Journey Withdrawal

Dodge Journey

It’s been a great ride, Dodge!  Since I found out about the three Journeys Dodge was hiding across America, I’ve been in seventh heaven.  The last two weeks have been a lot of fun for a roadie like me as I’ve scoured commercials for clues, tried to identify the road trip from pictures, participated in discussion boards with others in the hunt, and, of course, wrote posts for The Off Ramp.  I’ve had a week to think about the campaign since the last car was found and have some final thoughts . . .

I thought the search in the East was great!  It was extremely difficult, but that’s OK.  Finding a vehicle you can keep for free should be a challenge.  As you know, prior to the search there was mass speculation that the Journey would be hidden in the Ticonderoga, N.Y./Shoreham, Vt. area.  Instead, it moved to nearly 400 miles away, to the southern coast of Maine.  I think that Dodge probably did punt and move from its original location, and I thought the way the company did this was very creative.  I enjoyed the Saturday night and Sunday morning slide shows revealing views along the Journey’s path.  These slides are one of the main reasons I think Maine was an alternate location.  The pictures were not high quality and had been taken in the rain; because it had been raining in the area the couple of days leading up to the search, the pictures were probably taken last minute.  However, they provided an opportunity for extra investigative work for those of us playing from home.  One thing I especially liked about the final search was that, near the end, the clues shifted offline so that only those physically in the search could find them.

Of course, on the Dodge YouTube site discussion boards there were enough sour grapes to make a lot of batches of vinegar.  Many people were upset because of the apparent move of the final location and the fact that there were no clues in the original commercial or the video clues revealed the first day of the search that alluded to where the Journey ended up.  They were upset because they missed the slide shows and continued to search for the Journey in New York, Vermont and New Hampshire long after it was clear that it was in Maine.  Then there were those who were upset because Maine is so far away from everywhere else in the eastern region of the United States.  I’m sure that would be the case no matter where it was hidden — there will be those who will always be unhappy that it wasn’t in their backyard.

As for the Midwest controversy, that remains unanswered — at least, officially.  While questions are still being asked, talk on the Dodge discussion boards has started to turn away from any of the searches and onto general car talk, and the Facebook pages demanding answers and a “re-do” in Oklahoma have never gained much momentum.

Perhaps this is what Dodge had hoped would happen all along — that people would eventually move on to other things.  Or, Dodge may have been trying to avoid the “Streisand effect,” something public relations professionals have known about long before the Internet — bringing more attention to a problem by addressing it.  I agree that Dodge didn’t need to make an announcement on the nightly news — why bring the problem to the attention of millions who never heard about it in the first place?  However, I still think a posting on the discussion board where people were talking about it would have gone a long way in the goodwill category.

Finally, this was a marketing campaign, so how did it measure up?  Several  bloggers have expressed their opinions:

  • Blogs on AdWeek and Business Insider talk about how risky stunts like this campaign can be.
  • A marketing blog outlines the many things Dodge could’ve done to improve the marketing value of the campaign.
  • Another marketing blog asks the question: “Awesome campaign regardless or too big of an oops?”

At the end of the day, I would judge the Journey contest a success . . .  IF the campaign’s objective was awareness.   The campaign certainly created a lot of buzz, both good and bad.  I think the campaign was also successful at getting people into the “World Wide World,” as stated in the commercial.  I read numerous accounts on the discussion boards of people traveling across country to participate in the searches or making it a family outing.

Will all of this translate into car sales though?  Hmmmmm — that may be a stretch.  I think it’s more likely to help out Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, because millions of people following the final search (which was the longest and probably had the most people watching) were exposed to some beautiful scenery they may not have known existed. For that, and the most fun I’ve had in a long time, I say “Thanks, Dodge.”

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