Nissan's Star Wars Campaign Was Obnoxious and Extremely Effective

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
nissan s star wars campaign was obnoxious and extremely effective

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.

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.

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 [s]the delusional[/s] 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.

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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  • OneAlpha OneAlpha on Dec 12, 2016

    "Hey Lev, you ever heard of Evel Knievel?" "No, I never saw Star Wars."

  • Drzhivago138 Drzhivago138 on Dec 12, 2016

    "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

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂