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Nissan electrifies digital B2B campaign with humor, celebrity tie-in


Nissan's new digital and social marketing campaign for its rugged commercial vans stars Poison lead singer Bret Michaels and uses humor, making the statement that business-to-business ads do not have to be boring.

The comprehensive "Tough Love" digital and print effort spans across a variety of social media and digital platforms, including AOL , Google , Fortune , Entrepreneur, KKB , Edmunds , Cars Direct and Auto Traders . As B2B decision makers are increasingly spending more time on social channels, social media advertising is one way to engage with prospects, create awareness and top of mind recall for a brand. A Nielsen Global Survey of Trust in Advertising polled more than 29,000 Internet respondents in 58 countries to measure consumer sentiment on 19 forms of paid, earned and owned advertising formats, and found that 47 percent of global respondents agreed that humorous ads resonated the most.

"The strategy to target small businesses in not something new, we've always done that in this category, however, this time around we've taken another look at our definition of what kinds of small business would be interested in our vans,” said Erich Marx, director of interactive and social media marketing at Nissan North America.

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“We're still hitting the classic tradesmen but we're also looking to connect with the new wave of small business owners - the makers, the crafts people, the artists. Although they are new to the vocational workforce, they're growing and we want to be a part of their future.”

“Social's role is definitely becoming more critical with every campaign we roll out; Tough Love really reflects a lot of our learnings in social, one of them being the need to tailor content to appeal to distinctive audiences and optimize across multiple social formats across platforms,” he said.

“We no longer expect that people are tuned into our social channels ... we need to seek them out by creating relevant content no matter where they're at.”

Humor me
Carrying the theme line "The tougher we test them, the more you love them," the campaign is directed at small business owners looking for durable, efficient cargo and passenger vans.

Created by TBWAChiatDay, Nissan puts reality star and rock legend Bret Michaels in the leading role of a product demo. The music video opens on a shot of the automaker’s Arizona testing facility where car assessments are underway. Soft piano arpeggios start to play before they’re met with a banging strum of the guitar.

Brett Michaels

Soon after, Michaels looks seductively towards a shiny black utility vehicle while singing his own rock rendition of the ’80s classic “Endless Love.” Throughout the four minutes of dramatically gripping hands, panning close-ups, flaming guitars, and other rock-video tropes, some of Nissan’s 6,600 automobile tests are being demonstrated.

Tough Love still

The videos humor allows Nissan to connect with viewers by showing the lighter side of the brand. Humor makes videos stand out from the crowd, however the tone and content must be appropriate to the brand’s message, or audiences may end up laughing at a brand rather than with it. Comedy videos can be used to great effect as part of wider marketing campaigns, especially as social media becomes more prevalent to brands.

Following suit
Before Nissan, Volvo too wondered how it could get consumers to talk about trucks, and more importantly, get drivers interested in driving them. In a series of viral YouTube films titles “Live Test,” Volvo showcased the dexterity and craftsmanship synonymous with the brand’s heritage.

The most successful video, “The Epic Split” featured actor Jean-Claude Van Damme performing a split between two reversing trucks to demonstrate the stability and precision of Volvo’s dynamic steering.

The Epic Split

The automaker had previous taken traditional approaches in its marketing utilizing print, social and digital materials, but hadn’t produced anything significantly noteworthy, and cited that a changing media landscape was the primary factor for its lag.

“Live Test” conversely embraced the new ecosystem, and played off the emotional connection Nissan found its customers have with the vehicles they drive, and was influenced by the volume of people who have a part in truck buying decisions, from the driver to family and friends, colleagues and bosses, clients and the businesses whose products the trucks carry.

Emotion is a powerful way to convey product benefits, and storytelling is a great approach to demonstrate a product’s different dimensions and cut across multiple audiences. In addition, YouTube allows for existing and new audiences to be reached on a global scale that would be too expensive to create for on television.

“As we worked in the commercial space we didn't want to lose sight that the people behind the business are people,” Mr. Marx said.

“Of course we needed to bring them the cold hard facts, the truth behind the rigor of all of our vans, that will make their business better but we served it up in an entertaining and human way.”

“We've brought NCV closer to the rest of the brand - a brand that's passionate about cars and trucks and making sure every drive is an exciting one,” he said.

Final Take
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York

Michelle Saettler is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer and Mobile Commerce Daily, New York. Reach her at michelle@mobilemarketer.com.

Related content: Advertising, Nissan, Brett Michaels, B2B ads

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