Millennials are the holy grail for auto brands and most other brands, of course. And in marketing its new compact Compass SUV, Jeep is trying to aim precisely at a sub-group of the generation—those falling close to either side of 30 years old—who presumably have moved beyond some of the free-spiritedness of youth and on toward more financial success, more relationship choices, more responsibility.
“You don’t want to pontificate or lecture to them,” Fiat Chrysler Automotive CMO Olivier Francois told brandchannel. “You need to say something true, and it doesn’t have to be necessarily about the product. We’ll talk more about the new Compass and features in phase two of our campaign and establish that relevance. Right now it’s about tapping into human truth.”
Jeep is interpreting that “truth” as making choices about “navigating” life in its first TV ad for the all-new 2017 version of Compass, an important nameplate to make the brand more relevant in the increasingly important segment of the ever-expanding sport utility universe.
The new spot, “Recalculating,” acknowledges the many important life choices that members of this generational subgroup are making and suggests that purchasing a Compass could be one of those decisions.
In the ad, millennials are depicted navigating the many twists and turns in life—including moments such as quitting a job, finding out about a pregnancy, deciding to get married, even choosing meat eating over a vegan lifestyle—and a female voiceover who sounds very much like those in navigation systems continually mentions that they’re “recalculating” as each new step presents sometimes-invigorating, sometimes-terrifying choices and routes.
“We want to connect with them and be relevant,” Francois explained. “We speak of freedom and adventure, which are Jeep values, in ways that are relevant to these target millennials. In this ad we’re not talking about going off-road but taking a step back and thinking about how they navigate life—so, ‘recalculating’ at moments such as deciding about marriage, or making certain kinds of sacrifices or relocating for a job.”
Indeed, the ad ends with the voiceover switching from her robotic mode to say, “Love, hope, happiness—whatever your destination, there’s a million beautiful, ever-changing ways to get us there.” The final tagline is “Find Your True North” — a journey that many other brands are on, of course.
While introducing a significantly overhauled new version of a vehicle that Jeep would like to see chew up more of an important segment, the new Compass campaign—which will include print, in-cinema 3D, digital advertising, CRM and experiential activations—has to be consistent with the brand message, Francois said. “We want the campaign to be as ‘Jeep’ as our new ad starring Vin Diesel is ‘Dodge’ for that brand,” he said.
“We always want to exude the brand’s attributes and persona. We’ve created a Jeep style and we want to stick with it, communicating a set of values in a very Jeep style.”
This approach is increasingly important, he said, in part because “the ute segment is growing everywhere, and it is global, and it has become commoditized and crowded. We need to be even more original and stand out even more.”
As he has helped make Jeep a global linchpin of the renaissance of the old Chrysler Corp. under Fiat’s ownership, Francois has steadily built up the emotive charge behind the venerable brand and has conveyed values that he described as “freedom, adventure, authenticity and passion.” Along with a broadening lineup and Americans’ growing embrace of utility vehicles of all kinds, Francois’s efforts have helped Jeep join Ram trucks as the workhorses behind FCA’s comeback story.
Jeep said that the new Compass is a “truly global compact SUV” whose attributes include improved fuel efficiency and on-road driving dynamics, innovative safety and advanced technology features, ‘premium and authentic Jeep design,” and best-in-class 4×4 off-road capability.
As it arrives in volume at Jeep dealerships, the new vehicle is an important refresh as Jeep overall struggles with its first slump in nearly a decade. U.S. sales for the brand were down by 13 percent, year-to-year through April. And while the factory switch to the new Compass has sapped supply of that nameplate lately, Jeep also is facing a 16-percent decline this year in sales of its Cherokee mid-size SUV and even a one percent drop in sales of its signature Wrangler.