Imagine that you are a marketing executive for one of the largest automotive manufacturers in the world with 150,000+ employees, an operating revenue north of $4 billion and sales that exceed 5 million vehicles in the past year. Obviously, you are in charge of a very popular brand and a lot is expected of you. So, how do you extend your success into the vast world of social media to authentically reinforce your brand’s identity and fulfill the lofty expectations of consumers, automotive enthusiasts and your brand’s other various stakeholders?
One person that definitely knows the answer to this question is Erich Marx, the Director of Interactive and Social Media Marketing for Nissan North America. With this title, Marx has experienced many successes, and a few regrets, while bringing Nissan’s social media strategies up to par with its dominance in the automotive world. His unique approach toward social media places great pride in pioneering innovative, highly-engaging social media strategies and daily tactics.
“The digital space is unbelievably cluttered,” Marx said in an article by WardsAuto. “We have to try new things to remain competitive. It’s critical for brands to be innovative and exciting in the social space with new ideas and content that keeps consumers engaged.”
Rather than focusing on transactions, Marx firmly believes that social media is about interactions with consumers. According to his philosophy, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the countless list of other social media channels aren’t tools to highlight lease offers, sales events and the like. Instead, Marx views social media as an arena where consumers are able to experience the brand in a non-threatening, authentic way.
Taking this information into account, it is no surprise that Nissan’s social media team has adopted a “test and learn” mentality under Marx’s leadership of the department. This approach allows them to launch original, creative social campaigns and to become early adopters of novel social media channels. As such, Nissan has devised some clever ways to garner an extraordinary amount of quality interactions.
A short while ago, Nissan started a trend that has come to be known as “#TueZday,” a play on their popular 350Z and 370Z sports cars. Utilizing the #TueZday tag across numerous social channels, fans of the Nissan brand post pictures of their Z-type vehicles in hopes that Nissan shares their content in a custom-created and accredited post across its branded social properties. Although such infamy is reserved for extremely exceptional content, Nissan thanks all contributors of #TueZday photos by liking and replying to their updates, a notably huge undertaking on a day that generates an incredible amount of activity.
Other wins for Nissan’s social media team include campaigns that were titled “Project Z” and “Project Titan.” Respectively, these campaigns challenged social media fans to design a sports car and pickup truck for the Wounded Warrior Project. “The Altima Chase” was another successful Nissan campaign that hosted a three-week scavenger hunt on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and gave fans the chance to find and win a brand new Nissan Altima.
Although Marx and Nissan have had a great deal of successes, there have also been a few snags along the way. One of the biggest mishaps occurred when Nissan partnered with Amazon to generate leads for its Versa Note model. As a publicity stunt, Nissan delivered a Versa Note, inside of a giant Amazon box on the back of a flatbed tow truck, to a very lucky customer. A camera crew followed the delivery and a video was to be released by Nissan a week or so later. Unfortunately, a neighbor of the Versa Note recipient posted a photo online before Marx and his team ever had the chance. Frustrated at first, Marx’s team quickly realized that it wasn’t a big blunder and that a valuable lesson had been taught: “The consumer owns social, brands don’t. In social spaces, you don’t control it. It ended up great in this case, but it could go wrong in another, so be prepared,” Marx said after the so-called mishap.
While the individual successes and misfortunes of Nissan’s social media team shine some light on its social strategy and daily tactics, the overall lesson to learn from the automaker is that social media requires a plan, innovation, adaptability and transparency in order to attain authentic engagement with consumers. Every brand has a unique story and personality that consumers want, rather need, to be a part of. While traditional advertising can demonstrate what a brand and its products are about, social media goes much further by enabling real, genuine conversations between a brand and its public. Organizations such as Nissan are able to achieve excellence in social media and beyond, perhaps even live up to Nissan’s slogan, “innovation that excites,” by allowing consumers to become an important part of their brand identities.