Recent examples of the tongue-in-cheek efforts have included "Hats off to the Derby," a hat-rendering contest to promote the Chrysler Sebring convertible around the Kentucky Derby; the above-mentioned events "Dribble for a Dodge," a basketball-dribbling marathon to promote Dodge's National Truck Month promotion and the Dodge Ram around the NCAA finals; and "SnowDoku," a giant Sodoku contest in New York's Bryant Park to tout the Chrysler Aspen.
The next such effort, timed with something called National Stress Awareness Day on April 17, will promote the new Dodge Avenger through an essay contest. Like previous stunts, the campaign touts vehicle amenities from a quirky angle. The Avenger has various in-car comfort and entertainment amenities like MyGIG, and temperature-controlled cup holders. Thus, the effort focuses on the stress of commuting and enduring traffic jams, and how to relieve it.
Consumer/commuters enter by submitting a 250-word essay to DodgeAvengeYourCommute.com, about why they believe they have the most stressful daily drive and are most deserving of a new car. The winner gets flown to L.A.--which Dodge chose because it's the city emblematic of commuter hell--to be the subject of a Dodge "Avenge Your Commute" event on April 16. He or she will get a 2008 Dodge Avenger and a chance to destroy a separate car, thereby relieving stress.
Highlight footage of those events plus footage of life coach, columnist and stress guru Dr. Martha Beck talking about how to relax when stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic will do a satellite tour of morning shows nationwide that week.
"We have been doing these for the past four years, and it's really tied to reaching media beyond the automotive press," says Carrie McElwee, senior manager brand marketing communications, who adds that the marketing team brainstorms the efforts aimed at sustaining awareness of a product after the initial post-launch media and ad salvo. "We have refined it, but we look for ideas that have a product focus but are still quirky and fun enough to generate interest."
Last year, to promote the Dodge Ram at the Chicago Auto Show, the company did an immense musical chairs contest, with the last six contestants playing the game within the Dodge Ram Megacab. "That communicated a consumer product message about the Megacab seating six adults," she says.
She says the strategic timing of the efforts--the dribbling contest during the collegiate basketball finals, or derby-drawing contest timed with the Kentucky Derby generates Web traffic and media coverage. Last summer, Chrysler promoted its new Compass with a beach competition in Los Angeles, in which contestants had to find a buried set of keys to a Jeep Compass. The finder won the vehicle. "From that we got great coverage," she says. The event was picked up on The Weather Channel, ESPN2's morning show, Cold Pizza, as well as news shows across the country.
In addition to a number of automotive Web sites, Chrysler's recent SnowDoku Challenge in New York got play in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and several local and regional TV and national morning shows.