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    How Nissan Micra hopped on to Facebook with a crowd-sourcing campaign to engage with young drivers

    Synopsis

    For starters they signed on Ranbir Kapoor as brand ambassador; and then hopped on to Facebook with a crowd-sourcing campaign to create the necessary buzz.

    When Nissan launched Micra in July 2010, it made sure it got the most important parameter for success in India right — price. At 3.98 lakh (ex- New Delhi showrooms), the Micra was well placed to take on established competitors in the compact car space, like Maruti Alto K10 ( 3.3 lakh) and Hyundai i20 ( 4.7 lakhs approximately ).

    However, that didn't quite meet the company's expectations, with Nissan India managing to clock sales of a little over 12,000 units in the nine months between July 2010 and March 2011.

    That's when the communications team at Nissan India felt they had to do something more — and different — to engage with young Indians looking to buy their first car.

    For starters they signed on Ranbir Kapoor as brand ambassador; and then hopped on to Facebook with a crowd-sourcing campaign to create the necessary buzz. Yawn, another auto brand on Facebook? But this one promised to be different, with the Nissan team partnering with AKQA of London, an agency that's done award-winning work for global carmakers like Ferrari, Audi and Volkswagen .

    Mumbai-based production house Offroad Films was also roped in. Titled 'Nissan Star of India' , the campaign premiered on Facebook in September 2011. On offer was a chance to act with Ranbir Kapoor in a commercial for the Micra.

    People who visited Nissan's Facebook page had to upload a video of themselves, strutting their stuff. "The initial days of the campaign were quite dull and not too many people responded to it," says a Nissan spokesperson. Until a teenager uploaded a candid dance video of hers.

    "That video egged a lot of people to join in," adds the spokesperson. Over October and November 2011, Nissan selected the best videos and picked out 20 winners and simultaneously began on-ground activity across high-street malls in nine cities to create a buzz on what was in store.

    The Facebook activity culminated in an extravagant four-and-a-half minute film shot in Ramoji Film City Hyderabad , starring Ranbir Kapoor, 100 Nissan Micras and 20 Facebook winners. For Khalil Bachooali, producer, Offroad Films, handling so many cars at one go was a first-time experience.

    "The biggest challenge in making the film was car choreography as that was something we had never done. All the car choreography you see in the film is actual camera work and not VFX," he says.

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    The film took a week to make and Bachooali adds: "I don't even want to talk about the retakes!" But then there was also AKQA which Nissan had roped in "for its experience in rolling out campaigns for international brands such as Nike and for its capabilities in leveraging advertising platforms including traditional media and digital engagement equally."

    Greg Mullen and Alastair Mills were the creative directors for the film and this is their first-ever 'Bollywood' production . "What Nissan wanted to do was create a community for the brand to engage with young drivers. Considering the demographics and usage in India, we established Facebook as the best platform," explains Mullen.

    The opportunities and tools associated with this medium increased impact and spread the word digitally, he adds. Keeping in mind all these criteria, Bollywood was the first thing that came to their minds. Kapoor was already the brand's ambassador and it helped connect well.

    Facebook was also preferred for its ability to engage long term with consumers beyond the film and help build the brand's story. "Facebook numbers are huge in India (with a little under 46 million users at last count) and some of the platform's inherent qualities were reflected in Nissan's values too," points out Mills.

    Nissan says they had no targets or expectations from the activity, but they're pretty enthused with the response. At the time of going to press 538,712 people on Facebook liked the Nissan India page. A little over 7,400 people on the site were talking about it and the final 4.5 minute video had been seen by 50,722 people on YouTube.

    The brand team is happy with the 500 test drives that they have got across 65 dealers since the launch of the campaign. "The online mode of receiving test drive queries was itself a milestone as until then all our test drive requests were only through dealers," says the spokesperson.

    A two-minute cut of the video is also currently running across 115 movie theatres in the country. Now for the proof of the pudding: Nissan had sold a little under 31,000 Micras since launch till end-March.

    How does that compare with other rivals in the compact space, in a year in which sales in the small car segment actually fell after many years of robust growth? Says Hormazd Sorabjee, editor, Autocar India: "Micra is in a very competitive segment. The product is okay, but what has really changed the perception for Nissan in India is Sunny. Sunny has given Nissan a fillip in India."
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