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Volt Versus Leaf: Dueling Ads Reveal Different Marketing Approaches

| Friday July 16th, 2010 | 4 Comments

One has Lance Armstrong, the other has..silence.

Following on the heels of the Tour d’France commercial for the Nissan all-electric Leaf, Chevrolet has begun running advertisements for its forthcoming range-extended electric car, called the Volt, in select markets.

The Chevy Volt ad does not actually show the car, which may be to its advantage. The Volt, which goes on sale in November, is not the sexiest model in GM’s line-up (most hybrids are pretty ugly). Instead, all one sees is the onrushing open road — the future, one might say — and what one hears is, well, not much.

And that’s the idea: there’s no noise since there is no internal combustion engine. These cars make just a whirring sound, “the sound of the status quo crumbling,” according to text that flashes on the screen. Although the Volt is technically a hybrid, because it uses both electric and gasoline fuel, an electric motor is what makes it go (and thus makes it so relatively quiet).

The Voltertisement stands in contrast to that for the Leaf, on sale in December, which, in terms of tone, could be an ad for any car. It features cute, swiftly-cut visuals of cars and their tailpipes and a celebrity endorsement from Armstrong, who announces that now there is finally a car he can ride his bike behind that doesn’t spew exhaust fumes in his face.

That Chevy chose to go epic with its Volt ad is revealing: the company is essentially proclaiming, “pay attention — this is a big deal.” And it is, especially for GM, which has a lot riding on the success of the Volt.

Nissan’s ad on the other hand treats the world’s first mass-produced all-electric car with much less suspense or drama, instead relying on a clever concept.

The two approaches really represent the split personality of the electric car market as it is now. Ultimately, EVs will have to be considered run-of-the-mill to move from the TV set to the garage en-mass. But right now they are still exotic, still perhaps worthy of a “drum-roll, please…”

So what do you think? Which approach is more successful? Nissan’s friendly, “here we are!” or Chevy’s build-the-suspense campaign?


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  • Vikrant Labde

    Great post

  • Efpr123

    The Volt is essentially a plug-in hybrid. It still has a gas motor. The Nissan is truly the first mass market electric vehicle.

  • http://twitter.com/RunOnSun Jim Jenal

    Nissan has the right approach – the goal is to de-mystify these vehicles for the public. And soon, everyone will have the chance to own one.

  • Scott Wilson

    The ironic thing is that you could have the same experience on a bicycle (road bike) that Chevy is promising us in this particular tease ad for the Volt.

    I feel the above comment from Jim hits it on the head. Nissan really does have the right approach here, and keeping the conversation focused on the end result of owning and operating an EV.