Age of Consumption Is Ending, Chrysler's Bell Says at Ad:tech

CHICAGO — Jeff Bell, vice president of the Jeep and Chrysler brands at DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group, is a renaissance marketing man.

He told delegates at yesterday's Ad:tech Chicago conference that renaissance marketing is about the new age of engagement. Today's market differs greatly from the period after World War II, when consumers were busy filling their homes with refrigerators, televisions, table fans and brands.

“Consumption may, in fact, be suppressed because we're reaching the end of another innovation curve,” Bell told a packed room of online marketers.

Other factors about to depress consumption include the retirement of baby boomers and that products may have become more boring. That probably explains the success of Apple's iPod, he said, besides the touted selling point that the handheld is supposed to be intuitive.

“I wonder if they could double the sales if they showed how it worked instead of dancing silhouettes,” he said.

Twentieth-century rules no longer apply, Bell said. New approaches are required. For example, marketers should pay more attention to consumer lifestyles instead of demographics. Third-party recommendations, like J.D. Power auto rankings or reviews on and, are more trusted. Respect consumer privacy. And move to customization because standard-issue products don't cut it.

The previous consumer route was awareness, consideration, shopping, purchase and loyalty, Bell said. Now consumers run all these activities together with no absolute order.

Specifically, the consumer overlap today includes trial, brand building, recommendations, use/repeat and buy/lease. And these activities are conducted online, with the available pricing, product details and so on.

“The Web is going to be the model,” he said. “Brands do matter, because there is a commoditization that will take place if we do not be careful. … Every advertisement needs to be able to do all of these things, all at the same time.”

For marketers, it's not about casting a wide net; it's fly fishing — be where the consumer wants you to be, Bell said. Be relevant. Don't be intrusive, but be present. Great product wins. Also, marketers must know about measurability of media spending.

“Impressions [online] are meaningless,” he said. “Our impressions have halved, and activation on click-through [and] request for prices has more than doubled. Search has fundamentally changed the Internet. Consumers don't surf, they go. If it doesn't work, they search again.”

Keep in mind what companies and customers really want. Companies desire behavioral targeting, ROI and to sell and serve. Customers want personal relationships, accountability and to buy and be served.

“Both want control,” Bell said, adding that “at least as it pertains to Chrysler and Jeep, we must give up control. Our obsession to have control must end. And it's OK. If you impose, people will disappear. It's fast to change from one e-mail to another, one ID to another.”

Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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