Marketer All Star: Jeff Bell, Vice President, Chrysler and Jeep Chrysler Group, DaimlerChrysler AG

  • by September 27, 2005
The Commander, a new Jeep brand vehicle, is promoted on a Web site by a fictional family called The Mudds. No, the man behind the effort doesn't work in the creative department. But Jeff Bell, the architect of the Web-based viral and branded entertainment strategy, is vice president, Chrysler and Jeep Chrysler Group, and a passionate evangelist for new media.

The campaign for the DaimlerChrysler brand is yet another example of the company's commitment to increasing its online media and marketing efforts, says Bell, who has been behind many successful digital marketing programs for the Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep brands. "We will continue to push monies toward interactive and experiential marketing for three reasons," Bell says. "First, it is measurable. Second, it is more engaging emotionally, and therefore effective. Third, the highest quality of creative and technical talent is working in this area."

To be sure. Bell, who is responsible for the marketing, product program development, and communications efforts for the three brands, has masterminded their involvement with online and PC-based video games, e-commerce initiatives, wireless platforms, and movies. Bell led Jeep's involvement with HBO's "Band of Brothers" and "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider II."

It has been widely reported that the Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep brands commit 10 percent of their overall marketing spend to gaming-related tie-ins and programs, a figure Bell won't confirm for competitive reasons. However, what he does say is "that in an environment where we have been reducing our total marketing spend, online has grown. During the same time frame when network dollars have shifted to cable, print, and out-of-home, we have moved toward interactive." And that includes Web, gaming, wireless, interactive television, and video-on-demand.

Bell got his feet wet in online marketing prior to arriving at DaimlerChrysler as director of retail marketing and e-business at Ford Motor Co. "My first job was to clean up the mess from the various Internet acquisitions made at Ford [, iVillage, and Bolt]," Bell recalls. "The real gem was forddirect .com, which we were able to establish technically and also gain the support of the dealer network via ownership and usage. In many ways, the things I learned at Ford about how they structured the Web influenced my later decisions at Daimler-Chrysler."

In addition, Bell's interest in digital media and marketing expanded his horizons, moving the brands for which he is responsible into gaming, viral efforts, wireless, and other new-media platforms. He says as traditional "push" media have been compromised, the company has been "nearly obsessed with moving all possible time and money to those areas that can be measured, which give a return on investment and provide interactive experiences."

Inviting consumers to opt-in and register for games, newsletters, and promotions has helped the company attract qualified prospects. The new campaign for the Commander builds on successful elements of previous Jeep launches, including the "Trail Rated" program in 2003. The Jeep Commander program includes a combination of unique advertising, merchandising, and gaming elements. The effort is supported by a dedicated microsite that links to and features rich media, video, games, and quizzes designed to teach consumers about the new vehicle.

A highlight of the campaign is the dedicated site, based on a fictional family of Jeep enthusiasts. The site, designed by Organic, even includes links to blogs by the family members and downloadable videos of Mudd family vacations. Each video reveals coordinates to a virtual "geo-cache" of items that consumers must locate via a tool that was designed with the Google Maps application programming interface. Each time a user digs up a cache, they are entered into a sweepstakes to win, for example, a Jeep Commander. All the Web marketing is a prelude to the official launch of the vehicle on Oct. 1.

"Jeff was the father of gaming at DaimlerChrysler and the founder of the online strategy that we still build from today," says colleague Julie Roehm, director of marketing communications, Chrysler, Jeep, and Dodge. "He has a tremendous network and is the catalyst for many of our partnerships with companies such as Paramount Studios, and the entire music industry."

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