Nissan Leaf Shifts Strategy & Asks How Far You Can Go On $1

July 1, 2011

Selling electric vehicles is no easy task. Human beings are creatures of habit, and EVs represent a dramatic shift. Accordingly, Nissan has shifted its advertising strategy for the fully electric Leaf, targeting an area where everyone's sensitive: the wallet.

You probably recall the first ads for the 2011 Nissan Leaf -- the ones with the trained polar bear wandering the streets of suburbia. That was enough to get the attention of early adopters and eco-philes, but what about your average Joe the Plumber's Assistant? How could Nissan sell him on a brand-new EV?

Enter the Leaf's new print campaign, featuring the tagline, "The New MPG". The ad, which recently appeared in Fast Company magazine, demonstrates in graphic terms the distance that certain cars can travel on $1 of fuel. At 25 miles per dollar, the Leaf far outshines the competition -- even the Toyota Prius, which clocks in around 18. (Want to see how far your ride goes on $1 of gas? Try this calculator.)

If this sounds tad familiar, it should: Nissan launched a similar feature last year using iads on smartphones. Nissan has dialed back the Leaf's stats a bit since then (at the time, it claimed 38 miles per dollar), but the company's marketing team clearly feels the effect remains impressive enough to reach a broader audience. 

Our take

We like this ad for a couple of reasons. For starters, miles per dollar is a great metric -- clean, simple, and to the point. It should make as much sense to consumers as miles per gallon (which is more than can be said about the equally sensible but hard-to-grasp gallons per mile).

We also appreciate this ad because it extends the Leaf campaign along a third important axis. Nissan came out swinging with the environmental angle (twice), and it recently added a celebrity endorsement to the mix. The "New MPG" ad speaks to an audience that might not be swayed by either of those pitches -- one that's more concerned with the Leaf's impact on their monthly budgets. 

Preliminary reports indicate that Leaf sales are booming right now; in June, it sold more than 1,700 units, bringing the year's total close to 4,000 as deliveries ramp up. Ads like this might just help Nissan maintain the pace.


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