How To Duplicate The Success Of Nissan's 'Diehard Fan' App

How can you replicate the enormous success of Nissan’s College Diehard Fan App? First and foremost, “Don’t do an app!” said Robert Brown, senior manager of interactive marketing at Nissan North America.  

Although only half serious, Brown’s advice does speak to the fact that apps very rarely meet marketers’ expectations. 

If you want a successful app, be prepared to “commit to flawless execution,” Brown told his envious audience at MediaPost’s Brand Insider Summit on Friday. So far, users have downloaded the app about 466,000 times -- and made more than 40 million masks -- by his estimate.

“What if we had gotten the Alabama Crimson Tide colors wrong?” Brown asked. “Do you think we would have heard about it?”

If you’re unfamiliar with Nissan’s Diehard Fan App (because you just awoke from a coma, or something) it’s sort of like Snapchat for college sports fans. Developed by digital design shop Critical Mass, the app lets people virtually paint their faces with their school colors, and then share short videos of their team spirit via social channels.

In total, Brown said it took three months to develop the app. “A lot of it was just perfection of the product,” he said. “And make sure you get credit.” It doesn’t matter how many consumers love your app if none of them know (or can remember) that your brand made it.

Succeeding in that respect, Nissan’s app achieved 68% un-aided brand attribution, according to research cited by Brown.

Another key to the app’s achievement was effective internal “politicking,” in Brown’s words. “It’s about selling other silos in your organization,” he said -- meaning that it pays to convince the entire marketing department to get behind your app.

Also, prepare to invest in what Brown calls the “dark arts” of app store optimization. (Critical Mass handled that dirty work for Nissan.) By Brown’s reckoning, the Diehard Fan app is still gaining steam. Nissan struck a four-year sponsorship deal with a consortium of 100 colleges and universities around the country.  

“We’re tied in,” Brown said. “Our challenge is to make the most of those rights.”

To do so, Diehard Fan 2.0 is set to debut, next week, with some fun new features, Brown promised.

This column was previously published in Moblog on August 26, 2016.
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