During the Superbowl, I was surprised by the ad for the new Dodge Charger. Now those of you who know me well know that I’m a sucker for a muscle car. And lately, I’ve had my eye on this one. Of course the Charger goes way back (like the ’73 beauty driven by Michael and Fiona in “Burn Notice.”) One of the options on the new model is a ridiculously powerful 6.1-liter SRT® HEMI® V8 5-speed. A girl can dream.
So imagine my surprise when the ad unfolded as a paean to the wounded male ego. A car to salve the soul of the beleaguered husband, which the ad defines as a guy who is forced by his wife to “separate the recycling” and “put the seat down.” Oh puh-lease. Guys still get to run 487 of the Fortune 500, and have 444 seats out of 535 in both houses of Congress, okay?
What really upset me about the ad, though, was not its false premise that marriage emasculates men and women rule the world. What really bugged me was the fact that Dodge was saying to me “you’re not our customer.” Wow. That hurts. I was actually seriously thinking about becoming your customer. And maybe so were other women. And, we car-driving womenfolk actually watch the Superbowl (we’ve done it for years now).
Maybe the folks at Dodge have decided their brand will settle for targeting 49% of the market, instead of 100%. And with this ad, they’re only targeting a small subset of that 49%–married guys who are super-insecure and don’t like to separate the recycling.
So what did the ad do for the Dodge brand? Well, it certainly got a lot of attention. In addition to the getting eyeballs during the Superbowl’s largest viewership in history, the ad’s have close to 765,000 views on YouTube. And plenty of controversy on blogs other than this one. As David Ogilvy famously said, “any publicity is good publicity.”
But maybe he wouldn’t say that in this day and age, when a bad impression can be multiplied and amplified millions of times over through social media. My own take is that a company needs to be very careful with both market segmentation and humor. It can be done brilliantly, of course. (Case in point, the IBM “training” film that spoofed The Office and shot up sales of mainframes.) But it can also fail miserably, and lead to an actual degradation of your market share.
The jury’s still out on the Charger. But they lost at least one customer.
Feb 12, 2007 – After I wrote the previous post, this video response to the Charger ad surfaced on YouTube.