Dodge is trying to rock its way to a new image.
The division last week started sponsoring Aerosmith's U.S. concert tour, the first of several marketing partnerships Dodge may form with the band.
Dodge wants to appear edgier to appeal to younger buyers, said Julie Roehm, director of Dodge marketing communications. But the question is whether those buyers will relate to a band that's been touring for 30 years.
Dealers are being encouraged to promote the tour on its way through 48 cities and will be given concert tickets for customers. The band could appear in advertising, and the division is considering production of a special-edition Aerosmith vehicle, Roehm said.
But industry analyst Jim Hall, vice president of AutoPacific Inc. in Southfield, Mich., criticizes Dodge's choice of Aerosmith. 'They got a band of 50-year-olds for a younger image. It's not going to work,' he said.
Dodge's U.S. sales were down 16.1 percent for the first five months of this year compared with the same period last year.
Roehm said the Aerosmith contract is just the first step in Dodge's plan to change its image.
The division is considering dropping its advertising tag line 'Dodge. Different.' Instead, Dodge will act differently, Roehm said. A new tag line, she said, would have the attitude of 'all-American, bold, aggressive, powerful.'
Dick Johnson, the man who created 'Dodge. Different.' and painted Dodge advertising red, retired last week. He had been chief creative officer of PentaMark Worldwide, the Chrysler group's advertising agency. Johnson, 58, is the latest in a string of execs that are exiting PentaMark, a unit of BBDO Worldwide.
Bill Morden replaces Johnson, with the title of executive vice president and executive creative director of PentaMark. Morden had been creative director of the Chrysler brand's former ad agency, FCB Worldwide.
With Johnson gone, so goes the formula for Dodge's TV commercials. Over the past few years, most of the spots showed Dodge vehicles on a stage and focused on their benefits. But Roehm wants Dodge advertising to be more emotional. 'Showing a vehicle still is more cerebral, not emotional,' she said.
Dodge especially wants to change its truck image, starting with the 2002 Ram.
'The initial reaction for trucks in total is to look into a country theme because trucks have a vocational usage, such as on farms,' Roehm said. 'But Dodge is really bold, aggressive. It made perfect sense that instead of going where everyone else is going, we stick to (an image) we can own.'