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The automotive industry has produced some excellent digital marketing campaigns in the past few years, including Volkswagen's augmented reality billboards and Audi’s Le Mans app.

So when Nissan needed to build excitement prior to the European launch of the new Juke Nismo, it was no surprise that it decided to go down the digital route.

Nissan partnered with mobile driving game ‘Asphalt 7: Heat’ to allow users to take the new model for a virtual test drive, as well as giving them access to a special Nissan Race Track.

To find out why Nissan chose to target mobile gamers and whether the launch was a success, I spoke to marketing communications manager Gareth Dunsmore...

1. Why is this a better method of launching a new model than more traditional marketing channels?

We wanted to develop a more innovative approach to this launch so decided to use digital technology to achieve this by showcasing our latest product in an entertaining, exciting and engaging way that offers the consumer an engaging experience.

We feel this method is better than more traditional marketing strategies as it excites consumers in both the experience and the purchase of the product. 

UK consumers are very tech savvy and are no longer impressed by traditional marketing methods like TV ads, so by giving value to the experience we hope to capture their imagination. 

This method also allows us to build relationships outside of the automotive industry and expand into new areas.

2. What demographics are you hoping to target by using the racing game?

As the car brings together an enhanced driving experience with advanced technology features, it is designed to appeal to fans of a modern approach to thrilling cars. 

In this instance, our decision to launch via the racing game app was due to the nature of the car – as the first in a new motorsport derived line, and including a number of tech and gaming inspired features (e.g. connecting to smartphones), it is a car that should appeal to gamers and social media users. 

Gamers today are not just young guys who are really into computers – they are a mass audience of people who are playing on mobiles, tablets or online.  

We are trying to communicate with people we call ‘tech seekers’ - not necessarily ‘geeks’ or fast adopters but people who use technology to get more value from their life. That can come through enjoying a game.

3. Can the game really mimic the actual car, or is this primarily about PR and raising awareness rather than actually giving people a ‘test drive’?

The car has been recreated meticulously in the game, and while it mirrors the real-life experience as much as possible, it is designed to offer a fun and engaging experience as opposed to a hardcore simulation.

As the Juke Nismo is the first Nismo (Nissan Motorsport) branded road car to be released in Europe, we wanted to communicate the brand values of innovation and excitement along with the car’s specific features. 

When people play Asphalt 7: Heat, they’ll see that we have recreated the vehicle meticulously - from the power, handling and aerodynamics of the car to its design elements.

If they enjoy the experience of driving the car within the game, they’ll love driving Juke Nismo for real.

4. Is this launch based on previous success in digital, or is it just a trial?

This launch was spawned from the success of our previous digital achievements. We started the Nissan GT academy five years ago and as part of this campaign we take gamers from their sofa to the racetrack through the Nissan GT-Academy.

The skills honed on the virtual racetrack have enabled our pilots to compete and win at extremely high levels of motorsport including the gruelling Le Mans 24hrs.  

The GT Academy is now a global programme that is going from strength-to-strength – with this year’s European winner, Belgian competitor Wolfgang Reip, competing in the Dubai 24 Hours race last weekend and who made 2nd in class for his first international race. 

We are increasingly experiencing a crossover in where our customers like to be targeted. Traditional marketing techniques are no longer the crux of what we do, and it’s an exciting time to engage with our audience online and through games.

5. How will you measure the impact of the driving game and what metrics are you using to define success? Brand awareness, sales or something else?

Since we launched the game in December, we’ve already had over 2m downloads of the game featuring Juke Nismo. 

That’s 2m people who have experienced the fun of Nismo before we’ve even delivered a single car in Europe – so we feel this launch has already been very successful! 

If you also count the people who already have Asphalt 7 Heat installed on their devices, it means almost 10m people can potentially experience the thrill of Juke Nismo even before it hits the streets.

6. The game is available on smartphone and tablet. Do you have a different strategy for each, or are your aims and targets the same across all devices?

Our aim for this launch is the same for both tablets and smartphones; to give customers an engaging, dynamic experience that conveys the innovation and creativity of the Nissan brand.

7. How is the deal structured with Gameloft? Is it a one-off, or are you likely to use a digital launch again in future?

This Gameloft launch has been so successful that we’re certain it won’t be a one-off. We are in talks with Gameloft about future plans and we intend to work with them on other innovative projects. 

Our Nismo range is likely to expand in the next few years and we have some really exciting products in the pipeline so we’d love to work with them again to launch our next generation offerings in a way that really gets people talking like this one has.

8. The promotion uses Facebook to allow players to share their top scores. How important is social media for Nissan’s marketing strategy, particularly as a means of collecting customer data?

This launch is part of Nissan’s objective to bring the virtual world into real-life. 

Gamers and social media users are generally well connected, technology savvy people who often mirror the innovation we strive for at Nissan. 

They love to compete and to share their success with others, which aligns them very well with the some of the more gaming-inspired tech that sits at the heart of the Juke Nismo.

David Moth

Published 25 January, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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