In the auto marketing space, the rugged pickup often takes on the role of a grown man's toy. Ads typically show male drivers hauling heavy loads or tackling uneven terrain in the wilderness while a deep-voiced narrator touts the pickups' towing capacity and toughness.
But Fiat Chrysler's Ram truck brand has been breaking that marketing mold to seize what it sees as an opening among female pickup buyers. And it's using the country music scene as the backdrop.
In recent years, Ram has built relationships with country music stars such as Miranda Lambert and Kellie Pickler to broaden its appeal. Ram has engaged country music fans with exclusive concerts and online hubs through Yahoo and Rolling Stone magazine that feature behind-the-scenes moments with artists and other content.
The brand also used Lambert in a stereotype-breaking Ram ad this spring highlighting the courage of women -- a spot with an all-female cast and narrator.
For a conquest-minded pickup brand such as Ram, the opportunity is rich.
For one thing, the brand says, there's the natural demographic overlap between those who drive pickups and those who listen to country music. Then there are the growth opportunities in building loyalty among women, who are more open to pickups than marketers might expect.
According to IHS Automotive, the share of female pickup buyers has been relatively steady since 2010 at around 12.5 percent of all self-reported pickup registrations. But in 2015, IHS says, year-to-date registrations by women have jumped to about 14.4 percent, with Chevy gaining the most market share.
Marissa Hunter, director of U.S. brand advertising for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, says there are some markets, Texas in particular, where sales of full-size pickups to women outpace the national average.
The selection of Lambert, a Texas native, as a brand ambassador was a twofer. Not only is the award-winning singer popular among women and men, she's a home-bred hero who resonates in the truck-heavy Texas market.
"Miranda was perfect because she represents all of the females out there that are breaking stereotypes and doing things differently," Hunter said. "She's obviously confident. She's empowered. She represents all of the things we celebrate from a brand perspective. She's inspiring to young girls and women."