'Toon Time
Branding is a major key to any advertising and marketing campaign's long-term success, and the most successful branding effort sums up a product or product line in a single word or image (think of the Nike swoosh, for example). In 1968, Plymouth got the jump on everyone when it hitched its new Road Runner model to the Warner Bros. cartoon "action figure" of the same name (interestingly, the Road Runner name first popped up in a '67 Coronet R/T ad). Although few would argue that the strategic placement of the zippy bird on the Plymouth Road Runner was a promotional coupe after a fashion, Dodge's Scat Pack mascot was pure branding excellence. The spirited orange/yellow bumblebee with its crash helmet, racing goggles, V8 "backpack," and chunky tires said it all without saying a thing-Dodge...Fast!

The Scat Pack Ripped Through The Musclecar Era With Attitude.
Outrageous. Decadent. Insane. Rebellious. All words which succinctly describe America in the waning years of the '60s. The country was feeling its oats, and industry was quick to tap into this cultural vein in any way profitable...er...possible. Extreme was "in," and that went double for the automotive scene.

How and why the musclecar came to prominence during this brief span of history is a dog we don't need to kick again. The monster engines, gonzo performance, loud colors, and often garish styling spilling out of Detroit, Auburn Hills, and Dearborn between 1967 and 1973 were, simply, a reflection of the broader spirit of the times. And while the inferno lasted only briefly, the flames haven't quite cooled 30-some years later.

Although shadowed by General Motors and Ford Motor Company in terms of production numbers, Chrysler played no small part in feeding the musclecar frenzy. In fact, the perennial underdog status of the Dodge and Plymouth divisions which persists to this day was present in full measure during the '60s. The Pentastar's marketing and engineering gurus found interesting ways to level the playing field with their dominating competitors then, and that same dark horse spirit is still seen today in models like the Viper, PT Cruiser, and Prowler.

Chrysler was fully ready to play the horsepower game when the raucous decade dawned. The Max Wedge engines and the 426 Hemi that came online in 1964 proved that Chrysler understood horsepower and its implications as a production car seller. Similarly spicy, yet less rowdy, small-blocks like the 273, 318, and 383 were also waiting to be tapped.

Indeed, no one could question Chrysler's musclecar potential in the early and mid-'60s. But while the beef was in the barn, so to speak, styling was downright Victorian by the contemporary standards. By the '67 model year, Ford and GM had made considerable gains in shedding the stodgy, boxy styling still clinging to much of the automotive industry, what with such models as the Mustang and Shelby fastbacks, Corvettes, Cobras, Camaros, and Firebirds. Chrysler, on the other hand, hung onto the edgy-and-chrome thing with seeming passion. Granted, the Dodge Charger and Plymouth Barracuda showed signs of a new era dawning, but popular models like the Dart, Coronet, Belvedere, and GTX exuded a suburban white-bread persona that, frankly, seemed disparate with the youth movement. And it was the youth that sat squarely in the sights of The Big Three automakers.

Chrysler started to get its act together with the '68 model year. The Dart GTS hit the showroom for the first time-presenting buyers with a big bark for a little budget. With its standard 340 engine, the Dart GTS packed a serious punch. For a few bucks more you could opt for the 383, which turned that punch into a profound wallop. Changes were also afoot on the B-Body front. The already popular Charger received yet another design change, as did the Coronet, and the R/T versions of these two models-coupled with the midyear introduction of the Coronet-based Super Bee-presented Dodge with a stable of fresh, exciting, and honest-to-goodness groundpounders.

Hot cars all, but they needed a common thread. That's when the marketing department stepped in. Taking a cue, no doubt, from the infamous hipsters Martin, Davis, Sinatra, Lawford, and Bishop-affectionately called the Rat Pack-Dodge planners decided that their cadre of hot cars fit the good times, bad boy image of the original Packers quite well. With a reverent nod to the Vegas crew, Dodge fired up the coals and branded its A- and B-Body screamers the Scat Pack.

Like all good branding efforts, the Scat Pack program required an image to hold it all together. A rascally bumblebee replete with a crash helmet, goggles, and racing tires fit the bill nicely. And to make the marketing scheme more than a paper tiger, all cars pinned to the Scat Pack program received tangible dual bumblebee stripes in back (defying the traditional industry trend to run racing stripes the length of the car body).

In reality, the Scat Pack thing was strictly a promotional tool. The Super Bee did adopt the Scat Pack mascot as a tailstripe decal inset and a decklid emblem, but other than that, no specific Scat Pack references made it to the production cars. From 1968 until the marketing program ended with the 1971 model year, only print ads, brochures, a national Scat Pack club, and various promotional devices such as decals, jackets, patches, lapel pins, and the like heralded the Dodge musclecars as a specific group.

Nevertheless, the program worked, and worked well. Plymouth tried to pull off something of the same thing when it debuted the Rapid Transit System with the '70 model year, but the Scat Pack mold had already been broken. The fact that the term is still remembered and bantered around in Mopar circles over 30 years later testifies to the success of the most unique branding effort in automotive history.

Definitly Not Shakespeare
Advertising has always been the mirror for contemporary society. Marketers and their circus-barker veneer strive, then and now, to make their pitch with cutting-edge vernacular. During the musclecar era, advertising agencies polished their sylvan tongues to a fine luster, using the same hip lingo and artistic license found on the street. It worked. Perusing through car ads of the late-'60s and early-'70s is like eavesdropping on a foreign culture (at least to those of us who were still in diapers and pull-up pants at the time).

It's gotta be voodo, baby!

A total lack of doodads, gegaws, and falderal. [Gegaws and falderal? What the heck is that?-Ed.]

If you can't beat it-join it.

That's no kiddy car....Take it to the strip where the men are.

Scat City is anywhere competition is hot, keen, and sanctioned.

Be a swinger and join the Scat Pack Club.

Mother warned me...that there would be men like you driving cars like that. Do you really think you can get to me with that long, low, tough machine you just rolled up in?...Well-it takes more than cushy bucket seats to make me flip.

Even with a 383 Magnum...it's a regular gas.

It ain't Atilla the Hun, but it ain't Mary Mild either.

Can you imagine seeing advertising lines like that for, say, a Neon

Scat Pack Club
It didn't take much to be among the "in" crowd during the musclecar heydays-especially if you owned a Dodge. In fact, all it took was a cool $5.95. That was the cost of a one year "good standing" membership into the Dodge Scat Pack Club. By today's standards, that delivered a healthy wallop. Members received a four-page tuneup tips brochure tailored to their specific engine, Hustle Stuff parts catalog, all-weather racing jacket with "full-color mod car designs," an embroidered "Bee" club jacket patch, "Scat Packers, Unite!" bumper sticker, club accessories catalog, membership card, quarterly Scat Speaks newsletter, racing guide, and the monthly Dodge Performance News newsletter. Scat Headquarters (no kidding) also promoted the fact that members could "run with the Scat Packers. The Dodge Scat Pack Club has active chapters from coast to coast."

Internal Rivalries
Dodge division powered up its Scat Pack marketing program with full fervor for the '68 model year. The cross-platform tie-in scheme proved to be an excellent method of promoting sales and on-track success between models-sort of a riding-the-coattails thing. The positive results of Dodge's Scat Pack effort was not lost on in-house rival Plymouth. For the '70 model year, Plymouth embarked on its own program dubbed the Rapid Transit System. Like the Scat Pack, the RTS encompassed Plymouth's musclecar lineup of hot 'Cudas, Road Runners, GTXs, Dusters, and Furys, and connected the cars and owners through Supercar Clinics (featuring big-name racers) and the ever-important dealer parts counter. It was a cute marketing ploy with a catchy tagline, but proved to be sedate in comparison to the Scat Pack steamroller.

The Need For Legalese
In our wide, wide world of frivolous litigation, product disclaimers and warnings are as common as...say...coffee to go. Today we laugh at car advertisements that feel compelled to tell us... "professional driver on closed course." Duh. But in the world of raucous big-blocks and youth-oriented marketing, a few words of caution were deemed prudent in the musclecar days. Dodge did its part by dropping in helpful disclaimers (and perhaps subliminally raising the performance perception of their cars in the process) throughout its Scat Pack advertising campaign.

Drive safely. It's contagious.

Drive safely-speed contests belong on the strip.

Don't be caught dead wrong-drive safely.

Safety is no accident. Drive with care.

Life is short...Don't make it shorter. Drive safely.

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