I have to hand it to Fiat for making an entrance in the U.S. auto market. What first started out a little slow, picked up with some very prominent spokespeople that Fiat selected.
The U.S. auto market is very competitive. We have seen Saturn take a good run at it. The Hummer tried to carve out a niche. And now Fiat goes after the mini market success.
As an aside, it is interesting to see the Mini caving to some pressures, and extending its product into the mainstream. The mini now seems to be getting larger. While Fiat is honing in on the smaller foot-print, and the Smart car remains focused on this niche. It’ll be interesting to see how mini fairs in the next 3-5 years and whether it loses its identity.
Fiat had to make an impact and get people to notice. So it turned to celebrity spokespeople. Starting with Jennifer Lopez.
Once this TV ad campaign ran, Fiat became very prominent and enjoyed a surge in interest. Continuing in this line, it decided to employ Charlie Sheen, post 2 and a half men.
Once the Fiat brand was established in the US – it did not let up on it’s racier image. Even non-spokesperson ads continue to have creativity that pushes the envelope. Fiat’s most recent TV ad shows that it has arrived.
In a product launch effort, the continuing theme is to stand out in the crowd. Drawing on the existing platform of a celebrity enables a brand to catapult itself . Another example is godaddy, a web hosting company that leveraged the fan base of NASCAR in its model-esque selection of Danica Patrick.
The key is to leverage the celebrity fan base and create your own platform that no longer needs to rely on a single celebrity.
In the example of T-Mobile, US cellular carrier using Catherine Zeta-Jones, who later continued the pink dress theme with other spokes-models later. T-Mobile continues to use the same model each time, and now needs to make the leap into allowing any pink-dressed model to help carry their message.
Relying on an individual, live spokesperson can be dangerous.
A few cases include Dell and the college kid who was later found using drugs, and losing his endorsement, or Laker Kobe Bryant, or golf legend Tiger Woods – that lose endorsements from major brands during scandals. While these hurt the pocketbook of the celebrity, the dependence on a single celebrity spokesperson that is removed can also create a disruption in the branding efforts of a company – highlighting the importance of making the brand beyond an individual (at least live personalities).