ads is certainly a concern for us. We could find other media to use.
We have in recent years shifted a greater portion of our marketing budget into customer relations management programs such as event marketing. We have increased event management spending by 10 percent. Things like Camp Jeep, Skip Barber Driving School and NASCAR give us a chance to meet owners and potential customers and get them together with dealers.
Is the Internet still a good marketing tool for you? How will you use it in 2001?
The Internet is a good marketing tool. I'm not a fan of banner advertising, though we do some banner ads. Recent studies indicate that something like 54 percent of car buyers are shopping on the Internet - not necessarily buying, but getting information. Yes, the Internet is effective, but we are continuing to explore what really works with it. We are always trying to make our own site better and to discover what is it that will entice a prospect to visit a dealer. The Internet should drive traffic to dealerships.
We want to experiment a little more this next year. We may try some things on the Internet. We're open to anything. I know some ideas will fail.
How do you expect rebates and incentives to affect your marketing budget in 2001?
Rebates and incentives have been going up this past year. We're selling programs now, not product. We'd love to see incentives level off or go down. You have to do it because other companies offer them and customers are shopping based on them. A prospect may come into a dealership and find that a minivan has all the right features, yet go down the street to buy another brand for $4,000 less. We would like to have no incentives on our minivans.
I would love, love, love to get back to selling product. We have to spend money to advertise incentives. Even in TV spots about product, you have to save time at the end to talk about incentives.
What is the biggest launch you have coming up for 2001? When will it be?
Our Sebring convertible had its media launch Dec. 4. Early in the second quarter of 2001 we'll bring out the new KJ or Liberty Jeep for 2002. That will be in May or June. The 2002 Dodge Ram pickup bows in July or August.
What is your major marketing challenge for 2001?
We have to make our products stand out from the crowd. We have to break through all the clutter. Our product has to stand on its own for what it is. We need to start selling products, again, instead of programs. Figuring out the Internet is another important goal for us.