If it works for coffee, it can work for cars. In an old case-study-worthy ad, patrons of Tavern on the Green restaurant are served Folgers instead of the premium house coffee. The ad captures their surprise when they discover whose coffee they are drinking. Countless brands, mostly recently Walmart Steaks, have used this brand perception experiment, but rarely, if ever, has the blind-fold test been done quite this way with cars. Nissan, however, is doing it to support its Altima mid-size sedan.
This weekend, it is launching a new campaign, “Ride of Your Life,” at ChooseNissan.com, leading into Nissan’s model year-end national sales event. The effort, which kicks off with a new TV spot May 5, has the stock Altima pretending to be an Altima race car.
In the effort, which carries the message that Altima is about excitement, Nissan takes a handful of people around the Horse Thief Mile at Willow Springs Raceway, Rosamond, Calif., in what they are told is a pure race car version of the Altima.
Actually, it’s a stock Altima wearing race livery and fitted out with race gear with some race-car engine effects. After the ride, the car gets stripped of the wrapping, participants see that it’s a road-legal Altima, and we see their reactions.
A spokesperson explains that upon arrival at the track, participants signed waivers and received “all access” pit passes. "We gave them classroom instruction on race car development and handling. They drove a simulator. We issued them helmets. We gave them an exclusive, close-up tour of the iDX concepts, as well as walk-arounds of other performance stars like GT-R, JUKE NISMO and Z," he says. "The immersive world we created did the trick. Participants had no reason to believe anything other than the fact that they were about to get the ride of their life."
There’s a grass-roots element to the campaign, as well, as one of the “race car” Altimas will be driven around Los Angeles before the ad launches. It will be wrapped with a message encouraging people to learn more at #NissanROYL. The hashtag will be posted to social networks, and it leads to promotional video footage from the TV spot.
In addition to daily Twitter interaction on the Altima Twitter pages, Nissan will invite customers to share creative expressions via Snapchat of what driving a Nissan feels like to them. Nissan will grab the best Snapchat responses for a chance to win prizes like a PlayStation 4.
Nissan’s major launch this year is the completely redesigned Murano crossover, which the automaker unveiled at the New York International Auto Show last month and which goes on sale late this year. The automaker recently has launched new creative for its large SUV, the Pathfinder, with a Noah’s Ark theme. The spokesperson explains that the campaign is focused on driving fiscal year-end sales.
"Of course, we could have just put people into an Altima, driven them around, and said, ‘See? It’s fun, right?’ But anyone could do that.”