Jeep drivers adhere to a simple, unwritten ritual: They give a friendly wave when they pass another Jeep. And while no one can pinpoint exactly when this began, it’s an evolution of Jeep’s legacy and the loyalty and pride that drivers feel when they get behind the wheel.
I don’t have a very strong allegiance to many brands – a deep passion. But anyone who knows me knows I love these vehicles—the first one I owned was a 1992 Wrangler and now I have a 2021 Wrangler 4XE (hybrid) and 2023 Gladiator parked in my driveway!
Aside from the engineering and design—I could write a whole blog on the grill—Jeep has done an incredible job of cultivating a brand experience based on the ideals of freedom, adventure, authenticity, and passion. To own a Jeep is not simply to drive from point A to B; but to become a part of the history of the brand, to chase adventures around every corner, and to join a community of brand advocates who look out for each other.
If you are ever in trouble on the road in a Jeep, chances are good that another Jeep will stop to help you. And as an owner, if you’ve ever been “ducked” (when you find your parked Jeep with a rubber duckie left on the windshield), you know what I am talking about. You are automatically part of a community that’s an extension of the brand—your loyalty means something, and it feels good to be amongst others who feel the same way.
Now, the marketer in me knows a few things. Brand loyalty can be a powerful emotion. Connecting with an individual on several dimensions – from trust and quality to consistency and prior experiences take a lot. It can’t be forced. Sometimes it happens immediately; sometimes, it happens over a long period of time with positive experiences along the way. Jeep doesn’t have an exact formula for this—and what it has can’t be easily replicated—but brands across any industry can learn some lessons to capture some of that magic. Here are a few:
Stay in your lane
After World War II, Jeep really narrowed in on its core competency: Building vehicles that “Go anywhere. Do anything” – and their 4X4 line-up hasn’t strayed much from that idea since the 1940s. The DNA of the brand is embedded in the driving experience, and while new models come and go, they keep their core values at the forefront. This is what attracts Jeep enthusiasts and where their success lies. By narrowing in on your messaging and focusing on what differentiates your brand from others in the market, you can leverage your strengths to gain a long-lasting foothold.
Lean into your community
The Jeep Wave Program was born out of customer loyalty—the infamous driver-to-driver wave turned into a premium loyalty program that offers owners dedicated care, support, benefits and perks – all at no additional cost. Jeep understands what makes its customer tick and embraces its community wholeheartedly. During the pandemic, the automaker launched a brilliant #stayofftheroad campaign, and they continue to do an excellent job of weaving user-generated content into their marketing. The brand is a good reminder that you can have fun with your messaging while keeping it authentic by tapping into what resonates with your audience.
Shift gears to maximize performance
One of the things I love most about Jeep is its versatility! When spring and summer hit, we take the doors off, drop the top, and hit the road. In the winter and during New Jersey’s most recent storm,
our Wrangler and Gladiator plow through the snow and ice like nobody’s business. And, in any season, it takes us off-road to places we couldn’t otherwise go. No matter what, our Jeeps keep us moving forward. As we progress through 2023, there will be social and economic factors that affect businesses and twists and turns along the way. Leave room to maneuver in your marketing strategies so you can quickly adapt to changing circumstances and keep pace with your customers.
With that, I’m off to hop in my Wrangler to grab the kids from school—Jeep wave at the ready