Messing with my mind: Chrysler & America

I knew the Chrysler commercial featuring Clint Eastwood struck a chord when my youngest son instantly hit me with a text that simply read, “America!”

What does that tell me? That the emotional drivers associated with a brand are far more important than the facts.

Does he not realize that Clint’s tough guy voice over refers to a car company U.S. taxpayers sort of bought from an Italian car company who bought it from a bankrupt venture capital group who ran it into the ground after buying it from a German auto company who ran the company into the ground after American owners did the same… several times?

America? Government bailouts, trashed pension funds, shuttered factories and the destruction of a formerly proud brand? I don’t think my kid had that “America” in mind when he saw the commercial.

I wonder if he knew Clint Eastwood came out against auto company bailouts in an Los Angeles Times interview before he decided to get paid?

I also wonder if he knows that it’s basically Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America” reworked to sell cars instead of a political candidate.

Probably not.

So what does this mean? That you are whoever you say you are as long as you keep repeating it and can slickly package and distribute your message. That’s the cynical take.

But from the perspective of transmitting an effective message, it says that when crafting content designed to sell or persuade, you have to tap into something deeper than features or benefits. There has to be something in the message that makes people “feel” something and actually want to tie part of their personal identity to the brand. It means that brands and brand managers have to take some risks with creative and message. If you can do that right, you can sell about anything… and maybe that’s a little scary.

Take Apple. Apple holds a definate space in the public mind: High quality, hip, expensive, worth it. Foxconn workers jumping to their deaths really isn’t top-of-mind. The Internet and social media are letting us see the, “Man behind the curtain” in many cases and it’s harder for any brand to get away with bad behavior or mistakes, but tapping those emotional drivers is a powerful countermeasure.

Only a vigilant media and an informed public can balance marketing and truth. That is why reputable practitioners in journalism, marketing and public relations have codes of ethics and standards of practice they follow. But it can be a tricky call sometimes with a lot more gray than black or white.

All this isn’t new, but this was just a particularly good example of this idea based on my nearly direct observation of at least one test subject-that being my kid.