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Thoughts

On Authenticity and Fiat

— Branding & Marketing —

I have to admit I was pretty excited when I heard the Fiat was coming to America. It put my “Italian-ness” in full gear (no pun intended). I couldn’t wait to see what the car looked like and, knowing that possibly within the year I would be in the market for a car, I put the Fiat at the top of my list, even sight unseen.

When I saw the car I liked it, even tough maybe it was a little tiny for my taste – but still kept it in my consideration set. There’s an inner battle that goes on when it comes to making a decision to buy a car. First, there are the real world concerns of space and gas mileage and options that you want the car you drive to have. Secondly (and maybe I’m a little shallow, but whatever) I want the car I drive to have an image that is in line with my personality. In other words, for me, the advertising matters.

VW does a great job of portraying the image and features I am interested in. So does Honda. Then I saw the Fiat commercial, and frankly I hardly noticed the car in it at all. Instead all I could see was Jennifer Lopez.

It takes everything in me to not put a question mark at the end of her name.

Jennifer Lopez?

As celebrity endorsements go, this one is a real head scratcher. Her appearance immediately turned me off to the car, and apparently I’m not alone.

Recent reports say the 2011 sales goal of 50,000 units is way off, having only sold 16,000. Workers at the plant have been laid off because demand isn’t there. And now the commercial featuring Jennifer Lopez is under fire because it celebrates her getting back to her “roots” — implying that the streets in the commercial are that of the Bronx. But no, they were filmed in LA.

There has now been a shakeup within the top marketing brass for Fiat as well.

In the old days they used to say Fiat stood for “Fix it again, Tony,” and I can see why the car would want to steer clear of that baggage. But then again to completely ignore the Italian  heritage of the car and the “cool” factor behind Fiat really stumps me. When they introduced the new VW Beetle, one of the charms of the campaign was it’s subtle nods to the car’s storied past. But the marketers behind Fiat have denied the car of it’s truly authentic self and are paying the price. Call me crazy but this Italian car has to be injected with a little bit of Italian-ness.

What do you think? Is J-Lo right for Fiat? Or is she turning you off to a car that identifies itself with a judge on American Idol?

 

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