Nissan Leaf’s Global Heart-Warming Message

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So this is how it’s going to be as the marketing wars unfold around the first generation of serious, mainstream electric vehicles in the US: the iconic polar bear versus “range anxiety.”

Nissan last night rolled out its first spot promoting the Leaf, featuring a displaced polar bear on a mission. (Is this where Coca-Cola’s polar bears end up?)[more]

Chevrolet already has signaled that, in ads for its upcoming Volt, it’s going to try to get Americans to worry that they’ll run out of juice in the Nissan Leaf, which operates only on electric power and doesn’t have a gasoline generator in reserve as Volt does.

But in its launch campaign for Leaf, Nissan North America is playing to the car’s own strengths: impeccable “green” credentials. And Nissan’s new corporate marketing rubric of “innovation.”

Nissan debuted the very unconventional Leaf during that most conventional of advertising vehicles on Thursday: the National Football League regular-season opening broadcast, on NBC. And the “Polar Bear” spot didn’t disappoint – it showed some innovation of its own.

As the ad opens, the uninitiated will think, “Oh, no – I’ve happened onto another spot for the Environmental Defense Fund!” A polar bear is depicted alone on an Arctic ice floe, in one of those lonely images that now has become both iconic and distressing, because global-warming alarmists have convinced the world that we’re destroying polar-bear populations with greenhouse gases.

Nissan leaves that milieu just quickly enough that you realize you’ve been had, and so you stay and watch the rest of the spot as the bear wanders through forests, down highways, over train tracks and across a city street. You understand that the animal clearly is looking for something – or someone.

The payoff comes when our friendly polar bear finds the Nissan Leaf owner walking out to his car in the morning and – what else? – delivers a bear hug. “Innovation for the Planet; Innovation for All” is the tagline.

It’s interesting, too, that for the ad, Nissan positioned Leaf in a driveway, untethered – not in a garage where it’s actually likely to be found each morning, connected by a cord to an electrical outlet, when an owner leaves the house to get into the vehicle for the commute.

But, hey, it’s advertising, and so what’s a little poetic license? In the ad, the polar bear also plays with a butterfly and consorts with a raccoon. Is that happening in your neighborhood?

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