Jeep vows not to commercialize ‘ducking’ phenomenon

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One of the biggest attractions at this year’s reborn Detroit auto show stemmed from a grassroots movement that began as a way to spread cheer among Jeep owners during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After watching the social media-fueled phenomenon known as “ducking” spread rapidly, Jeep embraced it by setting up the world’s largest rubber duck, a six-story bright yellow inflatable, outside the convention hall’s front entrance last month.

But Jeep, which collaborated with auto show organizers to bring the duck to Detroit and give it prime real estate, has no intention of ruining the trend by commercializing it, said Marissa Hunter, Stellantis’ senior vice president of marketing. The movement has spread organically among Jeep owners, a testament to the tight-knit nature of the off-road brand’s community, and will remain a movement that’s of the people, Hunter said.

“We’ve seen the sharing of the duck among the fans and the followers, and think that to let those Jeep lovers use it as a way to connect with one another, in a very sort of organic and authentic way, is the way it should continue to build and continue to generate more and more momentum,” Hunter told Automotive News, “versus us from a marketing perspective trying to take a very grassroots initiative and sort of overly commercialize it. We love the fact that the fans and followers are taking it upon themselves to do it amongst one another. It just gets that whole community spirit that is so powerful within the Jeep brand.”

The ducking movement started in 2020 with Allison Parliament, a Canadian woman who also has a home in Alabama. She had a bag of rubber ducks with her one day in her Wrangler when a lifted Wrangler in a parking lot got her attention. She wrote “cool Jeep” on a duck and left it on the door, according to a Stellantis profile of Parliament. She took a photo of the Jeep and posted it on Instagram with the hashtag #duckduckJeep.

Hunter said Parliament’s “generosity and her desire to do something cheerful was really something that people needed at the time, and it’s just taken off.”

Enthusiasts attach notes to the ducks or write messages directly on them. Owners are encouraged to post photos of their ducks with #duckduckJeep on Instagram and Facebook. Jeeps have been “ducked” in all 50 states, every Canadian province and overseas in countries including Spain and Germany.

Those who visited the giant duck in Detroit received rubber ducks of their own, took photos next to it and posted them on their social channels. Hunter said the duck generated more than 1 million social media impressions.

Its popularity could lead to it making a comeback at future events.

“The fans have spoken,” she said. “They really, really enjoyed the activation, and the swell of excitement that it created in the social channels. The opportunity for these community members to share their images, their stories, their captions suggest to us that because they responded so well to it, we will definitely be looking for future opportunities where we can bring the world’s largest duck and continue to support the duck duck Jeep movement.”

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