If there is one consistent trend in the auto business, it's moms and minivans. Yes, there has been a defection to crossovers in recent years, but there will probably always be a core market for children’s chariots.
Chrysler is heading right for that core minivan family with a media partnership with BabyCenter, LLC, Johnson & Johnson’s mommy channel that customizes content and social platforms based on where parents are in their pregnancy and parenting journey. The Auburn Hills, Mich.-based automaker is using the deal to tout the 2012 Town & Country minivan -- which, when combined with sibling Dodge Grand Caravan, tops the sales hill for the segment.
The program, which involves both digital and dealership elements with content, social media elements, outreach, dealership and test-drive offers, is also about getting insights from parents about what they need when they need it.
The platform puts Chrysler links to the Town & Country Web site on a range of tools and content, such as a "Chrysler Car Seat Tool," intended to help parents determine the best car seat for their child based on age, height, and weight. The tool will also provide links to additional resources and video demonstrations on how to properly install a car seat. There is also a "Chrysler Drive and Blog," where bloggers discuss their experience with the minivan after having had the minivan on loan for a week. The campaign will be featured on BabyCenter’s leading mom blog and on the company’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Town & Country Marketing Manager Ben Guthrie says the deal made sense because of BabyCenter's huge reach and the social nature of minivan shoppers and how they look for information on family decisions and products. "When you look at how people shop for minivans, there is an especially strong digital component. So we looked for a strong partner in that space, and they really fit the bill." He tells Marketing Daily that the Chrysler content is being served to three major groups: moms-to-be, newer moms and moms who already have several kids. Each group gets different content.
Guthrie says minivans, which have lost significant share to hipper vehicles like crossovers, may be regaining a degree of popularity as the economy is compelling auto shoppers to put practicality before image. "I think when things get tougher economically, people look for sure things they can rely on, and it's less about what people think. People buy minivans because they have very specific needs to address rooted in family," he says.
Chrysler is calling out value features like standard DVD and leather seats on all trim levels of the vehicle, USB ports in second-row seats for device charging, and the Sto-n-Go system that makes second- and third-row seats disappear into the floor for larger cargo space. Guthrie says he is gauging the effectiveness of this effort, the first step in a larger Town & Country campaign, partly by watching traffic from BabyCenter to Chrysler’s Town & Country site and the degree to which those folks engage with the minivan at the Chrysler.com site.
Mike Fogarty, group publisher of BabyCenter, says the partnership is all about leveraging the platform’s ability to reach the right woman at the right time in her pregnancy. Thus, Chrysler ads are not takeover-style placements on the channel's splash page. "To a casual observer, [BabyCenter.com] looks like an information site for moms. You would not experience Chrysler ads unless you were a mom, going through the journey after registering on BabyCenter with a due date."
He explains that members are part of digital Birth Clubs of moms with about the same due date, with social-media bridges on Facebook and elsewhere. "Every week, [the members] are going through different issues based on where they are in their pregnancy," says Fogarty -- explaining that, for example, members who opt in for emails get weekly content based on their calendar.
Thus, expectant women in the second or third trimester with a toddler at home will see the Town & Country content because they are most likely to be considering such a vehicle. "We reached something like 80% of expectant moms and new moms, so we can build a media program and time it to leverage the insights we already have, and we are going to test this and learn with Chrysler as well. The fact is, pregnancy triggers purchases far beyond the baby space."
The company says it reaches 10 million moms in the U.S. and over 25 million moms monthly in 22 global markets including Australia, India and China. It also says that 70% of new moms last year were on BabyCenter, and that 8 in 10 expectant moms in the U.S. with an iPhone have downloaded the “My Pregnancy Today” app, with 44% returning at least once a day.
Guthrie says it comes back to targeting. "If we identify a mom-to-be, we are going to talk about safety and convenience and flexibility, and that's what they are buying the vehicle for."