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Nissan’s launch of five vehicles, all scheduled to occur over the next 15 months, will include a stiff dose of social media marketing. The 2013 Altima began the sequence as the first launch of the “Most Innovative Year Ever” for Nissan’s North American branch. The Altima launch utilizes print, television, web banner and direct web ads in addition to a big push through social media. It will also make heavy use of a campaign called “The Altima Experience” which is composed of five online videos of drivers test driving the new car. Drivers were selected by an essay competition; each video features an event relating to the essay that won the driver a spot in the lineup.
Erich Marx, the director of social and interactive media for Nissan North America, has all the freedom he needs to define the position in any way he sees fit as long as the results include growing the brand across platforms. Later this summer Nissan will open their Innovation Garage on Altima’s Facebook page as a crowd-sourced idea incubator. Says Marx, “It can be any kind of innovation. But we want to have fun with it, make it a bit quirky; it comes down to share-ability.” The concept is to open a popular forum for sharing innovations in all areas, not limiting the discussion to automotive topics.
With close to a million fans and followers on social media networks, Nissan is arguably the most successful of the major auto brands in making social media work for the company’s benefit. Part of that success is product-driven. The Leaf, only 20,000 of which have been sold so far, spurs devoted, passionate online activity. More of Nissan’s social media success can be attributed to the company’s commitment to experimenting with the channel to find strategies that truly engage consumers. The open-ended nature of the medium allows for unlimited creativity in the ways you invite potential buyers to engage with a brand.
Nissan is showing a realistic grasp of both the utility and the limits of social media in the marketing landscape. Traditional channels hold as much relevance as ever, forming the critical spine of any major brand’s presence. They must be respected and used expertly by professionals who know how to make the most of each medium’s strengths. But social has a growing place as well. Marx delivers a crisp summary of the role of social media to Adage: "From a pure ROI standpoint, are we selling hundreds of cars through social? No. But social media has to be a responsible part of any media package now. You have to be there. It's not about ROI, it's about COI– cost of ignoring. It's too big to ignore. It's not about tying a Facebook sale to a car sale. Facebook may go away, Twitter may go away, but social media isn't going away. The expectation of owners and fans of being able to interact with the brand is set in stone."
His words spell out the situation clearly and with great accuracy. I would never consider telling a dealership to focus on social media at the expense of other marketing channels. Even so, social holds an important place in the new balance of marketing power. Make sure your voice is heard in that arena.