Fiat Chrysler Has Significantly Improved Its Engagement With a Quora-Like Tactic

33 percent jump in search activity

Headshot of Christopher Heine

Digital consumers' activity has shifted as folks spend more time revving up their mobile devices than desktops, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is utilizing an interesting, successful way to engage with them: Answer their automotive-minded Google search questions as if they were happening on Quora

In a Google-driven change in thinking, the carmaker is answering 4 million different combinations of search questions. FCA is doing so by expanding its lower-funnel targeting—which entails zeroing in on prospects who should be closing in on a purchase—to offer answers to searched questions related to things like branded truck-towing capacity or the number of miles a Dodge Ram 1500 will last. In the past, such searches may have produced an organic result or an ad that directed the consumer to a local dealer. Not anymore. 

Amy Peet McNeil

"None of these search queries are asking where to buy it—none of them are asking where the inventory is," said Amy Peet McNeil (pictured at right), FCA's U.S. head of digital marketing, while speaking at Advertising Week today. "They are looking for, 'Is this the right truck for me?' And we needed to deliver on those. And our measurement was starting to get in the way of that. Instead, we took a step back and asked, 'What does engagement mean?'"

It was time for the marketing teams of her many brands to tweak key performance indicators (KPIs), and they started placing value on not just traditional direct marketing stats—such as how many clicks a campaign generated on location-based Google keyword searches—but also "what the customer was asking for," she said. So engagement with Q&A-content-as-ad-copy became a new KPI.

After her speech, McNeil told Adweek that FCA is seeing 33 percent more activity in the lower-sales funnel—website visits, in other words—since recently reevaluating what constitutes engagement. And, in essence, the Quora-like tactic reversed FCA's path a bit, allowing it to quit serving Google search users information that was born from a push-marketing mindset. 

"We starting giving them the content they needed," she said off stage. "Well, once you come to our website, I now know who you are and what you are looking for. And then I can continue to use remarketing campaigns and then pull them in on the next best action. It just qualifies your audience so much better because you capitalized on intent. You are not just swooping in in the middle and trying to capture someone who is already having an conversation with somebody else."

McNeil was part of a presentation helmed by Google, which wants marketers to start embracing flexibility when it comes to ad measurement. The Mountain View, Calif.-based search giant has ads to sell, of course, so such flexibility would seem self-serving.

But since consumers use Google differently in the mobile age compared to five or 10 years ago, it's probably fair to assume that metrics need to change with behavior. Google's chief rival, Facebook, yesterday made a similar call at Advertising Week for an evolution of digital ad metrics. Across the industry, targeting the on-the-go market comes with fragmented app data and cross-device ills.

"The journey between devices is still a hack," said Jason Spero, vp of performance and programmatic at Google. "Whatever the [chief financial officer] cares about, you need to align your goals with that." 

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.