Dodge Durango Marketing and the Legend of Ron Burgundy

Did you see Will Ferrell being interviewed in Ron Burgundy character last week on Conan O’Brien?  Funny stuff.

It was part of the marketing for the upcoming movie sequel: Anchorman 2 – The Legend Continues.

That marketing also includes Dodge Durango using Ferrell portraying Ron Burgundy to sell cars.

Photo: Dodge Facebook.

Photo: Dodge Facebook.

Dodge-Anchorman Marketing Connection

Beyond the Conan O’Brien show laughs, I noted and then had to check Conan’s comment about how the Ferrell/Burgundy commercials increased Dodge Durango sales 59% in October.  Yep, Conan had his math right.  As for the causal effect, more in a moment.

Dodge launched the Ferrell/Burgundy marketing campaign on October 5th, and to-date 70 spots have been filmed.  To their credit, Dodge relinquished control and turned Ferrell loose with creative freedom.  

The car maker says this marketing arrangement is unique:

“The integrated cross-promotion marketing campaign marks the first time a movie studio and brand tie-in has utilized starring talent, in character, to create original long and short form content.”

Here’s one commercial:

For more insight into the Dodge/Ferrell/Anchorman marketing partnership, Forbes has a good report.

A Marketing Home Run?

Upon learning that the 59% sales increase was legitimate, my first reaction was:   wow, what a great marketing and advertising works example!

If you just read the media headlines, you’d think the same thing, too. However, what we really have is a classic “maybe, but there’s more to it” story.

Let’s take a deeper look at the data, which Chrysler publishes each month on its website.  

October’s 59% Dodge Durango sales gain versus year-ago, while impressive, is only the fifth highest sales increase in the ten 2013 reporting months:

+117% August; +88% July; +66% September;  and +65% April.

The 2014 Dodge Durango has been redesigned, and at least one commentator attributed the October sales spike in part to pent-up demand for the new model. It’s possible that one factor driving the strong summer 2013 sales was clearing 2013 model year inventory.  Note that the 2014 Durangos hit US showrooms in October.

Overall, Dodge Durango is on a 12 consecutive months sales increase stretch. For the first ten months of 2013, Durango is up 50% versus year ago.  Total Dodge brand sales are up 17% in the same time period.

Does Endorsement Marketing Work?

From a strategic standpoint, endorsements can be tricky, especially with movies and movie characters.  Done correctly, though, endorsement marketing can be powerful.  For more detailed thoughts on the subject, check out my previous post and one from marketer Dave Tuchler.

Despite the flurry of pronouncements across media channels, it’s too early to declare the Ron Burgundy/Anchorman marketing partnership as the primary causal factor gassing Durango sales.  It may prove to provide a terrific 4th Quarter lift that potentially extends into the 1st Quarter 2014.  We’ll have to wait for the sales reports to become available.

In the meantime, it’s interesting to consider what it is about the Ron Burgundy character that meshes with Durango’s positioning and helps connect with customers.

Chrysler’s CMO offers some insight:

“The Dodge brand’s irreverent tone and attitude make Ron Burgundy the perfect pitchman for the new 2014 Dodge Durango,” said Olivier Francois, Chief Marketing Officer of Chrysler Group LLC.  “By joining forces with Paramount Pictures, ‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues’ and Will Ferrell, we’re able to show the new 2014 Dodge Durango and its cutting edge technology in a completely unexpected approach that is fresh, funny and culturally provocative to our audiences.”

Francois certainly gets plenty of “irreverent tone and attitude” with Ron Burgundy.  What does Burgundy really think about the Durango?  Here’s what he told Conan O’Brien:

Look, this Ron Burgundy promotion is not a classic, campaignable marketing idea.  But guess what?  Not every good marketing idea has to be.  Sure, it’s more tactical than strategic, but short-term tactics are a big part of car marketing.  You leverage and get advantage where and when you can.


Dodge Durango has partnered with Will Ferrell and the Anchorman movie sequel to create dozens of Ron Burgundy endorsement ads for the car.  On the surface sales analysis indicated a marketing home run.  But it’s too early to know for sure.

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who drives success in B2B/B2C organizations.

2 thoughts on “Dodge Durango Marketing and the Legend of Ron Burgundy

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