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Leverage Social Listening for Brand Adaptation vs Losing Identity

Leverage Social Listening for Brand Adaptation vs Losing Identity

As I was growing up, I wanted to eventually own a Jeep, a sports car, and a motorcycle. When I moved to Denver, I bought a Jeep. When my oldest daughter had to take a car to college, we gave her my Jeep – and my INCREDIBLE wife said “why don’t you get a sports car”. So I got a Camaro. And when my youngest daughter came back from college, and we were going to be short one car, I volunteered to get a motorcycle…because it’s all about getting good gas mileage, you know.

I’ve always loved Jeep – the Wranglers, the Renegades, the Cherokees, and even the 2002 Jeep Liberty I bought in its first model year (I couldn’t afford the Grand Cherokee). I like classic ruggedness, and every Jeep owner just “gets it” when they see these driving by them on the highway or trail…

Photo Credit: Jeep-People - Jeep History - ZJ Grand Cherokee on FlickrPhoto Credit: Chrysler Group - 2011 Jeep Liberty Jet on FlickrPhoto Credit: Jeep-People - Jeep History - 2003-2006 Jeep® Wrangler Rubicon (TJ) on Flickr

So, imagine my shock when I see THESE so-called Jeeps passing me on the freeway.

Jeep Renegade 2014 Jeep Compass 2014 Jeep Cherokee 2014

Umm…WHAT?!?

In turn, these look like a Honda Element, a Toyota Highlander, and some cross between a Volvo, a Nissan, and a Hyundai! Now, don’t get me wrong – I’ve actually liked all of those vehicles for different reasons (originality, fuel economy, luxury, price, etc). But they are not JEEP. You do not hear about Volvo Jamborees or Honda Element Rocks and Road Tours – you hear about Jeep Jamborees and Jeep Rocks and Road Tours, and you want to put these events on your bucket list. Did Jeep just go from a rugged trailblazer to a copycat nibbling on competitors’ marketshare while trying to be “all things for all people”? Is this brand adaptation or an example of a brand losing its identity?

After seeing a few of these new Jeep models on the road, I did take a quick spin through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for “#Jeep”. The large majority of postings had photos of the classic jeep style – other than one that included the picture of the Renegade above with the introduction: What do you think…is the new Renegade a real ‪#Jeep?

Brands like Jeep and Harley Davidson do not have fiercely loyal followers because of their gas mileage, their bells-and-whistles, or even their reliability. They built their fanatical following based upon being one-of-a-kind in their industry versus conforming to their industry’s trends. Will Jeep now have fan attrition because their latest designs make them non-distinguishable from their competitors? When there is no distinction between product features, products become commodities. Then product selection becomes based upon price and convenience versus value and culture.

While evangelizing for our social listening and analytics solution, Pulse Analytics, I always make the following statement: Customers are talking about you, and it’s not in your customer survey (or focus group). Jeep customers are posting pictures on most of the major social platforms, and the really passionate ones are writing blog post product reviews. Jeep should implement a social listening strategy to capture those conversations, to identify the advocates and detractors influencing those conversations, and to score the sentiment on topics important to the consumers. Jeep can then adapt the brand to consumer feedback without losing its identity and potentially alienating their fiercely loyal following. In fact, social listening finds the topics important to consumers; however, social engagement provides the tight feedback loop to crowdsource product improvements. Jeep can accomplish the social engagement via Facebook Fan Pages, Google+ Communities, and Instagram/Vine photos and videos to go along with the already active Jeep Forum (which could also be mined for actionable intelligence by Pulse Analytics).

So here is my Jeep loyalist crowdsource contribution for the day (are you listening, Jeep?): Keep the classic styles of the Jeep Wrangler, Liberty, and Grand Cherokee and focus on how to get 50 miles/gallon while trekking through a foot of snow! It’s tough going from my 50 mpg Harley Davidson to my 17 mpg Jeep Liberty when the snow starts falling in Colorado. Meanwhile, stay original and remain a trailblazer…the world has enough conformists.

Photo Credits in order of appearance:

  • Jeep-People – Jeep History – ZJ Grand Cherokee on Flickr
  • Chrysler Group – 2011 Jeep Liberty Jet on Flickr
  • Jeep-People – Jeep History – 2003-2006 Jeep® Wrangler Rubicon (TJ) on Flickr
  • Chrysler Group - 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk on Flickr
  • Jeep Compass 2.4 Sport 2014 by order_242 on Flickr
  • New Jeep Cherokee by harry_nl on Flickr
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Brian Vickery

I love my Vickery Girls - and now grandsons! I am blessed in that I also love my job as a VP of Enterprise Solutions for ProKarma. I appreciate the convergence of big data and data visualization in our Pulse Analytics social listening and analytics platform as well as our core software / mobile app development, business intelligence, and test automation services. I enjoy teaching and coaching, watching football and basketball, and playing tennis. I graduated UT-Austin. You can find Brian on .

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