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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New York Times Gives Nissan LEAF Viral Push


Is the New York Times already bestowing viral marketing success to a campaign that hasn’t even launched?

I was left with this question after reading a short article about the Nissan LEAF’s “Viral Excitement”. According to the article Nissan has launched a successful marketing campaign by “enticing bloggers” with a video of the LEAF’s electric power train that is filmed in a style reminiscent of another viral video “The Story of Stuff.” Unfortunately, following a format that worked one time doesn’t mean viral success a second time. Isn’t odd to anyone that the New York Times thinks that having a video on YouTube will “entice bloggers”? How funny is that? Fortunately, the team doing this also setup Facebook and Twitter accounts, so that should help… uh-huh.

Seems the team at Nissan, along with their word-of-mouth marketing agency Zócalo Group, is about to embark on a promotion of the new electric car using social media engagement while driving across the United States, which apparently is the latest trend in brand experience marketing: BF Goodrich’s Nation of Go, Summer of Taurus and Scion x-Perience.

What’s most interesting is what’s missing – the actual car. Nissan will not be driving the LEAF so you won't see things like the cool interior (see image at right.) Really? Yep, they will be driving a Nissan Versa with the LEAF’s electric power engine inside. So probably beyond the usual sticker cladding that is sure to let everyone know this isn’t any normal Nissan Versa, it is missing the essential ingredient -- the actual car it is trying to promote. Looking at a Versa with a sparse engine bay isn’t as exciting as looking at an actual LEAF, which looks to be a an interesting design (see images here on Flickr.)

To be fair, we don’t know what Nissan will do at these marketing events and maybe they will spark a viral response. Hopefully the car will be a bit more than a Versa with a vehicle wrap and it remains to be seen how the marketing team will extend the US drive to a digital space. Of course the LEAF marketing team knows setting up Facebook and Twitter accounts and posting a video isn’t enough, but the New York Times thinks it is enough to build excitement.

Fortunately, the campaign has an excellent pre-reveal experience website at Nissanusa.com that highlights the vehicle’s vision, technology and battery design. There is a very interesting and well-done feedback mechanism right on the site that lets visitors ask a “Nissan expert about LEAF”. Site visitor questions are moderated and responded to openly on the home page. You can also look at questions by topics like charging, environment and features. It is a very cool implementation for a site where the product is a year away from launch.
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