CARMEL, CA – Although the heavy-duty XD diesel model has been on sale for nearly eight months, Nissan hasn’t done much marketing of its second-generation Titan fullsize pickup.
That is about to change soon, with a major advertising campaign set to launch in early September on the heels of the retail debut of the half-ton crew-cab variant in mid-August.
The campaign will span everything from high-profile marketing, such as TV commercials and sponsorships during collegiate football games, to smaller, experiential events that seek to familiarize dealers, potential customers and media with the new Titan.
For Nissan, which wants to become a bigger player in the lucrative U.S. large-pickup segment, it has been a painful but necessary delay, says the truck’s chief marketing manager.
“It’s very hard to bring out a new model and then wait six months or more to advertise it. We’ve not encountered this before,” Nissan North America’s Phil O’Connor tells WardsAuto at a half-ton Titan media event here.
The half-ton variant represents the bulk of the Titan’s projected sales mix, about 75%, says O’Connor. Half-tons also make up the bulk of U.S. fullsize-pickup sales. If Nissan began a major ad campaign on the back of the Titan XD, which now also offers a gasoline engine, the brand naturally would have drawn half-ton buyers into showrooms, he says.
“The last thing we really want to do is drive traffic to our dealerships when they don’t have product on the ground because it’ll dissatisfy customers and you really only get one chance to launch a brand,” O’Connor says.
Rich Miller, product planner for the Titan, earlier told WardsAuto most U.S. Nissan dealers have fewer than seven Titan XDs in stock. Because there’s so much differentiation in grade levels and options, he would prefer to see a more robust per-store supply of trucks.
Broad-reach advertising, such as TV commercials during sporting events, will be a central component of the Titan’s marketing push, as Nissan hopes to pique the interest of the tens of millions of American viewers who tune into professional and collegiate football.
The Titan will be featured in association with Nissan’s sponsorship of the Heisman Trophy and the Heisman House Tour, with O’Connor calling the pact “one of the single most important marketing tactics we have.”
Nissan also has relationships with the 100 largest universities in the U.S., and the Titan will be featured on some of those college campuses.
“Titan, in the appropriate markets, will play a role in that,” O’Connor says, noting the college marketing tactic is mainly Rogue CUV-centric, but that at universities in truck-loving Texas and Oklahoma the Titan will be center stage.
Experiential, grassroots marketing includes an 11-city tour in September. The tour will take the Titan to 11 of the largest U.S. new-vehicle markets and is as much an opportunity for Nissan to familiarize its dealers with the product as potential buyers.
“They’re going to drive our products and our competitive products and learn in a very hands-on way what our advances are, and learn about the segment,” he says.
No Launch and Leave
While most automakers tend to market a new vehicle only in the first several months after its debut, Nissan looks to avoid the launch-and-leave phenomenon with the Titan, O’Connor says.
With the Japanese brand a relative newcomer in the fullsize-pickup segment, maintaining its marketing push for Titan is crucial to the truck’s success, he says, especially as Detroit-based competitors Ford, Chevrolet, GMC and Ram won’t be letting up anytime soon.
“When you look at advertising in the auto industry, there’s really one segment that gets continuous advertising spend all the time, regardless of the point in the lifecycle where the products are. It’s the fullsize pickup segment,” O’Connor says.
The marketing chief says he is reminding his bosses Nissan must not cut back on its support of the new pickup.
“When we decided to bring this new truck to market and fully invest in all the cabs and fully invest in the segment, one of the things we talked a lot about – and still do – with senior management is that this is not one of those segments where we’re going to be able to launch and leave,” he says.
Social media will be a component of the Titan’s ad campaign. There, as in every outlet Nissan will be promoting the truck, it is striving to make sure Titan messaging has an air of authenticity.
“A fullsize pickup buyer, they’re as knowledgeable, maybe more, than (buyers in) any segment,” O’Connor says. “They understand the product, they know the product.
“And they’re very passionate about the product, because in many ways it is their livelihood. They’ll see right through if it’s not authentic.”