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The best social media campaigns from auto brands

(Posted on Apr 24, 2014 at 10:52AM )
Most brands would kill for the mega marketing dollars behind even the smallest of automotive brands. So it's no surprise that some of the slickest and most luxurious ad campaigns of all time come out of the car industry. Auto brands consistently produce the most immersive, technologically sophisticated experiences in marketing. (Have you seen Lincoln's "Hello Again" interactive music experience featuring Beck? My word.)
That said, while you'll often find auto brands prominent on top 10 commercial lists for any given time period -- and they regularly clean up at annual marketing awards shows -- they're not always at the forefront when it comes to social media. Some of the coolest automotive campaigns are actually severely lacking in the "shareability" realm. It's not all that surprising. The car sales process tends to be more of a one-on-one conversation between dealers and consumers than it is in other industries. But more and more, auto brands are realizing that any great ad or campaign can be even better when given the proper legs in a social setting.

Let's take a look at some of best recent social media initiatives coming out of the auto industry. What would you add?

Dodge Dart Registry

Cars are expensive. We all know this. That's why the notion of giving or receiving a car as a gift is an increasingly absurd extravagance reserved for trust fund kids and Jay Leno.

Until the Dodge Dart Registry, that is. The sheer simplicity of the concept, produced by Wieden+Kennedy, is what makes it brilliant. Can't afford a car? Crowd-fund a 2013 Dodge Dart from your family and friends. It worked just like any gift registry, except that instead of registering for throw pillows and a Kitchen-Aid mixer, you registered for a Dodge Dart, customized to your specifications. Friends and family could then sponsor parts of the car for you, and once you hit your fundraising goal, you headed to the dealership to pick up your new car.

Citroën's C1 Connexion

It doesn't get more social than letting consumers design your brand's next car. But that's exactly what Citroën did (with help from partner Brandwidth). Behold: The world's first crowdsourced car.

As Econsultancy pointed out,there was definite potential for back-firing hilarity with this move. Sometimes all it takes is a well-orchestrated group of pranksters to help your company roll out something akin to "The Homer" (the car famously and disastrously designed by "Average Joe" Homer J. Simpson). But, in fact, the end result doesn't look too shabby, and the initiative drummed up a whole lot of buzz, 24,000 submissions -- and most importantly some sales.
Nissan's "Improv-tastic Road Show"

Automotive marketing is often sexy, but it's rarely funny. (Humor just isn't the first voice to come to mind when trying to peddle a $30,000 piece of machinery with which a driver will trust his very life.) So, if an automotive brand decides to try to elicit a few laughs, it helps to call in the experts.

That's what Nissan did with its Pathfinder's "Improv-tastic Road Show." The automaker partnered with improv troupe Second City in an Old-Spice-esque content crowdsourcing. Over the course of 12 hours, the teams took suggestions from fans related to their favorite musical genres and what they would bring on a road trip. Those suggestions manifested in 50 quickly produced music videos that, while entertaining, also extolled the virtues of the new Pathfinder. Ultimately, in addition to driving nearly 150,000 total video views, the campaign also generated significant Facebook fandom and interest in more information on the new model.

Ford puts a Mustang on the Empire State Building (twice)

If there's one thing the internet loves, it's a good stunt. If it loves two things, it's a good stunt and nostalgia. So, you won't be surprised to discover that people on social media are total suckers for a nostalgic stunt.

OK, OK. I don't know if "nostalgic stunts" were a thing. But they are now, thanks to Ford. Back in 1965, Ford's "Operation Mustang" put a '66 Mustang on the Empire State Building by disassembling the vehicle, lifting the pieces to the roof via the elevators, and then reassembling the car on the 86th floor observation deck. Of course, that stunt was 50 years ago, and no one probably remembered it. That is, until the brand decided to do it again for the Mustang's 50th anniversary. At the time of this writing (March 30), the 2015 Mustang was set to reappear on the observation deck on April 16 and 17. But the buzz on social media and in traditional media outlets was already running wild.

   By  Drew Hubbard

"Car on the road with motion blur background" image via Shutterstock.