Jeep Lures Consumers With Online Games

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DaimlerChrysler Corp. has created a gaming area on its Web site for Jeep as part of an effort to build a rapport with customers and prospects.


The Game Zone on Jeep.com features two games that boost interaction between outdoors-loving consumers and the car brand while yielding insights into the evolving tastes and preferences in the market.


"I think they recognize the power of the gaming media to reach a new audience," said Martin Zagorsek, New York-based vice president of strategy at YaYa LLC, creator of the games for Jeep and its sibling Dodge and Chrysler brands. "There's a rapidly growing and already large audience of people out there that play games recreationally, not just the kinds of games that have been in the news -- the PlayStations and the Xboxes. There's also a very large group of games that are played online."


Once logged onto Game Zone, players choose their Jeep vehicle and color. Model choices include Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland, Jeep Wrangler Rubicon or Jeep Liberty Renegade. The chosen model is the key vehicle in the game or in the background. Then users select their games.


One game is Disc Dogger. The player and a dog play catch with a Frisbee-like toy for points. They can play in customizable environments like a rolling sandy beach, mountainous winter paradise or a serene wood setting. The dog can be a mutt, Labrador retriever or Border collie.


The other game is Jeep Rescue Patrol. Players drive their Jeep through canyons and streams to rescue stranded sport utility vehicles from sticky situations.


Players also can protect the environment by picking up trash left behind by non-Jeep owners. Each rescue takes players to new challenges and more complicated routes. After each challenge round is completed, a pop-up screen appears with tidbits on Jeep's history.


"It's built on the brand attributes that Jeep wants consumers to associate Jeep with," Zagorsek said. "We found it's a much more powerful way to build brand associations than a lot of more traditional media."


Before participating, the automaker asks consumers to register with details of e-mail address, password and ZIP code. They must opt out if they do not want to receive news from the company. Once the gamers play, YaYa keeps track of player activity and behavior on the site.


Consumers are more receptive to gaming as a form of advertising than the company anticipated, said Dianna Gutierrez, e-business and IT communications spokeswoman for DaimlerChrysler.


"We have found that the gaming audience is broader or at least older than what we anticipated," she said. "It's not just the teen-age male that's playing. Gaming is an ideal way to expose a lot of people to our Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands in a friendly and engaging manner. You can expect to see more games available on our Web sites."


A previous effort by YaYa convinced DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group of the benefits of gaming. Called Get Up and Go, the game on Chrysler.com attracted 40,000 players within a week of launch. Company research showed that 42 percent of those gamers were women and the average age of players was 45.


"Typical gamers [online] are not the 14-year-old arcade-playing types of the '80s and '90s," Zagorsek said. "The average age for certain types of games can also be well into the 40s."


The Jeep owner is more of the outdoors type than the Dodge or Chrysler customer. That is reflected in the games on Jeep.com, with more scheduled for Dodge.com and Chrysler.com.


"The reason, first and foremost, to do these is not to provide games -- it's to generate business value," Zagorsek said. "The point of putting these things on Jeep.com is essentially to create a more captivating environment and gather information and to make an impression on people who play and ultimately drive them closer to sales."


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