Winter Warrior

Events, Seasonal and Short-Term (BRONZE)

Client Credits: Nissan Canada Inc
Senior Marketing Manager, Mary McNeil

Agency Credits: TBWA\Toronto
Executive Creative Director, Allen Oke
Creative Director, Rodger Eyre
Associate Creative Director/Art Director, Susie Lee
Writer, Jonah Flynn
Head of Broadcast, Nadya Macneil
Group Brand Director, Calvin Daniels
Brand Director, Rimi Singh
Account Supervisor, Christine Rowe


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):January 2014 - March 2014
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: January 2014
Base Period as a Benchmark: January 2013

a) Overall Assessment

Despite having been in the Canadian market for seven years, the Nissan Rogue, a small crossover utility vehicle (CUV), significantly lagged behind key competitors such as, Honda CR-V, Toyota Rav4, and Ford Escape in not only sales performance, but basic funnel measures such as Awareness (Rogue: 78, competitive set: 89) and Familiarity (Rogue: 27, competitive set: 49) [Footnote 1].

In fact, despite receiving consistent mass media advertising support since its launch, the Rogue was the only one of Nissan’s core models that had an Awareness score below the segment average.

Beyond its issues with Awareness, the Nissan Rogue suffered from weak imagery in the minds of consumers. It is well known that buyers of these vehicles do not take them off-road, however, the perception of off-road capability was identified through consumer research as a key driver of purchase consideration. Though the Rogue has AWD, it was not held in the same esteem as its competitors. With prior campaigns highlighting style and cargo space, failure to establish off-road credentials held the Nissan Rogue back from greater sales success. 

b) Resulting Business Objectives

Primarily, Nissan wanted to increase Rogue’s share of the small CUV segment. The Rogue achieved a 4.4% share of its segment in 2012 and a 4.95% share in the first 6 months of 2013. Nissan set an objective to work towards attaining an 8% share in 2016.

This campaign would need to start momentum for the Rogue, but it was not expected to achieve that share objective immediately.

Since Nissan’s share objective was long-term, it was important to build demand, not to buy share through price discounts. It was recognized that Rogue’s upper-funnel brand health measures would also have to increase – an objective was set to match the competitive set averages by 2016;

Awareness: increase from 78 to 89

Familiarity: increase from 27 to 49

Overall Opinion: increase from 16 to 36

c) Annual Media Budget
$1 - $2 million

d) Geographic Area
Canada (National)

[Footnote 1] Vehicle purchase funnel is sourced from Millward Brown’s Automotive Purchasing Dynamics monthly reports.

a) Analysis and Insight

Our target was a dual income suburban couple in their mid-30s who don’t yet have children. They are self-reliant, open-minded, altruistic, and keep calm regardless of what life throws at them.

The insight that drove the big idea is that Canadian CUV drivers purchase these vehicles because of the all-wheel-drive capability, which allows them to drive confidently in adverse conditions (i.e. Canadian winter), ensuring the safety of them and their passengers. More interestingly, this instills in them a sense of pride as they enjoy being relied upon when driving conditions are at their worst.

b) Communication Strategy

Recognizing the importance of establishing AWD/off-road credentials and knowing that the campaign would run during the winter – we established early on that the campaign would need to focus on winter driving. Although there are aspects of the season that many Canadians enjoy, automobile drivers frequently have a combative relationship with winter.

Going deeper, we see that when driving conditions become perilous, you’re only as strong as your vehicle. This is when we turn to those vehicles that can be trusted to reach destinations safely, whether its work, dinner with friends, hockey practice or the hospital. When winter does its worst, our trust in a capable AWD vehicle provides us with great peace of mind. In a manner, these vehicles and their drivers become heroes.

We felt that a communications strategy built around this insight would set us apart from our competitors who were all positioning their CUVs as versatile family vehicles, communicating in a warm, folksy tone. For this reason, we chose to communicate with a masculine, aggressive tone to position the Nissan Rogue and thereby its driver as ‘heroes’ for winter.

a) Media Used


Rogue Media Plan

b) Creative Discussion

The thinking behind the creative was to produce something specifically positioned for the Canadian market that showcased the All Wheel Drive (AWD) capabilities of the vehicle. Canadians greatly benefit from AWD in all weather conditions, particularly in snow. We wanted our creative to not only talk about AWD, but also substantiate it in a unique and impactful way.

Based on the insight that Canadian drivers frequently have a combative relationship with winter, we produced a campaign with a narrative arc that represented winter as the villain, personified as marauding sinister snowmen, and the Rogue as the hero, enabling the driver to rescue helpless civilians from their city under siege.

The campaign stood out from other automotive advertising because the primary broadcast execution had the look and feel of a Hollywood blockbuster film trailer: it built suspense and intrigue for the first half of the ad before the vehicle and driver were introduced as saviours.

c) Media Discussion

The launch of the all-new Nissan Rogue included media placements in Broadcast, Broadcast Sponsorships, Cinema, Digital, Social, SEM and Events.

For the launch of our TV spot, we leveraged high profile properties such as the 2014 Grammy Awards, the Winter Olympics on CBC and the NFL Superbowl to reach a large audience to optimize viewership.

The media objective for broadcast was to utilize various video channels that evoke an emotional reaction to drive desire and generate consideration for Rogue. Media also had to align with the heroism tone and feel to support the creative. Integrated sponsorship opportunities were also leveraged to increase reach and awareness.

The plan incorporated a mix of Conventional and Specialty broadcast placements to promote the launch of the all-new 2014 Rogue and provide consistent brand support moving into FY14. The plan was also to utilize a mix of Prime and Fringe programming to ensure efficiencies and maximize exposure.

The Nissan Rogue digital campaign created excitement through unique, high reaching online executions across key Canadian destinations such as YouTube, MSN, Yahoo, CBC, SAY media, Skype, Windows 8 and Twitter. Digital video, banners and search activity engaged and informed the campaign targets, driving them online to contact a Nissan dealer.

Media worked together to build a coherent, single-minded story focusing not only on Rogue itself, but also on the conflict with winter: behind-the-scenes interviews with the evil snowmen and the heroic driver were shared across social channels. The snowmen posed for photos at auto shows and digital content was all tailored around the same message and look & feel as the primary broadcast execution.

To kick off the campaign we engaged influential bloggers to amplify our efforts with a Twitter engagement party which garnered over 7 million impressions and made #NissanRogue the top trending hashtag for the evening and going into the next morning. 

a) Sales/Share Results

In short, the campaign surpassed all objectives. Over the four months of the campaign the Nissan Rogue has accounted for an 8.0% share of its 25-vehicle large segment, with monthly share numbers ranging from 7.4% to as high as 9.5%. It was expected to take 3 years to build Rogue’s share up to what it achieved over the course of the first 4 months. These results exceed the share of 5.0% from the same period in the previous year as well as the 5.5% share from the four months prior to the campaign.

Brand health has also shown a notable increase. When work began on the campaign, brand health objectives were set as the following:

Awareness: increase from 78 to 89

Familiarity: increase from 27 to 49

Opinion: increase from 16 to 36

In the month before the campaign launched, the funnel was essentially unchanged:

Awareness: 80

Familiarity: 30

Opinion: 17

By the final month of the campaign, all of those measures had improved:

Awareness: 89 (achieved 3-year objective)

Familiarity: 34 (increase of 14%) – continued to rise to 40 in the month after the campaign was finished

Opinion: 36 (achieved 3-year objective of more than doubling opinion)

The social extensions of the campaign also exceeded objectives:

A target of 1 million YouTube views had been set (French & English edits combined), with the expectation that it would take 1 month to do so. That goal was achieved in half the time, with the total number of views for the campaign currently at 4 million; the objective was exceeded by 400%.

A Twitter party generated an additional 7 million impressions, reaching nearly a quarter of a million people, which resulted in #NissanRogue being the top trending hashtag in Canada for 12 hours.

Furthermore, the campaign was reported on by dozens of media outlets.

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

a) General Discussion

Link testing was performed with 7 concepts including the US launch creative in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary.

Initial link testing was judged on the following characteristics

1)   Will the advertising breakthrough and engage viewers

2)   Will the message be communicated with adequate brand integration

3)   Will the advertising generate interest

“Winter Warrior” received the highest scores in terms of: Positive Initial Impression, Breakthrough, Messaging, Branding, Relevance, Engagement and Impact.

Across all 3 markets, there is consensus that no matter how much one may enjoy winter, “there are isolated times when it delivers such a punch” that it is brutal, nasty and challenging.  Final consensus from research was “Clearly, Winter Warrior is the strongest concept overall. It has potential for extremely strong breakthrough and works well to position Rogue with All-Wheel Drive”

Post-research results also showed that “Winter Warrior” gave Rogue a stronger persona in the minds of consumers, while also indicating that future communications should follow a similar messaging strategy to further establish Rogue as a legitimate AWD CUV.

The month after Winter Warrior launched in Canada it was picked up by Nissan North America to run in the U.S. 

“Winter Warrior” won 2 Bronzes and a craft award for CG at the 2014 Marketing Awards.

“Winter Warrior” will also be featured in the CW’s “Greatest Holiday Commercial Countdown” edition that will premiere in December 2014.

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

It is not believed that spending levels were a significant cause of the sales and share growth. When Nissan last launched a vehicle in a category of similar size (the Sentra, in the compact car segment, in the previous year), the effect on sales was negligible, despite an equally strong media spend (Sentra: $5.6MM vs. Rogue: $5.7MM – 3 month launch campaign spends). The $5.7MM spend for Rogue is also less than the estimated launch spends for key competitors from Honda ($5.9MM – Honda CRV) and Toyota ($7.0MM – Toyota Rav4).


The increase in sales and market share were also not the result of discounting. In the year prior to the campaign, the Nissan Rogue had been on sale, with discounts as high as $5,000 off of the MSRP up until the campaign started, at which point they were no longer available.

Distribution Changes:

Sales success was not the result of regional activity or changes to distribution as no new retail locations were added and the Rogue has always been considered to be of equal importance across the country.

Unusual Promotional Activity:

The increase in sales and market share were not the result of discounting. In the year prior to the campaign, the Nissan Rogue had been on sale, with discounts as high as $5,000 off of the MSRP up until the campaign started, at which point they were no longer available.

There were no other promotional activities.

Other Potential Causes:

While some credit to the sales increase can be given to the fact that the campaign was in support of a new vehicle launch, it should be noted that the established targets, which were exceeded, took this into account.

No other potential causes have been identified as influencing sales results.