CAMPAIGNS: Chrysler teaches owners the perks of dealer service

PR Team: The Brownstein Group (Philadelphia), Fusion 5 (New York), and Chrysler, Jeep & Dodge Service Marketing (Auburn Hills, MI) Campaign: "Stick with the specialists" Time Frame: November 2002 to April 2003 Budget: $75,000

PR Team: The Brownstein Group (Philadelphia), Fusion 5 (New York), and Chrysler, Jeep & Dodge Service Marketing (Auburn Hills, MI) Campaign: "Stick with the specialists" Time Frame: November 2002 to April 2003 Budget: $75,000

In late 2002, DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler, Jeep, and Dodge (C/J/D) Service Marketing team had a trust problem: Most vehicle owners believed that the dealership wasn't the best place to get their car or truck fixed. They would rather go to Jiffy Lube, Pep Boys, or other low-cost shops that would get them in and out quickly. They were skeptical about dealers and weren't sure they were hearing the truth about their vehicles. At the same time, customers credited the dealerships' service teams with having the most expert knowledge. DaimlerChrysler knew that an owner was twice as likely to buy a second vehicle from a dealer if they had their first one serviced there. C/J/D Service Marketing initiated a test program in Philadelphia to see if they could change customers' perceptions and increase the number of vehicles serviced, sales of parts, and ultimately, vehicles sold. Strategy In November 2002, the parent company engaged 31 dealers near Philadelphia with an offer to fund marketing and PR support in exchange for specific changes in how the dealers ran their businesses. Arana D. Long, service strategy manager for DaimlerChrysler's Global Service Marketing & Strategy division, says, "Half of it was a test of different kinds of marketing initiatives. The other half of it was a test of what I would call 'service processes.'" For instance, Long asked dealers to stay open on Saturdays to make it more convenient for customers to get their cars serviced. And she suggested that service managers not only point out what's wrong with a customer's vehicle, but make recommendations on things like tire wear, which might be a problem 10,000 miles down the road. C/J/D Service Marketing hired the New York office of Fusion 5 to develop creative aspects of the campaign. For local knowledge, Fusion 5 suggested The Brownstein Group to manage PR. Tactics To capitalize on the positive perception customers had about dealer expertise, Fusion 5 dubbed the campaign "Stick with the specialists." The Brownstein Group played off this theme, providing in-house media training to service engineers and arranging radio and TV appearances for the experts. Beth Bacha, Brownstein VP and director of PR, recalls, "We really had to tweak the messages to make them what I call 'mediagenic.' We had to convey the essence of the message in a way that was less commercial." With winter bearing down on the region, six radio stations were also offered prize packages - consisting of blankets, umbrellas, de-icers, defoggers and other items - that were given away on the air. The Brownstein Group also organized giveaways at two NHL playoff games. For community relations, 19 dealers donated $1 from every vehicle serviced during April to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, which needed a new incubator in its neonatal intensive care unit. Results C/J/D Service Marketing hired Detroit-based Maritz Inc. for customer research every month of the campaign. The phone surveys showed customer perception of dealers' expertise improved from 80% to 88%; for convenience of hours it went up from 74% to 86%; and for helpful staff, satisfaction rose from 77% to 84%. More important, post-program results showed a 22% rise in average labor sales, and part sales increased by 10%. Media relations efforts resulted in an estimated 2.8 million impressions. The highlights included 100 mentions on seven radio stations, and two five-minute segments on Philadelphia morning TV shows. The Philadelphia Flyers prize promotion was seen by 39,000 fans. And photos for the incubator check presentation landed in various print outlets. Future The C/J/D service marketing team found the pilot program to be successful enough to offer components of "Stick with the specialists" to dealers nationally. For its success, The Brownstein Group was rewarded with a new portion of the national business.

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