By on December 11, 2016

Nissan Battle Tested Rogue Virtual Reality Star Wars

I despised all of the cross-promotion taking place between Nissan and Star Wars this fall, especially now that it has devolved into dealerships offering free worthless collectables to lure in prospective buyers. However, you have to admit that they did a phenomenal job implementing the campaign.

It was a perfect storm of coincidences that allowed this cooperative marketing strategy to emerge from Nissan’s womb. The Rogue shared a name with the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the timing of the film’s release roughly coincided with the model’s 2017 face-lift, and the automaker wanted to put a lot of money behind the advertising of its best-selling model.

Although it probably didn’t hurt that Nissan’s North America marketing chief, Jeremy Tucker, joined Nissan from Disney — the company that now owns Lucasfilm and Star Wars — in 2014. 

“It started as a name,” Tucker told Automotive News in an interview, “but once we actually did some digging, we realized this was much, much more than that.”

Whatever digging Tucker and his marketing subcommittee did struck oil because the campaign quickly became one of the highest-profile media crossovers in either company’s history. Industrial Light & Magic was sourced to develop the special effects for the cinematic video ads showcasing the Rogue using its safety technologies to successfully navigate a Star Wars battlefield. The effects company also designed a virtual-reality experience for the Los Angeles Auto Show that Tucker says will be expanded upon this spring. The Auto Show also saw Nissan park a full-scale model Imperial spaceship in its booth.

Nissan Star Wars TIE FIGHTER

The company also used the event to introduce the 2017 Nissan Rogue: Rogue One Star Wars Limited Edition. The heavily badged and branded special edition Rogue is the first production vehicle ever approved by Star Wars. The crossover is an achromatic festival of decals and comes with a full-sized collectible Death Trooper helmet. However, it wasn’t quite the end of the parade.

Nissan dealerships are now offering key chains of the Death Trooper helmet to anyone who stumbles onto the lot — while supplies last, of course. Only 200,000 of the tchotchkes were distributed, but 200 of those are limited edition high-gloss finish, black-chrome versions sure to be coveted by Star Wars’ most faithful fans.

With only a 1 in 1,000 chance of getting the special key chain, they must be pretty incredible but I’ll leave you to judge for yourself.

Nissan star wars keychain

To me it’s just a shiny pocket-sized piece of plastic requiring a twenty-minute drive out my way, doomed to be forgotten in a drawer somewhere — but it may be an important piece of Star Wars history to the delusional someone else.

“This is another way for us to celebrate the magic and excitement of Nissan’s alliance with Lucasfilm and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story during the holidays,” said Jeremy Tucker, vice president, Marketing Communications & Media, Nissan North America, Inc. “And of course we hope that our guests will also take a moment to discover the 2017 Nissan Rogue family of vehicles, including the 2017 Nissan Rogue: Rogue One Star Wars limited editions that are arriving to dealerships now.”

Personally, I had my fill of the Star Wars and Nissan alliance when the Rouge showed up at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show beneath a twenty-two foot tall TIE fighter. It literally overshadowed the compact crossover while serving as a visual reminder of how little these two properties have to do with one another. However, I understand that many people possess an incredibly strong love for popular culture — especially when tied to Star Wars.

That’s where Nissan has to be commended. Star Wars is famous for attaching its brand to all manner of things but never to an actual car and rarely to a campaign quite so involved. Fiat Chrysler got involved with Star Wars: The Force Awakens last year but only managed to produce a commercial, some not-for-sale custom display cars, and give a handful of New Yorkers an Uber ride in a Hot Wheels Hellcat designed to look a little like a stormtrooper.

Meanwhile, Nissan went cuckoo bananas with numerous SFX-heavy television spots, vehicle giveaways, memorabilia, Auto Show pageantry, a social media blitz, and an actual car that you can park in your own driveway if you have absolutely no shame.

Image: Nissan 2017 Nissan Rogue One Star Wars

There was also an obsessive level of dealer involvement for every step of the process. Tucker said that dealers met with Nissan’s ad agency, reviewed creative concepts, discussed tag-lines, and helped decide media placement. A selected team of six dealerships even aided in the development of the commercials by deciding what features they believed their customer base would most likely want to know about.

“Based upon their interaction with the consumer, especially when it came to safety, they were able to talk to us,” Tucker said of the dealer input on ad topics. The dealers were saying, “‘These are the things I’m selling against and I’m finding traction with the customers.’ They helped to make sure we had the right features and benefits,” in the ads.

One of the chosen dealer consultants, Wayne Siegel, said that Nissan had presented the team with in-store promotional items to consider. He said that the “Dealer 6” felt one large kit wasn’t a good idea for smaller showrooms and asked if the company could provide stores with different kit levels to choose from. Nissan agreed immediately.

“Think about what happened in a short period of time — four, five, six months,” Siegel told Automotive News. “We got a limited-edition car into production, we got all of these point-of-purchase kits going on, we’ve got dealer engagement, we had all the creative for the advertising to go on. Whatever the boxes were that needed to be checked, we checked all the boxes,” he said.

While the big marketing push was last month, the communication channels between advertisers and dealers has remained open. Rather than a single media summary, Tucker said dealerships are being sent smaller updates whenever appropriate and this has allowed them to coordinate their own social media outreach more effectively. Another dealer idea.

“The dealer team pushed us and challenged us,” Tucker said. “They helped us think about and define the brand.”

It certainly helped Nissan run a smooth campaign and, as stupid as I think those little key chains might be, I  just know they are going to bring people into showrooms.

[Images: Nissan]

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75 Comments on “Nissan’s Star Wars Campaign Was Obnoxious and Extremely Effective...”


  • avatar

    “A selected team of six dealerships even aided in the development of the commercials by deciding what features they believed their customer base would most likely want to know about.”

    Nissan customers?

    1) How much down?
    2) Can the insurance be in my aunt’s name?
    3) I don’t have SEVEN full references…
    4) No, no, no. That wasn’t a repo; I GAVE it back to the bank.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      5. Bankruptcy stays on my credit for how long?

    • 0 avatar
      tmport

      I know this is a common trope, so I won’t hold it against you personally, but it’s a lazy stereotype. Both of my parents have impeccable credit and pay cash for their cars, and they’ve been buying Nissans for a while now (not on my recommendation, though.) I’ve considered Nissans myself, and the only limiting factor is the perceived quality and value of their cars. Who cares if some people buy Nissans because they offer relatively easy credit? It’s silly to write off an entire line of cars just because you’re afraid that other people will think you are poor and have bad credit if you buy one.

      • 0 avatar
        OldManPants

        Dude, eventually everyone who buys a new car has to use the dealership’s bathroom.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Everybody? I’ve personally purchased five brand-new cars in my driving career and never once had to use the bathroom in any of the dealerships. Maybe it’s because I went in knowing what to expect and preparing for it properly.

          The only time I used a dealership’s bathroom was when I WORKED at a dealership. Oldsmobile, Mitsubishi and a DCP (minus J as that ‘group’ had a separate J dealership.)

          • 0 avatar
            punkybrewstershubby aka Troy D.

            I wish I could say that. I recently frequented my local Nissan dealer and used the bathroom at least twice. I am diabetic and take Farxiga and that alone makes you go, often.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            You should take better care of yourself, Troy. I’m not diabetic… yet, and I’m retired from the general workforce.

          • 0 avatar
            April S

            In the past I would need to go maybe three times when I had my car serviced at my local Honda dealership.

            Darn Testosterone blockers.

            At least the ladies rooms were always clean.

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      Number 3 reminds me of a gag job application:

      “Please do not construe my 14 jobs as ‘job-hopping.’ I have never quit a job.”

  • avatar

    I work at a Nissan dealership on the rough side of a midsized southern city. The Star Wars tie-in was much better received than I could’ve ever imagined. The two limited edition Rogues have attracted a lot of attention also. Oh and by the way, Nissan customers being credit criminals is region-dependent. Trust me.

    • 0 avatar
      Kendahl

      Interesting. I don’t even remember those commercials. Most car commercials are so obnoxious that I instantly grab for the television remote as soon as one comes on.

  • avatar
    Varezhka

    If they’re going to do a limited edition tie-in like this, I wish Nissan/Disney went all way and not a half-baked badge job, like this:

    http://kotaku.com/5974750/toyota-is-making-a-gundam-car-you-can-buy-it/

    Dunno, a full tie-fighter/x-wing paint job, astromech droid in a cup holder, Darth Vader voiced nav? Go all kitsch. Given the franchise, there should be enough hardcore fans to buy them all up.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    It seems like the bigger story here is Nissan using this opportunity to open communication lines with thier customers; the dealerships. Getting project buy in and ownership of the success of the brand from the franchisees is the most likely way to improve the end users purchase and service experience. Lots of deeper relationships are started with a conversation about a shared enthusiasm about something … stupid. And yes, Star Wars is stupid.

  • avatar
    April S

    If I was in them market for a new car I guarantee Nissan would be off my list.

    Because of this childish nonsense.

    People need to grow up and stop being slaves to popular culture.

    • 0 avatar
      alexndr333

      April, if there weren’t so many slaves, it wouldn’t be “popular” culture. Most people look for something safe, yet exciting to which they can claim as their own to compensate for otherwise conventional lives that offer little excitement. A touch of rebel in a boring CUV is just the right formula for most folks. Or, as the model said to the modern artist in an old New Yorker cartoon, “Why do you have to be a non-conformist like everyone else?”

      • 0 avatar
        April S

        I’m all for spicing up our dreary lives but to equate an automobile to some overwrought science fantasy movie franchise is pretty thin much less insulting to one’s intelligence.

        Anyway, it is rather sad people are being sucked into such nonsense but considering what happened last month I guess it’s par for the course.

        P.S. My axiom has always been to not fall in love with something that can’t love you back.

        • 0 avatar
          kvndoom

          Car culture and movie culture have been intertwined for decades. We can go from “Gone in 60 Seconds” to “Blues Brothers” to “Back to the Future” to “Transformers” and on and on… What’s your point?

          • 0 avatar
            April S

            Mixing movies and car culture is one thing but something blatant like this (much less product placement) is a turn-off.

          • 0 avatar
            OldManPants

            Well, April, just do what I do; say no to TV.

            I ain’t seen a-one of these ads.

          • 0 avatar
            shaker

            Our thirst for fantasy seems to be directly proportional to the futility of witnessing “grown-ups” acting out their worst instincts, without regard for others or simple common sense.

            Expect the popularity of escapist entertainment to increase dramatically.

        • 0 avatar
          hglaber

          Well, people need something in which to haul home the crap required to decorate their man caves and she sheds (forts and playhouses for neotenized adults) where they can get away from the kids and finally play with their collectible toys or color their adult coloring books in peace.

          Once marketers turned adults 18 to 34 back into the psychological equivalent of 10 year olds to make it easier to collect their (borrowed) money, it only made sense to sell cars using tactics involving cardboard cutouts and 12 cent plastic toys tied to PG adventure movies once reserved for persuading children which fast food outlet to beg their parents to patronize.

          Star Wars is even more appealing for advertisers, because it simultaneously ripens the member berries of Gen X. I bet these Rogues end up with $10k market adjustments.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        alexandr, to put it into an oversimplification, when it comes to drivers there are sheep, there are wolves and there are foxes. You can pretty well tell which type they are by the type of car they drive.

        Sheep: Boring. Just like all the others. Safe, staid and in no way stands out from the flock.
        Wolves: As Jeremy Clarkson would put it, “Power!” Or at least the impression of it. This tends to focus either on the full-sized pickup truck carrying nothing but air in the bed, the sports coupe (or sedan) often graphically enhanced and sometimes mechanically enhanced to give the impression of power and speed. (Street racers tend to fit in this group too as they go slashing through the flock and simply don’t care if they kill a sheep or two along the way.)
        Foxes: Tend to drive visually distinctive vehicles that offer better performance than typical while using that performance in a more intelligent manner. Rather than slashing through the flock, they stealthily slip through, almost hiding in plain sight while still driving faster and yet avoiding the attention of the shepherds (troopers.)

    • 0 avatar
      LS1Fan

      Good thing we have April S to decide what is and isn’t tasteful for all of autodom!

      Since you’re playing emperor of all car design, how about you do something about Acuras jacked up design language?

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      Counter point: isn’t it childish to avoid a company due to the way it choses to advertise it’s products rather than the merits of it’s products? Especially if said ad campaign involves nothing controversial.

    • 0 avatar
      April S

      Correction: If I was in the market…

    • 0 avatar
      Paragon

      Because I fully agree with you, April, I’m going to quote you. “People need to grow up and stop being slaves to popular culture.” (Everybody), Just do it!

  • avatar
    Joss

    When I went into my Nissan dealer last month there were lifesize standees of Storm Troopers around the showroom. No sign of any Rogue Ones on the lot or in their online inventory.

    I don’t think I’d chance leasing – wouldn’t all those SW add-ons have to be returned safely?

    Still a brand match destined to stick in a child’s memory to adulthood. My daddy had one!

    As for FCA they need to wrestle Amblin/Universal’s Jurassic franchise back from Mercedes. I never thought Mercedes got much of a presentation in those films.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      “As for FCA they need to wrestle Amblin/Universal’s Jurassic franchise back from Mercedes. I never thought Mercedes got much of a presentation in those films.”

      Especially since Jeep got far more credit in both the first and the last movies. Love the fact that they got an “abandoned” Jeep running as they were attempting their escape from the open country part of the park.

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      “Merchandising! Where the real money from the movie is made! We put the picture’s name on EVERYTHING!”

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    In fairness my experience with Nissan does remind me of Star Wars. My last Nissan was nearly as reliable as the hyperdrive on the Milinnieum Falcon. Many times a trip ended with the whir of a starter and me looking at my wife proclaiming “it’s not my fault” followed by me under the hood sounding like Chewbacca.

  • avatar

    Nissan is a 21th century Pontiac. Yes it is a car, well kind of – still can call it a car because it has 4 wheels and engine, certainly not a bike, and it is absolutely tasteless, well lets call it kitsch – it is kind of art after all, not real art but we are not in Europe – it is still America so that’s probably okay. Car for someone who likes kitsch, desperately unwilling to pay money for decent tastefull and well designed car regardless of credit score.

    Now Star Wars is a kind of film, well I would rather call it a “movie”, tasteless – yes, kitsch – yes – but it is a movie not film so that’s probably okay. It is for ardent fans desperately unwilling to grow up and move out from parents basement and see the world how it actually looks and smells like, and hell – why not to earn a decent credit score in process too – to not buy Nissan with Star Wars decals or not.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    And just so BAFO is tracking, those ships in Star Wars are Space Ships. They go places in space…LIKE THE MOON!!!

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Damn, mentioning Star Wars and Nissan in the same breath sure got under some people’s skin!

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Yeah those Duratracs are gonna rub quite a bit in those wheelwells.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    “Jaws was never my scene
    And I don’t like Star Wars”

    – Freddie Mercury

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    Forget the Rogue One Rogue…I want the 1977 Star Wars Celica:
    http://www.autoblog.com/2011/10/01/the-hunt-is-on-for-an-official-1977-star-wars-toyota-celica/

  • avatar
    TMA1

    I guess the story here is the scale of this thing? This isn’t exactly new. Bumblebee Camaros came out a long time ago, and even mundane vehicles like the Renegade get special Batman editions based on Bruce Wayne driving one for a few minutes.

    For all the Nissan bashing, they seem like fine enough transportation devices. I had a Lyft in a new Altima last week. Plenty of room in the back, comfortable enough for a car that probably sells in the low-20s. I wouldn’t buy a Nissan, because I can’t imagine a more boring stable of cars, but I bet the people who buy them will get a long life of service out of them.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Meh, “Star Wars” is just a movie, Nissan is just a car brand, and the ad campaign is just an ad campaign.

    Why the vitriol?

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      I don’t get it either. I wasn’t reading TTAC when Transformers came out, but I bet that movie helped sell a TON of Camaros (even though the movie predated the car by a year or two). I wonder if the hate was this strong back then too?

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Well…if there was hate towards “Transformers,” I’d say it was because the movies were all pretty much awe-inspiringly bad. As a franchise, “Star Wars” is far, far better (no, not even Jar Jar can destroy “Star Wars”).

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          I won’t make excuses for the sequels, but as someone for whom Transformers toys (and the 22 minute toy commercial which was the animated series) were a big part of my childhood, the 2007 film was the most awesome thing in the world. Especially at the theater.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Yeah, the original “Transformers” wasn’t half bad. But the sequels…bleaaaaaachhhhhhhh…

            Besides, Michael Bay is pretty much a hack.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            “Yeah, the original “Transformers”…”

            By original I’ll assume you mean the animated movie from back in the 80’s.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          “(no, not even Jar Jar can destroy “Star Wars”).”

          I think Jar Jar actually made that first movie. The other two got boring… bad enough that even with multiple nose-to-tail Star Wars marathons these last few weeks, I have YET to watch 2 or 3 all the way through.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    “Hey Lev, you ever heard of Evel Knievel?”

    “No, I never saw Star Wars.”

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    “He who dies with a complete set of Ep. I Pepsi cans is, nonetheless, still dead.”

    With that said, Star Wars (the original film) is a watershed moment in modern cinema fite me irl bro

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