The Cube: Nissan "Shifts" Towards Millennium Generation

Nissan has had a marketing campaign running for a number of years. It is called “SHIFT_” and it was developed by Chiat Day almost ten years ago.

Now they are applying the idea of “SHIFT_” to the next generation of automobile purchasers- generation 2000 or the millennium generation. I was slow to realize that anyone born in the late eighties and early nineties is now at an age where their parents are buying them cars. I was slow, because… well… I’m getting older and didn’t realize that they were not only out of diapers, but have become official consumers…

The SHIFT_ tag may be a bit stale, but I could make the argument that the structure provides flexibility while reinforcing core brand qualities. The idea has been to distinguish Nissan as an innovator in the mind of the consumer. Nissan shifts the perception of an automobile- its uses, its design, its ability to inspire, its ability to aspire- away from merely transportation.

The website does this quite well particularly as it pertains to their newest model, the Nissan Cube.

As with everything, the “Millennials” are pushing marketing language to reflect their view of the world: transient, mobile, social, unhierarchical, abbreviated and global just scratch the surface. Chiat Day and Nissan’s interactive vendor (The Designory or are they back with Sapient?) acknowledges this in the website’s section dedicated to the vehicle. One of the first images even declares the car to be not an automobile, but a “mobile device.”

This model is funky, fun and unconventional. It would appear to compete with Toyota’s Scion series and Honda’s Element. The boxy styling is born from Japanese miniature designs that push small personal spaces in tight urban settings. The car has a small wheel base and place the occupants in a more upright position. I viewed a recent exhibition at the London Science Museum on this very subject.

This generation is unique in that it demands to participate with the media being designed for them. They want the opportunity to comment, share and come to their own communal opinions. They want to personalize. They want to tweak mass market products to feel unique. They are a generation who -in a time of endless options- want their choices to proclaim they are distinct from “others.”

Notice the marketing language of the site- its all about personalization. It speaks to two audiences- the child and the parent. The language says- Be different (yet part of a tribe). Be quirky (yet practical). Be unconventional (in your purchases, not in your judgment). It reassures the young adult that they are hip, cool, distinct and… special. And for the parents who are buying the car- be safe (a value statement) and affordable…

This marketing language represents a SHIFT in marketing insight. No longer should communications be “top down” emerging from the company and broadcast to the consumer. It is now about an evolving model of consumer-to-consumer communications with the company trying to participate. It is the language of social networking, blogs and instantaneous access.

However, this is not as new a conversation as it may seem. Quite the contrary, it is the old and relevant dialogue of branding where the consumer tells YOU what the brand is, not the company telling the consumer.

The take-away of this emerging dialogue is that we are at the cusp of a more “interactive” marketing era. The demands of a generation who want to be special in a world of options and commodities are just being felt as their purchasing power grows. Marketers must adapt to the new communication mediums and methods of breaking in to the conversation.

The first step is to create the dialogue and chatter. Next, try and influence it by appropriating the forums for communication. If I were Nissan’s marketing group, I would now create a Cube Owner affinity site which would consist of community stories around vehicle modifications, trips and experiences. Help the car owners own the site. Make it a hub for all things Cube. Generate third-party after market merchandise. In essence, create sustainable buzz and indespensibile membership. SHIFT how the Millennials view their transporation…

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