Jeep campus promo – karaoke woos the student beast

September is traditionally party time at Canadian universities, with students trying to have as much fun as possible before the bitter winds - and the real academic grind - arrive. To coincide with this fall frivolity, DaimlerChrysler is making the rounds to campuses, promoting its Jeep brand and getting involved with the frenzy of frosh activities.

September is traditionally party time at Canadian universities, with students trying to have as much fun as possible before the bitter winds – and the real academic grind – arrive. To coincide with this fall frivolity, DaimlerChrysler is making the rounds to campuses, promoting its Jeep brand and getting involved with the frenzy of frosh activities.

‘It’s bedlam,’ says Max Lenderman, creative director at Montreal-based Gearwerx, who came up with the campaign. ‘We take off the marketing hat and put on the circus hat,’ he says describing the promo that involves tug-o-war, karaoke sung from the back of a Jeep and remote-controlled mini-Jeep races – all within a camping theme complete with fire pit and smores.

Nine Canadian campuses are participating in the tour, which also includes branded give-aways, cash prizes to go towards tuition and a possible $10,000 donation to the school’s ‘drive safe’ program.

This is the second time around for Gearwerx, which ran similar events last year on Canadian campuses showcasing DaimlerChrysler’s PT Cruiser. This year’s campaign revolves around the Jeep TJ, Jeep Liberty and the Jeep Rubicon and will further expose people to ‘Only in a Jeep’ which is their first new tagline in decades.

‘If it wasn’t fun, councils wouldn’t let us do it,’ says Lenderman on dealing with student governments which, at times, can be highly politicized – and anti-commercial. ‘We’re all under 30 [at Gearwerx] and we speak their language,’ he says, noting that there was little to no opposition from student governments, but that it can be ‘a fine line between shilling a product and placing it in a fun and dynamic way.’

As much as it is about fun, it’s also about data collection and ongoing longer-term efforts to reach young people who are ‘doing things’ with their lives. Lenderman explains that names, e-mail addresses and postal codes are being acquired for the sole purpose of allowing participants to log onto a Web site and view photographs of themselves in action.

‘It’s not pushing sales, it’s pushing the brand,’ says Pearl Davies, Jeep/Chrysler brand manager. ‘There are lineups and the students really belt out the karaoke and get into the mini off-road races.’

Jeep also markets to young people through Internet promotions and sporting events such as the ’24 hours of Adrenaline’ extreme bike race. The main demo is frosh students to grads, mostly 18-24s with a 50/50 male/female split.

Although buying a Jeep would seem well beyond the means of most students, the ‘performance event’ also helps highlight DaimlerChrysler’s ‘Grad Rebate’ program that allows for a price break and special financing arrangements for recently graduated students. According to Davies, ‘It’s all about student aspirations to own a Jeep when their career will let them.’ Or, as Lenderman puts it, ‘The idea is to get your first new car to be a Chrysler.’

Given the emphasis on branding and not necessarily sales, at least in the short term, the strategy seems to be working. ‘Every year we re-evaluate the event, and last year’s success motivated us this year,’ says Davies. Last year, 16,500 people attended the events in total at nine schools, with 6,400 filling in ballots and/or participating in the ‘Paint the PT’ event.

This year’s promotional tour includes visits to McGill, Concordia, Queen’s, Carleton, York, University of Toronto, Ryerson, Western, and Windsor and will continue until the end of September.