Marketers in the automotive sector need to cut through the serious side of electric vehicles and focus more on how fun they are to resonate with consumers, according to Nissan’s vice president of marketing and sales in Asia.
Speaking to Campaign in Singapore, Vincent Wijnen said while all the benefits to consumers and the environment are important, they don’t excite the next generation of EV buyers.
“That is the marketing angle,” he said. “At the end of the day, the EV market will grow, but in the immediate term, for people who are buying EVs, the main driver is the excitement of driving that car without losing the excitement of driving,” he said. “People who drive EV for the first time are always amazed by the experience.”
When hybrid and electric vehicles first came on the scene, benefits such as zero emissions and greater efficiency enticed consumers.
“That was the case for early adopters, but it’s moved on,” he explained. “The next generation of owners want the driving experience, and they don’t want to compromise. Our new Nissan Leaf is zero emission, but that is not predominantly what drives people to buy these cars anymore.”
To that end, Nissan has already begun developing experiential campaigns for the Leaf. In Indonesia, for example, the brand engaged local influencers to drive the EVs, even though some are not yet available.
Similarly, Wijnen and his team are hosting a three-day thought leadership conference in Singapore about EVs, during which delegates will be able to test drive their EVs.
Wijnen sees huge potential for the EV market in Asia, as cities and urban centres continue to grow, and traffic and pollution become ever more critical problems.
“Our markets in Asia are all at different stages,” he said. “Singapore is very developed, no different than the US and Europe. But Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, are very much emerging. The density of vehicles is less than 10% in those markets, and it will grow exponentially. They won’t all step into EVs, of course, but the problems they will have in their cities will be exactly the same.”
How does putting more cars on the road help cities already struggling with congestion issues? Wijnen admitted that Nissan “can’t stop” the inevitable growth in vehicles on Asian streets, but said that EVs are part of a wider narrative that will help these cities through new driving technology, such as the Leaf’s one-pedal drive (the system moves the car forward when one presses the pedal, but applies the brakes when the foot is removed).
“If you think about congestion and accept the fact that there will still be traffic jams—it will not solve that—then manual shift driving, or even automatic, is very tiring. Your attention span drops, and that’s when most accidents happen, small or large. With this new technology, you don’t have to worry about it.”
The Leaf is not yet on sale in many Asian markets, but Wijnen said it remains significant for the marketing strategy in the region.
“The technology, even if it doesn’t have huge potential today in the market, allows you to differentiate from a marketing perspective,” he said. “It allows us to showcase the technologies in a vehicle like the Leaf. Even if you only sell a few, the storytelling allows us to link it back to other vehicles we have, and that’s going to help us from a marketing perspective.”
Education is a large part of Wijnen’s APAC marketing strategy for EVs, but it goes beyond the vehicle alone. “From a communications strategy point of view, it’s not just about the EV, but about intelligent mobility—autonomous driving, connectivity to the outside world. The whole integration story is interesting,” he said.
Of course, the development of Asia’s EV market depends to a great extent on government support, and having the necessary infrastructure. Currently in the region, Singapore, Korea and Thailand are priority markets based on the feasibility of EVs in the near future.
“It’s the vision about what the future of mobility will look like, of which EV is one part,” he said. “It needs to be interesting and easy to use an EV car. I’m convinced that at different speeds, this will happen in many markets.”