Nissan's High Octane Campaign Gets Maximum Mileage

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An eager audience and more than a year spent wooing it netted 175,000 sales leads and 7,800 advance orders for Nissan North America's new 350Z sports car.


The car arrived in dealerships in August with a sticker price of $27,000 to $32,000, but the marketing began more than a year earlier when Nissan said it would relaunch the 350Z after six years. Soon after that, 60,000 people visited the auto manufacturer's Web site to request more information.


"From June to November of 2001, we sent those hand raisers a Nissan 350Z-themed deck of playing cards to keep people's interest high while they waited for the debut of the car," said Kristi VandenBosch, president of TequilaWest, the division of TBWA Worldwide that handled the direct and interactive marketing of the campaign.


One side of the cards displayed images of the exterior and interior of the car, while the other had text with 52 nuggets of information on the 26-year history of the Z and the new version of the car along with numbers and suits.


Nissan also dedicated a section of its site to the car and let people place advance orders. Nissan had several thousand orders by the time it unveiled the car in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and 7,800 orders when it ended advance sales in June.


Melissa Adams, manager of direct response marketing at Gardena, CA-based Nissan North America, said the company could have generated even more advance orders but wanted to maintain a high level of anticipation for the release.


"I think keeping a balance of giving people the opportunity to buy the car and then closing the pre-sell offer and making others wait played a big role in helping to make this campaign and the launch of the car as successful as it was," she said.


Those who preordered the car received several personalized follow-up pieces, beginning with an acknowledgment package that arrived in a black envelope with an exterior shot of the 350Z on one side. Inside was an informational brochure that thanked people for their order and confirming the information Nissan had on their orders.


Those specs were listed below an image of the car. Recipients were told to contact the dealership they were getting the car from if any information was incorrect.


Over the summer, Nissan sent a piece titled "Secrets of the Z Revealed." It came in a black case containing 17 oversized index cards and a CD-ROM disk. The first card explained that the package was being sent only to those who placed advance orders and that they were the first to receive all the information on the car. Information on each topic was provided above black and white photos of the car. The CD-ROM had specs on the car, wallpaper, screensaver and photography.


Later this month, after all who placed advance orders have taken delivery of their cars, Nissan will send them a coffee table book on the history of the Z line -- what Adams called a "pre-order thank you mailer."


She would not reveal the cost of any of the pieces.


In addition to the Web site and auto show, Nissan used several other methods to capture sales leads. For example, 850,000 current owners and lessees of Nissan automobiles received information about the car in monthly billing statements in January, and another 850,000 inserts are being included in statements this month.


Nissan began another direct mail campaign in January to 35,000 people who requested information. It included a cover letter and 20-page booklet containing information on the car, images of the interior and exterior and a business reply card. That mailing ran until August. Another mailing to an undetermined number of prospects goes this month.


Nissan sent e-mails in August to 100,000 of the names it collected, including the 7,800 who placed advance orders, asking them to participate in an auction on eBay for the first 350Z off the production line. The winning bid was $95,000, with proceeds going to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.


Through the rest of the year Nissan will run print and TV executions. The print ads will appear in car enthusiast and general consumer publications.


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