Dodge Charger Brand: Women Need Not Apply

February 10, 2010 at 6:53 pm 13 comments

Okay, for those of you who are regular readers of my blog, I promise I’m not becoming a car blogger, but…

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.

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Feb 12, 2007 – After I wrote the previous post, this video response to the Charger ad surfaced on YouTube.

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13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Paige Gold  |  February 10, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    It wasn’t just the Dodge ad — it seemed to me that this year’s ads hit an all-time high in terms of sexism. (The Google ad was the only one I really liked.)

    Reply
    • 2. Gerry Fitzpatrick  |  May 29, 2010 at 6:00 pm

      Why do women think that when a commercial is directed to men only, it’s sexism, but when the tables are turned it’s ok? Believe me, you’ll start seeing a trend of more commercials directed to men because with the economy in the slump it’s in, they have no choice but to motivate men to buy their product again. It goes both ways. Men will shy away from a product if they remember the commercial about the smart great women, and the dumb push over guy and think twice about buying the product. You have to look way, way back when dinasaurs roamed the earth, commercials were directed to men only because they were the bread winner of the family and home. I laugh today in how the poiltically correct system is back firing. I’m enjoying it! I really am… If you ask a women how to plow a field to grow crops, they would say I don’t know, but I wouldn’t have to worry because I would find a rich farmer to do it for me. The industrial age is over in the next 50 years. Get a horse and plow and start learning ladies.

      Reply
  • 3. Charlotte Rinderknecht  |  February 10, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Great commentary, Amy! I know a number of women who were equally appalled/turnoff by this commercial. Char

    Reply
  • 4. d2pics  |  February 10, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    As a well-adjusted male, with a healthy interest in sleek lines and high horse-power, I found that ad painful. Boring, annoying, and – as my daughter would say – way too Emo. Not only do they apparently not want your money, they seem to want to push everyone else away too.

    David Dolinsky

    Reply
  • 5. Ed Spitzberg  |  February 11, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    I noticed the same thing (re: the emasculated men, anywyay), Amy, with that, and, as Paige says, at least two other ads – the one where the woman makes the man go shopping instead of doing manly stuff, and the dockers commercial where men are singing about not wearing pants anymore. Very odd trend.

    Leaving aside the women who aren’t targeted, what MAN would respond to that ad? (“Oh, my woman emasculates me. I deserve this product to escape my pain.”)

    Reply
  • 6. amikim  |  February 11, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Good points Amy. But – just for fun, if you were designing a fantasy Charger ad, what benefits/imagery would you highlight? Would love to know how a feminist would market a muscle car – either to other women or to both sexes.

    Reply
    • 7. amy's brand buzz  |  February 11, 2010 at 9:44 pm

      Good question, Ami. Hmmm, let’s see, how ’bout…

      Closeup, woman at the wheel. Cut to side angle and we see a tot in the back seat. Some kind of kiddie singalong music playing, and she checks the rear-view mirror and flashes a smile.

      Cut to pulling up at school/daycare. Opens the kid’s door, hands the kid his/her lunch. Big hugs. Waves goodbye.

      Cut to closeup. Slight smile appears on her lips. She unbuckles the car seat, tosses it in the trunk.

      Cut to a sleek side shot of the car as she pulls up to a house and 3 girlfriends bound inside. Closeup hand on the radio. Music changes to Cindy Lauper “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” She revvs the engine and they’re off!

      Fade to logo and tagline: Dodge Charger. Flexibility and performance in the same package. Just like you.

      Reply
  • 8. Dolores McDonagh  |  February 11, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Hated it when I saw it, hated it on the rerun. Hate it even more after spending all these days straight with three men/boys in my house.

    Did anyone else notice the last guy in the ad had two different shaped eyes? Hate that too.

    Reply
  • 9. Leah Galliker  |  February 11, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    I saw TV commentary from an advertising exec (who’s name escapes me) summarizing the Superbowl ads’ theme this year as ‘men being stupid’. Charger ad is a perfect example! To me, it was right up there with the Betty Crocker ad a few years ago in which the Mom used the mix ‘because I HAVE a life’….I noticed that was quickly edited out…

    Does these companies actually research or respect their target demographics anymore?

    Reply
  • 10. Debra Beard Bader  |  February 11, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    Smart, enjoyable post! Sometimes you wonder if our 21st Century Ad men aren’t right out of Mad Men.

    Reply
  • 11. Lisa Schaefer  |  February 11, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    As an engineer, I’m offended by the message that machines are not for women. As an environmentalist, I hope we all get rid of our overblown cars and take the bus or metro.

    Reply
  • 12. Gerry Fitzpatrick  |  May 29, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    I hear your complaining all the time and the squeaky wheel doesn’t always get the grease. Men need men toys once again, because politically speaking women have already taken over the market for how new cars are designed and built around what conveniences they want in the car. Cars nowadays have way too many standards. Everything but the kitchen sink are what drives up the cost of cars these days and the manufactures are suffering now because of it. They have to cut production, dealers, distributors, venders because consumers can’t choose what they want on it. Guys typically want steel box with bench seats, 4 wheels, at steering wheel and let’s not forget the 500 cubic inches of gas guzzling power. Then they add the the little additional toys when they save up enough money to do so. I sure miss those days and thank God for listening to the man’s prayer, We don’t have to change, if we have too, we guess. There are a billion women besides you who wouldn’t have noticed and would still by the product, but if all women protested and stop buying the product, then men once again have a say in this world Hurra!
    It’s kind of like the 50’s sci-fi movie “Mars Needs Women” Take them please! We have too many ruling this world already.

    Reply
  • 13. Sherrie  |  August 5, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Let them aim at men in the advertising because Dodge knows who the dumbest buyers of cars are and they’re aiming at them. I bought a 2007 Charger and am so Sorry with it. The service sucks so bad at the dealerships that a warranty means nothing. The car is a piece of Crap, needed a tune up at only 36000 km for $600. and they wouldn’t warranty the bad spark plugs, needed new tie rods which was under warranty but I have to replace the brakes and pay for the alignment. Burns oil like i’ve never seen before but now they tell me that the exhaust system needs to be flushed for another $600. I’ve had this car 2 1/2 years, I Will Never buy another Dodge and will continue to warn as many people as possible. I have turned off alot of peoplke from buying a Dodge using my situation as an example. Bad Service, Plastic car, GARBAGE. Save your money and buy a different brand. I’m trading it in for a 2010 Camaro, now that’s a car…… Winnipeg, Canada

    Reply

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Amy DeLouise Producer/Director/Author

Amy DeLouise Producer/Director/Author

Video and multi-media producer, brand wrangler and marketing collaborator, waking up audiences nationwide as a workshop leader/speaker, love creating mission-driven, advocacy communications. Violinist and a cappella singer.

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