This campaign for the Nissan Xterra came at a time when SUVs were getting bigger. More expensive. More leathery. There was a market, we saw, for an anti-SUV. One that wasn't getting more well appointed, but more attainable. A sports utility vehicle that could actually be used for sports. A new CEO had come into Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, the first Westerner to ever head Nissan. This was the first new model launch for the brand while he was at the helm. It was also the agency's first launch under new client management...and if it didn't go well, it could've been its last.
At the time, Nissan was not healthy as a company nor as a brand. In recent months it had been at its weakest point in years, with purchase intentions at a six-year low. So for nine months the majority of the marketing budget had been spent on a spree of distress, sales-event advertising while consumers, lured by healthier brands offering more interesting products, departed in droves. It once was known as the car company that launched the Pathfinder. Nissan was bleeding oil.
THE OFF-ROAD AHEAD
We spread the word of a new SUV brand in a way natural to the social dynamic of the target: word of mouth. That meant devising a comprehensive program to pair more traditional media with basic grassroots, or guerilla, marketing tactics that would create buzz about Xterra:
• During pre-launch and launch, Xterras were placed at surf spots, trailheads, ski resorts.
• Nissan sponsored the Xterra America Tour, a series of triathlons (mountain biking, swimming, trail-running) across the country, with the final championship airing on CBS.
• Six months before launch, a special Xterra Web site was created. During this period, information was leaked slowly -a sketch of the vehicle first, then the car's profile, and so on-until the full site was unveiled at launch.
The campaign came out of the box screaming, literally, with the voice of Lenny Kravitz proclaiming, "I want to get away!" The entire approach reflected the attitude Xterra brand, and of the unique target. At the time X-Games were just forming, and extreme sports were just becoming "extreme". From top to bottom, beginning to end, the advertising and communications mirrored the very people they were talking to. And better yet, it connected with them.
The Xterra steadily met or surpassed sales objectives (Source: Nissan sales reports). Furthermore, while considered a brand unworthy of a premium price, it sells for manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) and, while enjoying consistent dealer traffic and high demand, it became Nissan's most profitable model.