Chrysler and the U.S. auto industry have been on the mend since the financial crisis (see Imported From Detroit). Europe’s economy, on the other hand, has remained stagnant. As a result, Fiat announced its return to U.S. with the Fiat 500. Although the brand has remained popular in foreign markets like Latin America and Europe, it has been effectively dead in America since Tony’s Departure in the 1980’s. Initial efforts to revive the brand proved challenging. Fiat lacked a broad-based marketing strategy, received mixed reactions and generated little buzz. Until Francois was handed the keys to the brand.
Francois has set the tone and style of Fiat’s U.S. marketing ever since. “We have a small car selling in a niche segment, so we can’t pitch it here the way we pitch a mainstream brand in Europe,” François explained to AdWeek. “We cannot pitch it as a car you need, but as a car you want. It’s not a commodity, not mainstream. It’s a great design. It is cool. The language is youth, fun, trendy.”
Fiat’s return to the US was kicked off in style with Immigrants (above) – a 2012 commercial featuring Fiats driving from Italy to New York. The brand’s origins played into subsequent ads. Francois took it one step further with Italian Invasion (below), marked by ample cleavage and espresso.
In addition to television spots, Fiat has gone digital to reach a younger audience with content that “sometimes does not fit network standards and practices.” Leveraging this Italian flare, Francois created the Seduction series, (my personal favorite for soon to be obvious reasons). Seduction (below) made its debut at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show on a shoestring budget and was then posted to the brand’s YouTube site.
Without having ever been aired on television or cable networks, the montage reached 20 million views. Social media is stoking Fiat brands, in conjunction with partnerships with celebrities like Dr. Dre, Ziggy Pop, Zac Brown and Lenny Kravitz.
The commercial first aired on television during the 2012 NFL Championship Game. Seduction cast the Romanian Supermodel, Catrinel Menghia, as the scorching personification of a Fiat 500 Abarth and illustrates what happens the first time an average guy encounters one. The spot ends with the message, “The Fiat 500 Abarth. You’ll never forget the first time you see one.”
For the follow-up, Topless, a scorpion pinches off Menghia’s bikini strap with its pincers as she’s innocently sunbathing on the beach. Selling cars based solely on gas mileage and safety features can fall flat per Francois, “and the last thing you want to do is sell a commodity. We’re selling sex. We’re selling passion. Make people lust after the product.”
It would appear that Francois is getting the job done. The entire 2012 run of the Fiat 500 Abarth sold out despite expended production. Sex sells.