New Nissan Ads Shift the Way Car Buyers Evaluate Options

By Jacquelyn Ottman

Many new green brands have been introduced over the years with what I’ve called “green marketing myopic” pitches (think GE’s “dancing elephants” and Conoco’s “cheering dolphins”), only to realize the opportunity to link environmental product attributes with the primary reasons why consumers buy (all) products in the first place.  Nissan fell into this camp with the polar bear ads for their new LEAF electric vehicle. However, their new campaign suggests that Nissan’s marketing team is on an vertical learning curve, and in my estimation, represents some of the sharpest green marketing smarts around today.

A New Metric for Car Buyers
The ads from this week’s Fast Company (see illustration) assert a new metric for car buyers—“miles traveled for one dollar.” The implication, of course, is that a gasoline-free vehicle, is far more affordable than the alternative. The implications are huge: Nissan can excel in and own as an advertising claim. Complementing the tagline, “Shift the way you move,” the metric helps to change the reader’s thinking about the relevance of historical miles per gallon accounting—and underscore leadership and innovation of the LEAF itself (with resulting halos to brand Nissan).

EPA’s New Fuel Economy Labels
This approach is reminiscent of what I love about the EPA’s new fuel economy labels: they include annual fuel costs and estimated fuel savings in addition to mpg, and smog and greenhouse gas ratings—thus helping would-be drivers to understand the direct, compelling benefits of buying a greener car.  (Check out this a free green paper with more details about this enlightened and practical approach.)

Attention skeptics! If you question the relevance of fuel mileage statistics to would-be LEAF owners who can plunk down the premium for the hottest electric car on the market, keep in mind that the claim of “miles traveled on one dollar” is an inherent, dramatic demonstration of the potential benefits of driving an all-electric vehicle, and as such, should serve the brand well in the years and decades to come.

Jacquelyn Ottman is an expert adviser on green marketing to Fortune 500 companies and the U.S. government.  The author of four books on the subject, her latest is the just released, The New Rules of Green Marketing:  Strategies, Tools, and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler, February 2011).

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