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How Nissan digital marketing innovation is taking on car giants

How Nissan digital marketing innovation is taking on car giants

By UTalkMarketing Editor, Clark Turner.

The automotive market has been hit hard by the recession. Sales have been taking a nose dive globally as brands flight it out in an ever competitive market.

But there are lessons to be learnt and those who are embracing digital channels to reach and engage consumers in a new and innovative ways are breaking new ground.

It’s proof that despite having smaller budgets, with a bit of clever thinking the smaller players can easily take on the market leaders.

Nissan employs around 12,500 people in its European design, research and development, manufacturing, logistics, and sales and marketing operations.

In calendar year 2009, the company sold 498,027 vehicles across 40 markets in Western and Eastern Europe including Russia. Furthermore, the company produced a total of 390,727 vehicles in its Spanish and British plants.

“The recession has made the automotive market very competitive. It’s all about cutting costs and consequently marketing expenses,” explained Digital Manager Europe, Nissan Europe, Gareth Dunsmore (pictured).

“We’ve met the challenge by focusing on the core principles of the brand, and the brand statement of ‘Innovative ideas for the enjoyment of everyday driving’.”

Translating these principles into Nissan’s marketing strategy has seen the brand embracing the digital space as a platform where innovation can be brought to life beyond standard static press ads – standard advertising bread and butter for some brands.

Tactics to date have included the successful ‘Urban Games‘ viral campaign, which saw national teams taking part in a series of wacky stunts and drawing millions of views on YouTube.

Closely aligning the Nissan Qashqai with Street Art has also played a critical role. Working with Manning Gottlieb OMD, the brand took over London’s Tate Modern commissioning six street artists from around the world to graffiti the outside walls of the gallery.

It was the first ever outside exhibition, using the gallery walls as a canvas transforming an artistic institution into an urban playground, allowing art to be accessible to all.

The project was consolidated with the gallery grounds playing host to the Live Final of Nissan Qashqai’s Urban Challenge, featuring the world’s top 25 ‘Free Riders’.

The exhibition was the biggest event of 2008 in London, with three million visitors and consequently ales of the car increased 25 per cent year-on-year. This was at a time when the overall car market declined by over 30 per cent year-on-year.

The latest development in the Qashqai marketing drive is the launch of  ‘Journey to Urbanproof’, a major digital marketing to lift the profile of the model once again and pave the way for the launch of fellow Crossover range car, the new Nissan Juke, this October.

‘The Journey to Urbanproof’ is an artistic mural, which tells the evolution of the Crossover, through seven distinct chapters. They chronicle the evolution of the Crossover, from the launch of the Nissan Qashqai through the development of the Nissan Murano and Nissan Qashqai+2.

Akrylonumerik, a group which produces multimedia performances that result in a work of art created before the audience’s eyes, are being used to fuse street art with new media to create an ever changing product that is deliberately only visible for a given amount of time, due to new layers constantly being added.

The campaign will also see the group producing a live performance of street art to visualise what makes Nissan Crossovers part of the city in a bid to engage and resonate with urban professionals between the ages of 25-40, who are looking to invest in a new car, possibly for the first time, but within a reasonable price range.

“Digital is an exciting space for us. Word-of-Mouth is critical for driving awareness on the back of traditional marketing communications and the aim is to improve opinion and familiarity of the brand at the middle of the purchase funnel,” Dunsmore revealed.

“A campaign like this is not for the mainstream and has been designed deliberately. Urbanproof is aimed at the hyper influencer who appreciates digital media, art and has a strong social media presence.”

The association with art goes back to the development of and thinking behind the Quashai. Nissan was historically seen in the market as producing good reliable vehicles for Japanese consumers.

In order to create a point of difference, stronger products were developed for the market with ‘emotive design’ and an ‘innovative point of view’. These two elements underpin the marketing principles of Nissan’s Crossover range.

“We’re never going to be able to outspend Ford or Toyota with our marketing so we need to be innovative and fun, focusing on ‘emotive design’,” Dunsmore said.

“But it’s important to differentiate between the core marketing for our products – which still has an important role to play - and more adventurous projects like this.”

‘The Journey to Urbanproof’ project will be backed with significant investment in search marketing with tracking used to monitor how users are using the site, proving valuable information for further development.

This will then backed with targeted media partnerships and social media networks, such as Designboom.

Cementing the Quashai’s credentials will allow the launch of the Juke in October 2010 to spearhead a new chapter, with creative in a new urban format then being translated into display activity in November.

“It’s about opening up our marketing to consumers. We create the core assets but then look to urban street artists to create the next chapter,” added Dunsmore.

So from his experiences what advice has Nissan Europe’s digital boss got to pass onto his brand side marketing peers?

“Always take time to feedback properly to any agency you are working with. At the end of the day you only get as good an agency as you build. Remember, it’s you who owns the brand, not the agency, so you always need to retain control. So strong feedback on any brief is critical,” he advised.

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