Keep On Truckumenting: Nissan Documents New Approach To Brand Content

In a surprising twist to the rapidly evolving art of brand storytelling, a top Nissan media executive unveiled a new hybrid form of brand content -- the truckumentary -- and how it can be used to launch a new product.

It all began, Jeannie Whited, senior manager-executive communications & Media Center operations at Nissan Motor Co., told Content Marketing Insider Summit attendees this morning, when one of her marketing communications colleagues came to the team with the idea of “making a truckumentary” to help launch the story surrounding the launch of Nissan’s new Titan truck this fall.

He was like a “puppy with a tennis ball,” she said, adding, “We took his tennis ball and threw it and hoped he wouldn’t find it for a while, because we didn’t know what a truckumentary was and we weren’t sure he knew what a truckumentary was.”

Whited’s colleague apparently found the tennis ball and figured out what a truckumentary is, because she proceeded to present several installments from the series to summit attendees, explaining the strategy and logic of using a documentary approach to launch a new automotive brand.

In fairness, it is not the first time a brand has utilized that approach, even if they didn’t coin a new content marketing buzzword to do that. Hal Riney & Partners produced the “Spring in Spring Hill” documentary in the pre-”content marketing,” pre-native, pre-social -- heck, pre-digital -- era of 1990 to launch Saturn for General Motors Corp. (see below).

That said, what Whited showed was how the documentary approach to brand storytelling could be serialized, distributed and built as an ongoing narrative from the earliest stages of the brand’s development -- literally engineering, design, and, yes, even its media strategy -- via a well produced, packaged and distributed digital ara campaign strategy.

The episodes begin with designers and engineers -- including (purposely) a woman engineer -- explaining the inception and essence of the new Titan truck brand in order to position it and at least begin generating awareness, if not yet consideration in a highly entrenched “Big 3” domestic auto category dominated by Ford’s F150, Chevy’s Silverado and Daimler Chrysler’s Ram.

Subsequent episodes, she said, were intended to “keep the story alive” leading up to this fall’s product launch, and hopefully, build some anticipation. Much of that content, needless to say, focused on people -- beginning with the product team and also including outdoor enthusiasts and people who love their trucks.

Currently, she said the Titan truckumentaries feature “a durability story and a cold weather story that is just hitting,” and she showed how Nissan’s media team is leveraging all of the obvious assets -- social media including YouTube, Twitter and Facebook -- as well as it’s own media and consumer-facing sites to get the video content in front of consumers.

The strategy leverages old school PR too, Whited said, noting that “traditional media and online can grab our assets and reuse them” off of Nissan’s media site, but she said it was teh first time the company utilized content developed by its corporate communications team directly on its consumer website.

She said initial results are promising both in terms of Nissan’s internal buzz, as well viewing metrics, and added that her favorite headline to date in the campaign was: “Watch engineers beat the bejesus out of the next Titan Diesel,” which she described as a tongue-in-cheek allusion.

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