In the recent surge in electric car launches, one maker stood out, and not in a good way: Nissan. Depending on your perspective, its polar bear ad was either cliche, cringeworthy, touching, or in conflict with your worldview. It took the most overused symbol of climate change and used it to to convey that your use of their LEAF electric car would play a part in addressing global climate change.
Even more off the mark was a billboard add featuring a globe with rainbows and dolphins on it. Even those who are predisposed to like such imagery found the association at best confusing, at worst offensive to their sensibilities. It was offputting to anybody else. Nissan seemed to not have a firm grasp on the wheel of its marketing, and the sales have reflected as much.
Fortunately, rather then continuing to drive the LEAF further into the niche realm with limited sales and a confusing brand image, Nissan is taking a different approach: According to the UK edition of Marketing Week, Nissan is readying to do an extended campaign towards a mass market audience.
The messaging will be aimed at two groups: green and tech-minded consumers. The green messaging will focus on the car’s speed, charging options and zero emissions, while the tech messaging will zero in on LEAF’s integrated navigation and telematics system, along with its phone app that will allow drivers to pre-cool and heat their vehicle cabin and plan trips before getting into the car.
Such messaging has a much greater chance of reacher a wider spectrum of both segments, and it’s clear that Nissan is getting the message when Yasmin Al Jeboury, Nissan CRM manager told Marketing Week,
We’re making a massive investment and this is going to be a big volume line. It’s not a niche model, it’s a family car and that’s what will make it successful. [Electric cars] have to do what normal cars do – that’s sometimes forgotten with other electric vehicles and marketing that’s out there.
While I’m mostly on board with this sentiment, calling the LEAF a family car is stretching it. The styling and size feels clearly aimed at a hip, single, tech-minded audience. Carting around the kids does not appear to be a primary use of this car. However, shifting its marketing out of the cliche and into the concrete is a wise move that will likely get Nissan much improved results in the end.
Readers: What’s your opinion of Nissan’s LEAF marketing to date, and what might you suggest they do with their upcoming mass market campaign to achieve optimum results?
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, global trend tracker, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations about, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media marketing.