Green-Car Marketers Revving Up in Race for Eco-Friendly Drivers

Here's a Look at How Seven Key Companies Are Driving Home Their Marketing Message to Consumers

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Car advertising is about to take a turn -- for the green. Come this fall, drivers -- and not just Americans, but global drivers -- are about to feel the onslaught of a new crop of eco-friendly auto brands, some independent and some backed by the big car makers. Here's what you need to know about who's in the marketing seat at seven of these companies and how they're positioning themselves to consumers.

BMW MEGACITY

BMW's electric Beemer is made of carbon.
BMW's electric Beemer is made of carbon.

TOP MARKETER
British-born Ian Robertson has served as sales and marketing head for BMW Group since 2008, a role he took on after a stint as chairman-CEO of Rolls Royce Motor Cars. He's also a onetime managing director of Land Rover Vehicles.


AGENCY
GSD&M Idea City, Austin, Texas

POSITIONING
BMW wants its all-electric Beemer to be known for being the only one made using carbon (it uses what it calls a CFRP, carbon fibre-reinforced plastic), making it lighter than conventional cars and other electric vehicles. It's also emphasizing sustainability not just in the car, but throughout its supply chain as well.

AD PLANS
While formal advertising for this car is still down the road -- BMW isn't bringing its Megacity to market till 2013 -- the carmaker is already building buzz around its commitment to bringing a zero-emission car into urban markets. It's been testing prototype electric cars, randomly choosing consumers to drive all-electric Mini Coopers and soon a BMW Series 1 car, and asking them to report back findings. As the official automotive sponsor for the London Olympics 2012, there is speculation that BMW will use that as a stage to formally launch the Megacity.

SOCIAL MEDIA
No dedicated Facebook pages or Twitter feeds for the Megacity, and so far any social-media discussion appears on the BMW Group Facebook page, which has more than 18,000 fans.

CHEVY VOLT

Reliable and durable is how Chevy best describes this car.
Reliable and durable is how Chevy best describes this car.

TOP MARKETER
Joel Ewanick, the most-talked-about person in auto ad circles these days. A longtime car guy, he was brought in at General Motors in May -- after a super-short stint at Nissan, and a few high-profile years at Hyundai.


AGENCY
Goodby Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco and Detroit

POSITIONING
"A car first and electric second," in the words of Mr. Ewanick. The Volt will try to show consumers that it is durable and reliable -- able to go 40 miles exclusively on battery before a gas generator can take over for 300 more miles until the battery needs another charge.

AD PLANS
A 30-second teaser ad began running in select markets in July that was completely silent, showing a car driving along the highway with this text: "Listen. That's the sound of the status quo crumbling. Breathtaking, isn't it?" When a full campaign bows this fall, it will likely play up Volt's gas generator, thereby subtly attacking Leaf and other pure electric vehicles by portraying them as cause for anxiety among consumers.

SOCIAL MEDIA
Facebook: Volt has nearly 40,000 fans; its Twitter page @ChevyVolt has nearly 5,000 followers. GM also created a microsite called Chevy Voltage that calls itself the "official social network of the Volt," housing a blog, videos and photos.

CODA

This sedan is expected to range 120 miles per charge.
This sedan is expected to range 120 miles per charge.

TOP MARKETER
Mike Jackson, a well-known marketer who's held positions at Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Coors Brewing, has made his mark in the auto world between 2000 and 2007 at GM North America.


AGENCY
Pereira & O' Dell, San Francisco

POSITIONING
Ease. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based firm's marketing strategy will lean heavily on e-commerce. Pre-sales have begun on its website for the CODA sedan, a four-door, five-passenger battery-electric vehicle that is expected to range 120 miles per charge. The first models will be delivered in California later this year.

AD PLANS
Some audacious outdoor work -- billboards that mimic tombstones set up at gas-station pumps -- have already been in the marketplace from a prior agency, Goodness Manufacturing, Los Angeles, and digital executions are likely to begin this month from Pereira & O' Dell. An e-Commerce site is launching soon, and outreach will be a combination of digital, PR and events.

SOCIAL MEDIA
Coda has a blog called "Clearing the Air" and a YouTube channel with several explanatory videos. The @CodaAutomotive feed on Twitter has about a 1,000 followers. It appears to still be working on an official Facebook page.

FISKER AUTOMOTIVE

Automaker wants to be known as premium plug-in hybrid.
Automaker wants to be known as premium plug-in hybrid.

TOP MARKETER
Marti Eulberg is global VP-sales and marketing at Fisker. She was recruited to the post last year after serving as president-CEO of Maserati North America for a year, and before that was exec VP-sales and marketing at Jaguar North America.


AGENCY
Lambesis, Carlsbad, Calif.

POSITIONING
Luxury. Fisker wants to be seen as the premium plug-in hybrid. Its Karma model was designed by Henrik Fisker, who has rendered models for BMW and Aston Martin. A base model of the Karma costs $87,900, and a top-of-the-line version has upholstery made of bamboo rather than leather.

AD PLANS
Its campaign "Pure Driving Passion" recently began via a website that shows highly-stylized images of the Karma by fashion photographer Miles Aldridge. A campaign from Lambesis will likely have more of a fashion layout than car-ad feel to it since Lambesis works mostly with clothing and jewelry brands such as Bebe and Tacori.

SOCIAL MEDIA
Irvine, Calif.-based Fisker has more than 2,000 Twitter followers but doesn't seem to use the feed frequently. An official Facebook page has more than 1,000 fans, and a dedicated blog has been set up by an enthusiast unaffiliated with the company.

NISSAN LEAF

Green machine has affordability on its side, carmaker says.
Green machine has affordability on its side, carmaker says.

TOP MARKETER
Jon Brancheau was named VP-marketing of Nissan in the wake of Joel Ewanick's abrupt defection to General Motors. Before that, Mr. Brancheau was director-global Infiniti marketing communications and media.


AGENCY
TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles

POSITIONING
Completely green and affordable. The car is estimated to retail for $25,280 after tax credits, compared with Volt's pricing of $33,500. It is solely electric and runs on battery.

AD PLANS
With plans to be on the road this December, the Leaf has been early to marketing. It had a push around the Olympics in Vancouver, and has chosen seven-time Tour de France-winning cyclist Lance Armstrong as its official spokesman. He's been featured in one spot that emphasizes the car as "Innovation for the planet; innovation for all." The Leaf recently broke its first automotive iAd on Apple's fourth-generation iPhone. New advertising for Nissan across multiple vehicles is slated to break this month, and new Leaf commercials will be one feature.

SOCIAL MEDIA
The Nissan Leaf has more than 72,000 fans on Facebook and over 5,000 followers on Twitter at @NissanLeaf. Its website offers live chat with experts.

TESLA MOTORS

Zooms at top speed without emitting emissions.
Zooms at top speed without emitting emissions.

TOP MARKETER
The company hasn't named a head marketer, but founder Elon Musk is one of the most high-profile execs in the green auto world, and former YouTube executive Ricardo Reyes handles global communications for the company.


AGENCY
No agency

POSITIONING
Sports Car. The Tesla Roadster -- which has sold in at least 28 countries -- at an estimated $100,000, is said to accelerate from 0 to 60 in less than four seconds but produces no emission. Owners can call upon a "service ranger" to make a house call for any repairs.

AD PLANS
Tesla Roadster has sold some 1,200 cars with little in the way of traditional advertising, striking partnerships with brands such as Tag Heuer, for which it created a custom Tag car and appearances at car races and even on "The Price is Right," on which it was a prize. More traditional advertising will likely come soon, since the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company went public this summer and Tesla's Model S, its four-door sedan, is expected to be released in early 2012.

SOCIAL MEDIA
Has more than 12,000 followers on Twitter at @TeslaMotors, and nearly 20,000 fans on Facebook for the Roadster.

THINK

Brand considers itself a leader in electric car market.
Brand considers itself a leader in electric car market.

TOP MARKETER
Michael Lock, the former CEO of Ducati North America, joined as CMO of Think this month. He's also held senior marketing roles at Honda Motor Europe and Triumph Motorcycles.


AGENCY
Agency unclear as of press time

POSITIONING
Experience. Think describes the brand as a leader in electric-vehicle technology backed by nearly 20 years of research, and Scandinavian roots that have given it a "sustainability" mindset. The carmaker says it's the first of its kind to win pan-European regulatory safety approval.

AD PLANS
Events and partnerships have been a strategy in Europe, where CEO Richard Canny has held public speeches on Earth Day. Think also partnered with the BBC to create a documentary about the first electric drive around Europe called "BBC Electric Drive." The Oslo, Norway-based company is building its first U.S. factory in Indiana to manufacture the Think City and will start coming off the assembly line in 2011. Because it wants to sell the first U.S. shipments to car-sharing firms and for corporate use, business-to-business marketing is likely to be a play for Think in the coming months.

SOCIAL MEDIA
Has a blog called "Think is Thinking" (www.thinkisthinking.com), a Facebook page with nearly 600 fans and a Twitter page, @think_ev, with more than 1,600 followers.

In this article:
Most Popular